In Episode 003 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse about going from being a theatre major in college to working as Communications Director for the Democratic National Committee. Woodhouse also discusses the interesting situation of having a brother who is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

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Transcript:

This is episode three of Origin Stories: A Podcast about politics and People. My name Brent Jabbour and this week we speak with Brad Woodhouse. He is the executive director at Protect Our Care. He is the former DNC Communications Director, he was an Obama surrogate in 08 and 2012. He’s what I would consider a Democratic operative, that is just a buzzword, it doesn’t really mean anything in particular. It’s like a Democratic strategist. It just means what’s going on. He knows the inner-workings of what is going on with the party.

And, we had a pretty good discussion. I always found Brad pretty interesting because his brother is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Republican Party and he is entering his second cycle there. So, he is this key Democratic operative his brother high ranking Republican in the North Carolina party. They’ve actually played that up, you’ve seen them appear on Fox together, on CSpan, there is a famous viral clip of them going at it and their mom giving a call into the program.

He’s a really personable guy, we’ve had him on the Ed Schultz Radio show and the Ed Show on MSNBC quite a bit. So I have spoken with him many times and he was always friendly. He was just a guy I thought has a lot of personality and I would love to sit him down and talk about what’s going on right now in politics in the United States. So, we touched on that.

We talked about his Origin Story, if you will, he started out thinking he could be a big movie star because he was a theatre major in college. Then he saw Bill Clinton accept the Democratic nomination in 1992. And, it just clicked for him. And he decided to go into politics as his family had in the past.

We talk about a lot of things. We obviously re-litigate the 2016 election because you can’t sit down with anyone today without doing that. But we also talk about what is important for Democrats to win in 2018 and then moving into 2020. He is very critical of President Donald Trump so we will talk a lot about that. I think it was a really enjoyable conversation.

Just a little bit of a heads up. Next week, I have already recorded it, but I sat down with my first sitting United States Congressman, that’s an elected official, that’s a big deal for me. I go to go into Congress and actually sit down with somebody. I sat down with Kevin Cramer of North Dakota who is in a big Senate race and I speak a lot about that race. In fact, we talk about that in this particular episode of the podcast. Looking forward to that.

If you like what you hear, remember to subscribe on Itunes or wherever you get your podcasts so you can get it delivered right to your ears. Would love for that to be the case for you every Thursday when we release new episodes. You can follow on Facebook. Facebook.com/podcastoriginstories or follow me on Twitter @BrentJabbour.

Here we go. I’m not going to waste too much more time. It’s Brad Woodhouse, Democratic Operative from Protect Our care. Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, Episode three, here we go!

Brent Jabbour:

I don’t know why, but you were in my building one time and I rode the elevator up with you. And, I have this little anxiety issue, where I can never remember somebody’s name when I see them. It happens to me…

Brad Woodhouse:

That happens to a lot of people.

Brent Jabbour:

I don’t want to be like: “Hey there big guy, I know you.” Because I am sure you get that regularly, being somebody television. But, I also, I should know. I immediately got off the elevator and I said: “It was Brad Woodhouse. Damnit!”

Brad Woodhouse:

Man, that happens to everybody. That being on the spot. And you have that classic brain fart, they call it.

Brent Jabbour:

I also have this new thing where I’ve realized that you see somebody and you say hello to them and then you realize: “Oh, now I have to have a conversation with this person.”

Not that I want to be rude or anything. But, I just wanted to say hello.

Brad Woodhouse:

It’s also that question of whether you make eye contact or not. If you make eye contact it’s like: “Hey, hello, how are you?” And sometimes it’s just better to not make eye contact.

Brent Jabbour:

So, you grew up in North Carolina. Your brother is the RNC chair of North Carolina?

Brad Woodhouse:

So, he’s the Executive Director of the North Caroline Republican Party. I guess this is his second full cycle doing that. So, he’s been there awhile.

Brent Jabbour:

Let’s how you guys got to be. How did you become a key Democratic operative and he becomes a face of the Republican party in your home state?

Brad Woodhouse:

Well, the long-ago story for both of us, the origin story, is our parents. They were both very involved politically. They went into politics right out of college. They both worked in state government, in state politics. My father went on, he had a myriad of interests. He was Democratic operative back in the sixties and then he went later to work for Jesse Helms, so complete opposite of how he started. And, just as a citizen, he supported Ross Perot for president in 1992. So, he was kind of all over the map. But, he was very engaged politically. My mom was engaged politically.

And, another thing was, they really forced us to be engaged politically and to pay a lot of attention to the news. I knew at a very early age who Walter Cronkite was, who Frank Reynolds was, Eric Sevareid, all of these anchors. The anchors for our local television, we took two newspapers a day, back when there was an afternoon newspaper delivered in Raleigh. So, it was a combination of politics and news. So, I think it was inevitable.

My brother, originally he got a degree in journalism. Originally he was a television reporter doing all the types of things television reporters do. And eventually went on to become the public affairs director for the NBC affiliate in Raleigh. And, had the local version of Meet the Press. And, then from that, he left and went directly into politics.

