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Brock Launches Donor Network To Rebuild The Left After Trump's Victory

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Our next guest has a reputation as the Clinton's attack dog. David Brock founded two liberal super PACs and also led opposition research for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Now after her defeat, he wants to play a central role in rebuilding the party. Brock has invited some big donors to a kind of retreat this winter in Florida.

DAVID BROCK: We're convening an array of progressive donors on inaugural weekend. Donors are wanting information about what happened. They want information about lessons learned. They want to see a roadmap forward. There were many donors who stepped up in a very big way for Hillary. We'd like them to stay engaged.

GREENE: You've got some pretty big names who you're talking about, I mean, George Soros, Tom Steyer, S. Donald Sussman. Have you heard from any of them? Are they planning to come to this meeting you're gathering?

BROCK: So I just checked on my way to our interview. We have 20 donors confirmed. I didn't ask the names, but just in a few days we have 20 donors confirmed.

GREENE: But you don't know if any of those big names are coming yet?

BROCK: I don't know, no, I don't know yet.

GREENE: You play a pretty big role in Hillary Clinton's campaign, so I'm wondering what you think went wrong?

BROCK: You know, we were working from three frames - that Donald Trump was unfit temperamentally and dangerous, that he was divisive and that he was basically in this only for himself.

GREENE: And did you hit the mark on all three? Do you feel like you did enough opposition research and got it out there?

BROCK: I think so. I think if you look at the exit polls, you see that voters didn't - did not trust Donald Trump. They didn't think he was qualified.

GREENE: But many many voted for him anyway even with those concerns.

BROCK: Right, well, that's what happened, right. I think we're still analyzing the situation. But from what we can determine at this point, voters did know who Trump was. They voted for him anyway. And the campaign didn't put any money in advertising behind that third argument that he's not in it for you, he's in it for himself. You know, we didn't see the kind of ads that we saw against Mitt Romney that showed him to be a vulture capitalist. We didn't see those kinds of ads against Donald Trump.

GREENE: You're saying Obama did a better job presenting Mitt Romney as a fraud than the Clinton campaign did presenting Donald Trump as a fraud?

BROCK: I think there was a more effective effort on that point on Romney than on Trump, yeah, I do.

GREENE: We just came through an election where it appears that there are some very specific things that a campaign could have done in very specific states. Win over working-class voters in certain counties in three states and that could have turned an election. Isn't there a divide between that agenda and someone like Tom Steyer, who thinks about big issues like climate change?

BROCK: First of all, I think that Democrats are making a mistake by drawing overly broad interpretations from what's still a limited set of data. So I would be cautious about, you know, having the Democratic Party jump off in some different ideological direction or indict its major messaging at this point.

GREENE: But isn't it worth spending more money in making the Democratic Party seem like the party for people who are, you know, in working-class families, you know, a party they can rely on? Isn't that where money should be spent right now?

BROCK: Well, I think there's a danger there of equating the white working class with white racial resentment.

GREENE: What do you mean by that?

BROCK: What I mean by that is I think the politics of resentment had a big role in this election that's not really being talked about in the press. And so the shorthand now is Democrats have to do better with the white working class. That's not wrong, but there is a cultural element to this election that I think also needs to be brought to light which is racism, sexism, xenophobia, all of that.

GREENE: You know, I have to say I interviewed a lot of voters - some of them Democrat - who ended up supporting Donald Trump. And they would talk about their families and wanting a good paying job and feeling a disconnect with the Democratic Party. And in many cases, racism, sexism, those things you're talking about never really came up.

BROCK: Well, there are things that people aren't going to talk about but I think they were factors.

GREENE: What are you going to do now in response to what we've seen, I mean, this disconnect between the Democratic Party and working-class voters?

BROCK: One thing we'll do in our own organizations have a strategy to convey the information that we have to people who supported Donald Trump who might be a cohort that could be won back by Democrats in 2018 and 2020. Trump made a lot of promises. We'll see if he's able to keep them.

GREENE: Many of those voters seem to think of the Democratic Party as not standing with them, I mean, that the party's been tagged as being an elitist coastal party, you know, people in the chattering class who talk about big issues and aren't really in the nitty-gritty of policy that will help people. I just think of...

BROCK: Right.

GREENE: ...The kind of meeting you're convening, you know, with a lot of rich people in Palm Beach. I mean, does that hurt your effort to change that image?

BROCK: No, I don't think so. I mean, and again, I think we have to be careful here. I mean, Hillary not only won the popular vote but she won the votes of Americans who earn less than $50,000 a year. So I just want to caution against overinterpretation.

GREENE: Do you worry that some Americans - even some who supported Hillary Clinton and have concerns about Donald Trump - are eager to just take a breath and to give a new president some - a little bit of time and space before a lot of the negative attacks come?

BROCK: I don't think we have time for time and space, honestly. The transition's already underway. We have a moral responsibility to stand up to Donald Trump and that's what we're going to do.

GREENE: All right. David Brock, thanks so much for talking to us. We appreciate it.

BROCK: Thank you.

GREENE: David Brock is the founder of two progressive super PACs and he is organizing a meeting of liberal donors in January. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.