2 political strategists discuss US crisis in leadership, voting leaders out of office

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two national political strategists — one Democrat and one Republican — took candidates to task during a special edition of “All INdiana Politics” just six days before Election Day.

Both agreed that a crisis of leadership exists in the nation, with politicians not listening to each other.

The show featured two guests:

  • Donna Brazile is a Democratic strategist who was the first African American to manage a presidential campaign. She is a former Democratic National Committee chair. She is chair of the DNC Voting Rights Institute, which encourages young people to vote.
  • Michael Steele is a former Republican National Committee chair who describes himself as a “Lincoln Republican.” He was lieutenant governor of Maryland from 2003-2007.

Steele said it may be time to vote sitting leaders out of office. “Yeah, you may have to do that, when you’re stuck with stupid,” he said.

Lawmakers serve the people, people govern outcomes, and citizens need to get back in the game and assert their prominence, the Republican said. “When they stop serving us, when they become more interested in their own reelection, when they become more interested in their own partisan policy hiccups, that’s when it’s time to go.”

Watch the entire special:

Brazile said, “We can find middle ground … but you need leadership, and not just in the political arena,” but in every facet of American life. “We’ve lost faith in each other and we’ve lost faith in our institutions. That’s problematic in my judgment.”

Steele agreed, and added that President Donald Trump needs to show leadership and tell Senate Republicans to get work done.

Handling COVID-19 and directing efforts to restart the economy are the primary needs, both agreed. But why hasn’t that happened?

“Because they’re stuck on stupid,” Steele said. “I can’t put it any plainer than that. I mean, this is the least-partisan moment we could have. This would be as if, ladies and gentlemen, as if after 9/11 … the Congress and the White House said, ‘We’re bickering over dollars and cents in response to one of the great tragedies of our time.’”

“We need our leaders to step into this moment,” Steele said, noting the bickering over further coronavirus relief packages. “Fellows, ladies, work it out. This is not hard. This is a number. We know what that number is. Get to the number and give the citizens of this country the relief they need so our small businesses can stay afloat, so that our communities can provide the services that they need to provide, our financial instruments — loans and all of that — are not interrupted.”

Brazile outlined a history of the bickering over further stimulus packages, but added what Democrats and Republicans are promoting and the language of stimulus packages has caused roadblocks.

Yet before the economy is addressed, Brazile and Steele said the top priority must be the coronavirus. “We have to get this virus under control” because another shutdown will collapse the economy, Brazile said.

“The next president has to make that a priority,” Steele said. “This is not going to go away until we handle it, and until we handle it it’s going to be much more difficult to do the economics.”

He added, “It’s going to be a very delicate, delicate balancing act for fiscal conservatives like myself who are like ‘I don’t want to spend anymore money’ and the realities of … putting people back to work, covering health care costs, creating related programs around infrastructure and so forth. So, it’s going to be a very difficult challenge for whoever becomes the next president because that economic hole has got to filled some kind of way, and it’s going to be filled unfortunately on the backs of a lot of middle-class workers out there.”

Voters got a chance to ask their questions through the WISH-TV Facebook page. One posed the query if all debates should be conducted before actual voting begins.

Steele said that wouldn’t be easy, with some states like North Carolina which allow votes to be cast in mid-September, just two weeks after the party conventions.

“I think we’re going to have to live with voting through it, which means, as a candidate, run a good campaign, run a campaign in which you bank that vote as early as you can.”

The conversation turned to the law and order catchphrase used by Republicans after the looting and rioting connected to the racial equality movement.

“Law and order works in a lot of white communities around the country because their experience with the law is not the same as it is for African Americans,” Steele said. “It’s not that we’re against law and order. We absolutely are not. It’s what happens when the law and the order are out of sync.”

Brazile was pressed on the topic of packing the courts, perhaps even adding liberal justices to the Supreme Court.

“Hey, that’s what they did with their majority. If the Democrats are able to get control of the Congress or control of the United States Senate, this is going to be an issue … I don’t know if there’s an appetite. I do know there are some progressives in the Democratic Party who would like to see it happen.”

Although they were often at odds, it was clearly evident that they’re still friends as they laughed and discussed even having a drink together with Brazile’s gumbo. In many ways, it seems appropriate that a conversation which began with polarization of politics, never turned to screams or rudeness.

When asked what they hope happens in 2021, Brazile mentioned a recovered economy and a virus under control.

But Steele went back to civility at all levels.

“Before we get to that, we got to reconnect as citizens, as Americans,” he said. “How many Hoosiers out there are mad at a family member because they support Donald Trump or they support Joe Biden? How many of you are upset with a friend because they are not a part of your tribe because you have political differences?”

The Indianapolis Urban League and WISH-TV hosted the special edition of “All INdiana Politics.”

The show concluded with viewpoints of Pete Seat, communications director of Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s 2016 campaign, and John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party. They discussed how the state has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and contenders in their parties on state ballots.

Below is the hourlong special edition of “All INdiana Politics.” App users can go online to view it.