Ya know, when I graduated from college I didn’t think I was going to go into politics. My first job was with Marriott as a management trainee. It was always in the back of my mind. I had majored in political science. I was watching the Democratic national convention in 1992, I was in Birmingham, AL, I was working for Marriott. And, I saw Bill Clinton’s speech and I basically quit the next day and moved back to North Carolina and volunteered for a congressional campaign.

Brent Jabbour:

I think that is what the interesting thing about the world of politics is. If you’re interested in it. You don’t have to be a professional in the business in any way. I mean, you grew up in that realm, so you had that background. But, you can be interested in it and something like that can just inspire you to say i might give up the next six months of my life to go knock on doors, sleep in an office where you eat pizza 6 nights a week.

So, was your brother always leaning conservative and you were always leaning (liberal)?

Brad Woodhouse:

That’s what’s interesting. When I was in college, Dallas was still in High School in North Carolina. Frankly, we weren’t particularly close. You know, he did some of the same things in High School that I did. He acted, he did musicals, he was in show choir, and he had an interest in being out there and being a performer. And, that is one reason… I did a lot of that in high school and college. I was a theatre major in college originally. And, politics gives you an outlet for people who are not actually that talented in performing arts to be on the public stage in another venue.

So, I wasn’t really sure what his political leanings were when he was in high school and early in college. Then, when he got out of college, he was a television reporter, so he played it kind of straight. And, when he took over, he was the host of NBC 17’s version of meet the press every sunday, and you began to see his political leanings started to come out. You could see he had this antipathy towards governent and government programs, and people who recieve government assistance, and one thing led to another.

But, he was probably in his mid-twenties before I realized he was moving in that direction. And then it became stronger and stronger and stronger. And incidently, the same thing happened to me. I didn’t feel real ideoligically inclined when I was in college. I didn’t volunteer for campaigns, I wasn’t involved politically. I was just as likely to be inspired by George H.W. Bush giving a speech as somebody else.

It’s kind of incredible, that speech I watched Bill Clinton give, just turned me on. I said I want to do politics, I want to do government, I want to do that type of work. And then all my families connections in North Carolina were on the Democratic side. So, I moved home, and the rest is kind of history.

Brent Jabbour:

I have a couple of things I want to hit on here.

First, on the theatre major thing, what really drew you to theatre?

Brad Woodhouse:

Well look, I had at an early age had an interest in acting. Probably when I was in Junior High school, I asked my mom to sign me up for acting classes. I did improvisation training. And then, whenever there was a little thing to do, we had a 6th-grade sing-a-long, and they needed someone to play Rudolf and I say: “I want to do that.” I just was drawn to it. Like a lot of kids, I thought I was going to be a movie actor. Then I became a Springsteen freak and I wanted to sing Springsteen at a school show. Now, I can’t carry a tune. So, that was another reason I couldn’t continue as a performance artist. I can’t sing. So, I never got the chance to play Bruce Springsteen in High School. But, I was really drawn to it.

I had some leading roles in theatre in High School and even in Raleigh Little Theatre, Peace College, I did some work. And, you know I had the opportunity to go to the University of South Carolina as a theatre major. I went to the University of South Carolina the day after I graduated from High School and immediatly started in a summer musical. So, I thought I was going to be an actor.

Brent Jabbour:

And, I think the question I was really going to ask here… Because I think I felt the same way, which was initially the reason I got into radio initially too, because I thought there could be some… I wanted people to hear my voice. Like you said, it’s easy to go into the political or punditry world. Not that you don’t need talent. People, by the way, underestimate the amount of talent that people like you have. The people you see on television everyday. Believe me, there are a lot of people who show up one time and don’t make it because they don’t know how to articulate a thought, they don’t have any exuberance. You can see Brad Woodhouse on television for three minutes, and you get a pretty good understanding of who you are, your personality. You have that southern, North Carolina draw, that kind of draws you in a little bit.

Also, the reason I came up with this idea is because I think there are a lot of people who see you for three minutes and they make an immediate snap judgement on you and they don’t really get an idea of who you are, besides, sometimes I see this blowhard on television, not that you are a blowhard.

So, you were inspired by Bill Clinton in 1992, and I think a lot of people in my generation, I’m 34, we got inspired by Obama probably in the same way to get politically active. And I think you can see the paralells between those two, because they motivated people to get out, they motivated people who you see getting involved now because they saw Obama give that speech or Bill Clinton accepting the nomination in 1992.

Who is going to be the next person in the Democratic party to inspire the masses to get out and do something. Look, I have spent a lot of time re-litigating the 2016 campaign.

Brent Jabbour:

I’ve said it a million times, Hillary Clinton was probably the most qualified person to ever run for the office, but she just didn’t know how to connect with the people that way. And, we as a Democratic party clearly need that because we can’t seem to motivate people on good policy.

