San Francisco Chronicle: Trump can be beaten, top fundraiser tells Dems, so ‘stop wringing your hands’
By: Joe Garofoli
Stephanie Schriock is seeing a “shift in the psyche of the Democratic Party” as she travels across the country as president of Emily’s List, the fundraising powerhouse devoted to electing pro-choice Democratic women.
She hears Democrats fretting that they’re going to lose the 2020 presidential race, even after they flipped the GOP-held House in 2018.
“I hear people saying, ‘OK, 2018 went really well for us, but we’re going to screw this (the 2020 presidential race) up. Trump’s going to win. It’s a disaster,’” Schriock said Friday in San Francisco.
“We’re like Eeyore. The entire Democratic Party is like Eeyore.”
The advice from the head of the organization that raised $46 million for midterm elections in which Democrats elected a record 89 women to the House: “Stop wringing your hands.”
“Part of Trump’s magic is his ability to drive fear and anxiety into the culture. And if we allow that to take us over, he wins,” Schriock said. “That’s how he’s going to win. He knows what he’s doing on that front. He knows what he’s doing in the manipulation of people’s psyches.”
If Democrats are going to keep the House and take back the Senate, White House and winnable GOP-held state houses, Emily’s List intends to be one of the engines of their success. The organization says it has been contacted by 48,000 women wanting to run for office since President Trump was elected in November 2016, including 6,000 since the beginning of this year.
It hopes to raise $20 million toward helping women win state legislative races next year. The organization will turn its fundraising focus to the presidential race after Jan.1.
“The work at Emily’s List has never been more necessary than it is right now,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the audience at a fundraising luncheon Friday at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, a gathering that included several female members of Congress, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and state Controller Betty Yee. “Even with an all-time record number of women on the Democratic side, we want more.”
Schriock saw hope in how 55% of eligible female voters cast ballots last year, an increase of 12 points from the previous midterm election in 2014, according to Pew Research. More men voted as well — 52%, an 11-point rise. According to Pew, 59% of women supported Democrats in the midterms.
The increased turnout among women could portend an even greater bump for the presidential election, “as long as we don’t let the fear to take over us,” Schriock said.
And, she added, if Democrats don’t try to rerun the 2016 presidential race.
“Everybody is completely and totally fixated on, ‘How do we get that white working-class guy that just came out of the mine with the hard hat’ (to vote for a Democrat). I want to get that guy back, too. But that’s not the only way to do this,” Schriock said.
“We could get the woman at the diner who’s giving him his coffee,” she said. “Because it’s more likely we will get her.”
Despite her optimism, Schriock has concerns — particularly about how the women in the Democratic presidential primary are being portrayed in the media.
When former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke announced his candidacy, Schriock noted that he was greeted by a wave of glowing media coverage, including a Vanity Fair cover story. But when Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren launched her candidacy, “she had to spend a week dealing with whether or not she’s ‘likable.’ We’re still there” — alluding to similar criticisms made of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Similarly, Schriock bristled at the chatter she hears from fellow Democrats about whether Warren and fellow top-tier candidate Sen. Kamala Harris are “electable.”
“White men have no electability advantage at all,” said Brenda Choresi Carter, director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign and the lead researcher of a recent study that looked at the race and gender of 33,854 candidates on the 2018 ballot as well as 44,900 current federal, state and local elected officials.
In part, Schriock attributes concerns about electability to the anxiety that a party out of power feels when it is taking on an incumbent. That sense of caution, she said, led Democrats to nominate “safe choices” like Walter Mondale in 1984 and John Kerry in 2004, and Republicans to pick Bob Dole in 1996 and Mitt Romney in 2012. All lost.
“We make decisions about who is electable. You start putting a very high priority on who can win,” Schriock said. “We have to be careful about that as Democrats. I’m not saying you should ignore your head completely. But let your heart in a little bit and see where this guides you.”