Donna Brazile

Political Outlook: The Future of Washington, D.C.

At the 2018 Chapter Leadership and Legislative Retreat this week in Washington, D.C., NAIOP chapter leaders heard from political keynote speaker Donna Brazile, former chair of the Democratic National Committee and veteran Democratic political strategist.

Brazile covered a variety of political ground in her remarks, sharing candid opinions, humorous anecdotes and a peek at what happens behind closed doors in the political annals of Washington.

The current political climate, Brazile said, is one of polarizing partisanship. She reminisced about her early political days where compromise was more readily an option: “Back in the day we came up with deals and we kept the government running,” she said. “Compromise used to be something we did very well in Washington.” It will be even tougher to compromise in 2018, she predicted, since it’s an election year.

Brazile pointed out that there are record number of politicians on both sides of the aisle stepping down in 2018. She applauds it. “We could use some new people.”

It looks like the new generation of political leaders will include millennials; a new group of individuals who have never run for office before; and a large number of women – there are 390 women seeking congressional seats in 2018.

For the first time, millennials make up the majority of eligible voters in our country. Brazile believes they have the power to reshape modern American politics – if they show up to the ballot box.

The interesting thing about millennials, according to Brazile: “They don’t like Republicans. Or Democrats.” Indeed, more than a third of them are registered as Independents.

“To understand millennials, you need to understand their value system. They’re not going to wear the red or blue jacket. They don’t like it,” she added.

Millennials may go as far as introducing a third major political party, Brazile said. At the very least they have the chance to change the trajectory of American politics. However, “This period of disruption coming up might be more stabilizing than destabilizing,” she clarified.

During the Q&A portion of Brazile’s remarks, an attendee asked her about the Russia investigation – just how serious is it?

Brazile called the investigation “an important issue that has become a part of the partisan grind.”

“People are tired of the investigation, tired of politicians using it as an excuse to not get things done and start a new round of partisan bickering,” she said.

Russia has more than just the DNC emails, Brazile pointed out, and the Russians are not going to stop – they’ve inserted themselves into political activities in Latin America and Mexico.

“When we have to deal with the threat of foreign influence, we need to come together. Because next time it could be our power grid, our electrical grid,” she cautioned.

Brazile said it is critical that we understand cybersecurity in politics and in business. “When our country comes under attack, we need to take every single step we can to protect our country from future attacks.”

“We must make sure our democracy is strong. We need every citizen to be able to get to the ballot boxes. I’m sick of the grudges.”

Towards the end of her remarks, Brazile, who calls the city of New Orleans home, shared an anecdote from the days following Hurricane Katrina.

“After Katrina, they told me I couldn’t talk to [President George W.] Bush because he’s a Republican. I said ‘Yes, I can, he’s the president.’ And when I came back and saw the schools open and the city rebuilt, I’m glad I talked to [President] Bush. That’s how it should be, we need to work together to find common sense solutions.”

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