Brad Woodhouse:

Right, yeah. Well, look it’s a good question. I don’t think we have seen that moment yet, where we know who that next person is. Politics is all about timing. It could be that the next Democrat who wins the nomination and hopefully becomes president and hopefully denies Trump a second term, may not be that person. It may be the person who is just the best person to defeat Donald Trump. And that might be what inspires the masses in the country, on our side, and among right-thinking independents might be OK, we have to defeat Trump. This is the best person to defeat Trump. It could be that we have that.

But, sometimes it skips a generation. You don’t have a Bill Clinton or Barack Obama type politician in every election cycle. So, it remains to be seen. Look, I think some of the potential that we have on the bench… People like to say Democrats don’t have a bench, you look at the number of really talented people thinking about running for office, either in politics or not in politics. It’s really impressive. The bigger problem we have is we may have 20 people on stage at some point.

But, Barack Obama we knew after that 2004 speech. It was almost inevitable that… maybe not inevitable that he was going to be President. But, inevitable that he was going to lead a cohort of Americans down some type of path towards change. Because he was so inspiring. He captured so many people’s attention. And, the interesting thing about Obama of course, is that all of the lucky, I don’t want to say luck he is a talented politician. But all of the breaks he got. He had a primary that fell his way when divorce records came out. He had a general election when more divorce records came out. Remember they had to import Alan Keyes from Maryland to even run against him in the Senate race in 2004. But that speech that he gave in 2004 you knew…

He wasn’t in Senate a day before people started to speculating when he would run for president. There are other people who have that same speculation around them. Senators who are in their first term for example. But we’ll see. No one right now has quite captured that imagination.

Brent Jabbour:

I think that in that particular situation as well. You talk about these first-term Senators, Kamala Harris is who you are mostly referring to. Maybe Elizabeth Warren, but she is in her second term. Not that I want to downplay those women’s roles, but the fact is, they don’t have that Pizzaz that Obama had. Obama/Biden is the most charismatic two politicians that I can think of ever been near each other. I don’t know if they really did… but they looked… Look, I’m a big optics guy. While I perceive the reality of what things are, I also spend a lot of time understanding most people just see things on the surface level. And, Presidential races are popularity contests. They aren’t about who has the best policies, they are about who can whip up the most votes in America. And, I think that those two Senators I love them both very dearly, I love their politics, I just don’t think they move the dial in a national election in the middle of the Country.

You would think that Obama/Biden wouldn’t, but Biden speaks directly to your heart so that helps. And, Obama said all the right things. He may not have been the best in acting as a president to some people on the left, however, he, in my opinion, he knew what to say at all times.

I spend a lot of time, I was just thinking about this-this morning. I spend a lot of time pretending with other people on the left that I don’t just love Obama and every moment of the 8 years he was president of the United States. Sure, there were some issues I didn’t really care for, but the fact is, I can wipe all that away because he was charismatic, he won, and I think most of the time he did the right thing.

Brad Woodhouse:

Well, I think, he accomplished a lot. He inspired millions of people in this country. His election, obviously, in 2008 was as historic anything that has ever happened in this country politically. And almost anything that has happened in the country period. And he is such a popular ex-president. I think this charisma that he had with Biden, and the relationship they have it’s real, it’s true. I mean you think about the fact that they still do things together.

When Bill Clinton and Al Gore left the White House, it may have been years before they spoke or did anything together. Cheney and Bush, these are business relationships in the White House generally. I think it was a real friendship, there was a real kinship there. I do think that Biden is an inspiring figure for a lot of reasons. His life story. The travails he’s gone through. His son, his family. And bringing himself up by the bootstraps.

But, I think we are blessed a number of great candidates and we just don’t know until we see them. There are so many tests. Their announcement speech. Did they move the dial? Did they move the needle? Did they move people to cheer and tear up?

And maybe we take too much stock in that. Look, I think the country might be better off if the person with the best policies did win. But that’s not realistic. Policies get you through editorial board meetings. They don’t get you elected. Getting elected is a combination of smart policies, but really articulation of the American people are and where you want them to go. A really forward vision. And, I think Barack Obama had that. And it may have been an idealistic vision. It may have been an almost unreasonable vision that the country could come together. Washington could clean up its act. But It’s what people wanted at the time. And, it was a reaction to people’s antipathy towards both big government and big business. And, he had an opportunity, in the campaign, to fuse those strands of populism and idealism together.

Democrats will find that person again. Is it the 2020 cycle? It might be. The true test is not some persons performance at a hearing on Capitol Hill or one appearance on Meet the Press or CNN. It’s going to be when they are out there on the hustings. Are they connecting with the American People? Are they meeting the American people where they are and where the American people want to go? I think we are going to have it in 2020. Is it Obama redux or Clinton redux? It might not be. But given where we see this president, where we see his numbers, we see where he is taking the country down this path of divisiveness and everything. I am not sure we are going to have to have Obama 2.0 to win in 2020.

Brent Jabbour:

The more you talk about this, the more I think if Joe wants to run, he has my full support. Because he does have the charisma. We’ll get to see a lot of Obama. Which I always appreciate. But, also, he speaks to the heart of people in the middle of the country. And, I know we’ve talked about all of this so much since the election. And there are a lot of people on the left who say: “Stop calling them working-class Americans, what you mean is white people who are racists in the middle of the country.” No that’s not what I mean, I mean people who work for a living. It’s easy for people in Washington D.C., who are Democratic operatives, to say: “Oh, you guys are just mad because it was a woman who ran.” No, while I think there was a little of that, I actually had a union leader tell me: “Look, I’m around these guys every day, some of them just aren’t going to vote for a woman.”

But we will grow out of that. I mean ten years ago, everybody would have said: “Look, nobody’s gonna vote for a black guy.” And he became the President of the United States. Look, Hillary Clinton had so much baggage from the Bill Clinton years. When I was a kid during the Bill Clinton years, I didn’t know much about it. All I really knew was Hillary was a ball buster. That’s not actually true, it’s just the impression that you are given. And, sometimes perception is reality…

Brad Woodhouse:

The Clintons were interesting. Because there was this vicious cycle where they distrusted the press. The press distrusted them. It fed more and more distrust. And then when you put on top of it all of the made up scandals. Travelgate, made up. Whitewater, made up. All of these kinds of made up scandals. And there was no reservoir of goodwill for the Clintons to go to the press because of their distrust for the press and the press’ distrust for them. And to get the fairest of hearings.

And, I get the resentment that the Clintons have about that. If you look at one of their chief antagonists, who came around to them, David Brock later on. Think about how many things David Brock, funded by Richard Mellon Scaife and those folks, fed into the American distrust of the Clintons that was all phony. It was all made up. Troopergate, Whitewater, all this stuff. And then the President ultimately stumbles into the Monica Lewinsky thing, which is on him. But, there is no reservoir of goodwill with the press to help him out of that, even though he won in the end. And ended his presidency very popular.

Hillary had to live with all of that mud, so to speak.

Brent Jabbour:

Did Obama get away from the whole distrust for the press and everything because he had African American press to go to. I mean, you would always see him on the Joe Madison show, or several other…

Brad Woodhouse:

There was a healthy bit of (distrust) between the Obama White House and the press. I think that is true of all White Houses. It is a balancing act. Reporters want access. Presidents want unfettered ability to deliver their message. And to be covered. And, you will have a lot of reporters who felt like there was a little bit of heavy-handed tactics from the campaign and the White House. And, they think they should have gotten more access.

But, I think given the state of affairs in the Trump presidency, it’s been like 20 days since Sara Sanders held an on-camera television briefing. The pendulum has swung so far. In retrospect… And look, I don’t think the press ever really had any antipathy toward the President. I think they occasionally felt like his spokespeople, or others, or when I was at the DNC and I was vociferously defending the President and his policies. And occasionally I went over the line in taking on journalists that I felt like were being unfair. So, I think there is a little bit of that that goes on. I think by-and-large the press looks back now on the Obama years and feels like that they had it pretty good. Ya know, Josh Earnest and Jay Carney, all of those people who stood at that podium tried to be fair and represent the President they worked for, but also tried to help the press.

And, you don’t have that. There is no feeling that Sean Spicer before or Sara Sanders now is trying to help the American people or help the press understand what the President is thinking and what the President is trying to accomplish. They are trying to bully the press into not being critical of this president and not reporting accurately on this president.

Brent Jabbour:

I’ll tell you what. The White House Press Briefings are an hour long campaign ad for Donald Trump. Which, technically any press briefing is such a thing. Like you said, she just attacks the press and all that does is feed into the base and those people who love Trump and say: “See, he’s not going to be pushed around by the Washington elite, they’re not going to let them lie to me.” And they win.

The Trump Administration, they win on a lot of different fronts. And right now, I’m concerned about the Democrats, and as we talked about that whole thing about who will pick up that mantle. Who is going to be the next candidate to really move the dial. I think we are going to have a hard time running against Trump. Because, he is going to be able to talk to those establishment Republicans who maybe they don’t really care for the Stormy Daniels payoff and everything. But he is going to be able to say several things to them that is going to really work to his base and those people who really voted for him. Number one, he nominated two Supreme Court Justices.

Brad Woodhouse:

It’s the holy grail for a lot of Republicans.

Brent Jabbour:

Any other president who does that. You could start four wars and your going back…

Brad Woodhouse:

The truth is, the Evangelicals they could live with Donald Trump sleeping with and paying off 25 porn stars as long as they get Supreme Court Justices that will overturn a woman’s right to choose. They could care less about the President’s morality.

Brent Jabbour:

And we are in trouble because I hope RBG can hold on. Because he could literally go on stage when he’s running in 2020 and say: “She’s not going to make it 4 years, so you better re-elect me.” He’s got that. You can hate tariffs and all the things he is doing on trade all you want, but working-class Americans, not just white Americans, I mean people who work for a living they see that and say whether it works or not, he tried. Something that the Obama administration never did, Clinton put in a bad trade deal. So it’s easy for him to say that. Job numbers are still going up, which is a lot of work the Obama Administration did. And, he may inadvertently negotiate peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Brad Woodhouse:

Yeah, well that I think is a big if. The backdrop of all that is the Mueller Investigation. The backdrop of all that is still Manafort is getting ready to go on trial again. Some backdrop of all that 2020 discussion is what happens in 2018. Do the Democrats take back the house? Do they maybe take back the Senate? How do they handle that? Do they push for partisan impeachment? Do they just investigate, investigate, investigate and let Mueller finish what he is doing?

I think the most interesting thing that I see that could be… Look, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had horrific midterms. So, we shouldn’t overread what happens in November. But, if you look at the polls that are coming out now, Trump’s approval rating is down into the mid-to-high thirties. He’s even losing his base in that regard. And, his approval rating in some of the reddest states is at 50 percent or below. Now, those are not states that we are going to go and grab those electoral votes in 2020. But, if he’s having to chase reliably red states to guarantee those electoral votes in 2020 there is something going to be left on the sideline. Maybe it’s Michigan, maybe it’s Wisconsin, maybe it’s Pennsylvania.

Brent Jabbour:

Oh Brad, let me tell you why you are over analyzing this. Because we did the exact same thing in 2016. We looked at the same exact situation, we said: “He’s not doing enough in Florida that’s going to be a Democratic win, he’s not doing enough here, he’s not doing enough there.” Meanwhile, we didn’t go to Michigan and Wisconsin. We lost those states and he still won Florida.

Brad Woodhouse:

I agree one hundred percent. I’m not in the camp that believes Demographics is destiny and we should just follow that path. Or, that the entire solution is in the white working class.

It’s crazy, it’s nuts, Obama didn’t build a single coalition to win in 2008 or 2012. Bill Clinton didn’t either. You’ve got to build a coalition of people that see in their self-interest and their inspiration and in their forward-looking vision for the country something in a President that will inspire a Latina woman to vote in Tucson and a factory worker to vote in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. And, that’s what we need. And, this either/or is the craziest discussion.

It’s also this either the Bernie side or the Clinton side. There is no Bernie side or Clinton side. Right now Clinton isn’t running for president, Bernie’s not running for President yet. If allow that inner seam warfare to continue then Donald Trump could get elected to a second term.

Brent Jabbour:

I think what you talk about with that Bernie/Hillary divide. And, I think there is a Bernie Sanders wing of the party, and there is a little wing of the party that is even further left than Bernie. And, i think the problem is… And, I’m going to call you an establishment type, I hope that doesn’t offend you. Because I would say I’m a little left of establishment although there were many times when I lived in North Dakota running Ed’s radio show for many years and I thought I was as progressive as you get then I moved to D.C. and I realized I may be center-left.

But, I think that the people on the establishment side are doing as much damage as the people on the far left Bernie-side are to this conversation. Because, those establishment people are saying: “We’re not going to let you run our party.” Which means: “We’re not going to let you be part of our party. We aren’t going to appease you in any way.” And there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes at the DNC which I don’t want to talk about right now. It’s just some nuanced nonsense.

But, I just think there is a mutual hatred on both sides of this party for those people. I don’t know what the solution in 2018 and 2020 is to kind of bring those two sides together.

Brad Woodhouse:

Well, first thing in 2018 is to focus on the Republicans. It is not to have an all-out war between various factions of the Democratic party. We’ve had primaries, and there have been a number of Democratic primaries where single payer was the issue. And single payer advocates won. And there have been other primaries where the single-payer advocate lost. And there are other issues like that that have played out in Primaries. We are almost done with Primary season. What we need to focus on is Republicans, they’re in charge.

And we need to focus on Republicans. And I say Republicans to the exclusion of Trump. Trump is going to be covered every single day. Trump is making negative news for himself and Republicans every single day. On Twitter, Bob Mueller is driving Trump news, Stormy Daniels is driving Trump news. Democrats need to focus on their Republican opponents and Republican Governance. If you look, people don’t like the way Republicans have governed in Congress. They don’t like what they did on healthcare. The tax bill is unpopular. Can you imagine? How fucked up are you as a party if you pass a tax bill, a tax cut and it’s unpopular. I mean, Republicans couldn’t sell Kool-Aid to children if they can’t sell a tax cut to the American people. I think those are the things we need to focus on.

Inevitably after this election, probably days after this election, we’re going to start having a conversation as a party about what our priorities are. And you know what? Good. We’ll have that fight. We’ll have that argument. It will play out in the 2020 primary for President and maybe it will create a divide that we can’t bridge but maybe we will have that person who can talk to both sides. This is not a choice between people who supported Hillary Clinton or people supported Bernie Sanders. In 2020 it’s going to be about who can best deny Donald Trump a second term.

Brent Jabbour:

You made me think because I don’t believe there is a “Blue Wave.” I don’t buy it for a couple of reasons. One, there aren’t enough Senate seats up. I think Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota is in trouble. I think Kevin Cramer can win that seat. I’ve talked about that a lot, I don’t know why. It’s the one that really strikes me as the one that will probably go Republican. But I think we will get the Nevada seat.

Brad Woodhouse:

I’ll say this. We’ve done a lot of work with her and her office. And, she is making healthcare the number one issue in that race. She’s a cancer survivor. Pre-existing conditions has exploded as an issue on the campaign trail because the Trump administration decided to weigh-in in favor of this lawsuit in Texas that would get rid of all those protections for people.

I’ll predict on this podcast that she does win. And, I think she’ll win because Kevin Cramer can’t explain what he would do to make people’s lives better, particularly on health care. And I think she can.

But, I’m with you in this respect. A blue wave in the Senate is going to be hard because of the map. The truth is we could very well find ourselves with about the same math as we have now. They could knock a Democrat or two. I think the numbers are showing that is going to be increasingly difficult. The President is going to be a drag, even in some of these red states. But, they could knock off a Democrat or two. But, I think there is a good chance that we win Nevada. And that we win either Arizona or Tennessee. But, the map is daunting. We are defending far more seats. But, I think it will be your definition of a wave. If we sweep out 50 Republicans in the House or 40 Republicans in the House and take some state legislative seats, chambers that we don’t have, in advance of redistricting. I mean, I feel pretty good about that.

Brent Jabbour:

Do Democrats not realize that when they talk about the Blue Wave in the House, do they not understand what Gerrymandering is and what has been done to the map in most states. And I’m glad you mentioned House seats. Becaue, I was going to mention that as well. You know, I have strangely spoke with more Republicans than I have Liberals as I have been recording this thing, more scheduling issues than anything.

And, a lot of them say, we are really working in the State Houses because we saw the Democrats doing that. And now we’re doing better. Democrats aren’t focused on those State Houses. We’re not winning those State Houses. You’ve seen what happened, especially since 2010. We’re not doing enough. We need to win those legislatures becuase we need to redraw those lines.

Brad Woodhouse:

There has been a cascading effect of Gerrymandering. People think of Gerrymandering as the U.S. House of Representatives. Remember, Legislative seats, State Senate seats, and it all ladders up. It is not just about winning. We need to win the House. We need to have Democrats in the House be a check on this President, investigate this President, push strong Democratic policies, even if we have a Republican Senate and a Republican President that won’t adopt them. We do need to have an agenda going into 2020. Democrats are never going to maintain power in Congress for long if we don’t get a hold of these state legislative chambers.

Remember, we have a very undemocratic United States Senate. We’ve got states, where two Republican Senators represent about as many people as a member of Congress does in a Congressional district. Yet, they have as much power in the Senate as two Democrats who represent 40 million people in California. That’s the constitution, that’s how the Senate is going to be elected, and how it’s going to be portioned. So we can do that in the House. We can do that by winning State Legislative chambers and fighting every bit of redistricting legally, legislatively, administratively, anyway we can to make sure we get a better result in this next reapportionment.

Brent Jabbour:

I just feel… I’m getting jaded even in the middle of my own…

Brad Woodhouse:

Well look, there is less going on than we’d like, but there is more going on than has been. We have the Holder/Obama group that is doing legislative redistricting. They have a legal strategy, they have a legislative strategy, they have an electoral strategy. That group, along with the DLCC, along with the work that we’re doing. Remember, if we win the House of Representatives a lot of those victories are going to sweep in a lot of people below them. Because the turnout machines for some of these congressional races will far exceed anything that a state legislative or State Senate candidate can do. So, we can’t count on that. We have to run races all the way down, down to the ZooKeeper level. We need to elect up and down the ballot. But, there is more going to affect the outcome of State Legislative chambers than we’ve seen in the past.

Brent Jabbour:

I just think that we need to get to talk about that. I feel like we try to trick people into doing what we need to do. When, if we simply just said: Hey Democrats in Georgia, in North Carolina, in any state that has a purple opportunity. We can say, hey Democrats there, just so you understand we need you to vote, not just because you love this candidate or you love that candidate. We need you to vote because we need to win, and we need to win this State House so we can make this work for everybody. We say “turn out the vote” and almost try to shame people into voting. Not just we, everybody does.

There is no explanation of what’s going on most of the time. And, normal people do not have an understanding, normal people, but people who are out there…

Brad Woodhouse:

They’re Busy… People running their lives, they don’t pay attention to this every day. And, the thing that you’re suggesting is exactly right. We need to constantly have a civics lesson with the American people, particularly those we want to come vote for us, about political power. And, I think for too long Democrats across the country felt like political power resided in the presidency. Ask Bill Clinton after 1994 or Barack Obama after 2010. There is a whole lot of political power that resides in Congress, and those things bubble up from redistricting. From districts that are now more favorable to Republicans. You’re right. One of the biggest headwinds against Democrats is the actual districts that we’re running in. There are those districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. There are enough of them, if you turned every single one of them, to win a bare majority. You want a governing majority. But, you’re right, we need a civics lesson to the American people. It is as important for Democrats to control the state legislature in Georgia as it is to control the House of Representatives in Washington. Because they all flow one to the other.

Brent Jabbour:

Also, the Democrats need to understand 51 Senators ain’t going to win you anything. Number one, Republicans will obstruct, we saw that during the Obama administration. Essentially, Mitch McConnell should have been elected President of the United States because he is the one that did the most for Republicans over the last 8 years of his presidency. And, also, we can’t always count on Democrats. It’s funny, Republicans are now starting to face that now in the House with the Freedom Caucus and they can hold them hostage. Democrats don’t do it as heavy-handed. But there are, it’s a wide swath of a party, they don’t fall in line all the time. So you’re going to have people in red states, you know in the Senate it is the Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Donnelly, Tester, that you will always have to worry about because they have to worry constituents who are constituents in a red state for the most part.

Brad Woodhouse:

That’s exactly right. Now, look, let’s be clear, I’ll take 51 Democrats in the Senate over 51 Republican Seats in the Senate any day. The biggest impediment to progress in the event we take back the House and the Senate is obviously a Republican administration.

This is looking way ahead. But, if you assume we took back the House and the Senate. You know, Trump’s a deal maker. There are a lot of Democrats that will dilute themselves into the notion that they can go make deals with Trump. And, I think Trump is an immoral, illegitimate President. And fuck making deals with that guy. We would not need to help him get re-elected by cutting deals that may be in our favor in the short term and risk that long-term. Obviously, if you take back the House and the Senate you do have to cut some deals because you have to fund the military and keep the government open.

Brent Jabbour:

While I agree with you to a certain extent about screw that guy why would I want to help him, actually I’m sorry, I can say it. Fuck that guy, I don’t want to help him. I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m not with you here. But, I think there has to be some sort of governance.

Brad Woodhouse:

No doubt. But we should just impose our will on him instead of the other way around.

Brent Jabbour:

Right. The Democrats can give themselves trapped into giving him the wall or something.

Brad Woodhouse:

Right, give him the wall in exchange for something else. And, I mean that’s not the approach we should take.

Brent Jabbour:

I’d like to go back to you for just a little bit before we wrap up for the hour. So, when you left your job at Marriott and were inspired by President Clinton. What was that road like from knocking on doors to…

Brad Woodhouse:

I was really fortunate because my parents had been involved in politics and state government since they were in college. I was fortunate, they had some really good people for me to lean on in getting a foot in the door. Look, anybody can make it in politics if they are willing to really gut it out. It helps to know people.

The first thing that I did actually. I don’t remember my parents having any influence on this. I volunteered for a congressional campaign. David Price was running for re-election in 1992. I got home, it was too late to get involved in the Presidential race, so I volunteered for David Price. He was already in Congress, he had a staff. He didn’t have anything for me when it was all over with.

So, that same year, Jim Hunt was elected again to his third term, non-consecutive, as governor of North Carolina. My parents knew Hunt, they had been in campaigns with Hunt, but also they knew a very influential State Senator who had a lot of influence over the Governor-elect’s inauguration and transition. And, one thing led to another, and I worked in his administration. And, after he had served that first term, and was re-elected for a second, I had a chance to come to Washington and work for Congressman Bob Ethridge who spent seven terms here. Went back in 2001 to work in a Senate race. Erskin Boles ran for United States Senate against Liddy Dole, he lost, but I had the opportunity to succeed a friend of mine who had been Bob Ethridge’s press secretary at the DSCC, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Robert Gibbs had been in Ethridge’s office, he’d gone on to work on Senate campaigns. Eventually, he made it to the DSCC. He recruited me to do my stint in North Carolina in 02. And then in 03-04 I succeeded him at the DSCC and went on from there.

Brent Jabbour:

What’s it like being seen as a surrogate for the sitting President.

Brad Woodhouse:

It was a rush. So, I came kind of late in 08 to the presidential game. My wife was pregnant in 2007 when Obama started to run. Gibbs was always trying to get me to go to the campaign. He tried to get me to go to Iowa. Tried to get me to come to Chicago. And, I was running an organization, Americans United For Change at the time. A liberal organization. Biggest claim to fame early on was stopping the President’s effort to privatize Social Security. So, I was running this. I was the President of it. It was a multi-million dollar thing. We were neutral, obviously, in the primary. My wife was pregnant. I could never get on the campaign. If I had had an opportunity to go work on the Presidential campaign during the primary itself, I would have worked for Obama.

And, after he got the nomination, they asked me to come run the rapid response communications efforts over at the DNC on behalf of the campaign during the general election against John McCain. I got over there and I was nuts and bolts. I was hiring people, getting people out in the field, organizing bus tours, crafting web videos, doing all of the rapid response thing that the DNC is involved in, in a really robust way.

And then, somebody asked me one day to go on television. And I was like, What? And, for all I know it could have been Ed Schultz’s show, I’m sure it was probably MSNBC. So, it was such a rush. And you start doing it and you don’t screw it up. I remember some of the moments. It was 2008, I was on MSNBC, probably with Alex Witt on Sunday morning. And the news broke that Colin Powel was going to endorse Obama. Of course, he was going on Meet the Press to announce it. But, I was just by happenstance the first Obama campaign surrogate on TV to react to it and that was a rush.

And then at the end, I didn’t know this until later. This is an interesting story, I’ve never even relayed. I believe it’s true, but I heard it second hand. But, the Obama campaign stopped putting any of its surrogates on Fox. And, all of a sudden, I noticed I was doing Fox a lot. Karen Finney, who was Communications Director at the DNC at the time, we were like going down to the studio at the DNC doing Fox and Friends, Shep Smith, we were doing all of the Fox shows. Like, why are we doing so much Fox?

We found out after the election, that the Obama campaign just made a decision that they were being so unfairly portrayed on Fox that they just weren’t going to do it those last few weeks. That was a whole other thing where you got to be out there and have that kind of platform to yourself as a surrogate. So, there is the rush part of it, which is probably why I was in Theatre, to begin with. The kind of rush you get from being in front of an audience getting kind of instant feedback. And, the other part of it, and this kind of went on as I was in the DNC, and later working for the re-elect in 2012 is you take a lot of crap. I mean, you take a lot of crap.

It’s also very stressful too. It’s very stressful to go on television and know that one misspoken word, one mangled word-salad could hurt the President or hurt the President’s chances. Fortunately, I don’t think I ever screwed up that badly. But, you do get a lot of incoming. Especially, I got on Twitter in 2010 and just getting killed by these conservatives, Obama haters.

Brent Jabbour:

It’s funny because I have friends who go on Fox and go on a lot of other networks too. But, they go on Fox and they will say I go on MS, I go on CNN, they do some international news here and there. And Honestly, I get positive reaction. And, they are Democrats. And they will go do a Fox hit with Tucker Carleson and they say their voicemail will explode, their office email will get destroyed, their Twitter is just the nastiest, most disgusting things. And just because I am a liberal.

And they have told me, I don’t mind, Tucker treats me well on the air, but I get hammered by these crazies who are just followers of his.

Brad Woodhouse:

And you get it. During the height of the election season. I saw less of this in 08 because I wasn’t on the campaign trail. But in 2012 and then in 2016 I was running Correct the Record which was a Super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton. I was appearing, basically, as a surrogate, or talker on her behalf. And, that went off the rails. Because all of a sudden, it was nothing like the period where I was at the DNC for Obama’s first term, or during the re-elect. I mean, the level of nastiness… And then you know supporters of Trump on 4Chan put all of our addresses out from the FEC report. Our home addresses, our phone numbers. Of course, my phone number was in Wikileaks. And then, you start to really get blown up.

So, then, you have these moments where you ask: Is it all worth it? Fuck yeah, it’s worth it. I mean I’ve had death threats on my voicemail. “I wish you would die, and you should crawl off and die.” That type of thing. It kind of shakes you up at first. But then you are like fuck this. It’s a voicemail.

Brent Jabbour:

When do you start taking that death threat seriously? I mean, I know people call and they say… They will word it vaguely like: “You should die.”

Brad Woodhouse:

I think you always want to take that type of stuff seriously. Where I think people got a little shook up in 2016 in particular… Never in 2012, I never felt like… I had nasty people on Twitter and voicemail, but never felt unsafe. In 2016, at Correct the Record, we had people doing things to just shake up the staff, because we were so vociferously supporting Hillary Clinton. They would send… You know you can order from the U.S. Postal Service boxes to be delivered to your house and then you paid for them. Well, we had people just getting massive delivery of these boxes to their home. And, it was all meant to freak them out. We had people getting Pizza deliveries to their house. We had a woman who lived out in Maryland who had a nasty note left on her doorstoop. So, some crazy ass person came to her house and left a note.

I don’t know what the tradition was. I don’t know why everytime someone got paid in a campaign their home address had to be on the FEC report, so we just paid people at the office. Of course, it was out there by then. And we took people’s names off the FEC report. We took people’s names off the website unless it had to be on there. We tried not to release people’s cell phone numbers widely to the press unless it was a spokesperson who had to be out there. And we at Correct the Record, at the building on Massachusetts, we hired extra security during the election. We put up extra firewalls for internet security. We know that during that period of time the hacking was going on at the DNC and of John Podesta’s emails that there were attempted hackings over there. We don’t know the source. But, we can assume, if all this other stuff was going on, that those hackings were coming from the same source.

2016 did more to shake me up, so to speak than 2008 or 2012. The level of nastiness, intrusion, and personal attacks… And then these tactics of things coming to your physical home. Never to mind. This is interesting… This strategy was even discussed on 4Chan, go after the junior people. The senior people have been through this, they know how to handle this. Go after the junior people, freak them out, make them not come into work, disrupt their activity. It was really insidious.

Brent Jabbour:

Do you expect that to continue. Not just with Trump, but as we move on. I mean, now that people have seen these dirty tactics. Look, probably not the first people in political history to order a bunch of pizzas to a campaign headquarters.

Brad Woodhouse:

These were going to people’s homes. So the signal there is that hey, we have your home address. But, I don’t see any end to the level of nastiness of the extremes on both sides. I don’t see any end of the nastiness coming from the sitting President of the United States. He got elected dividing the country against itself. He got elected playing the race card, the sex card, everything. So, I have no doubt that that’s going to continue. I’m not going to bullshit you and say “oh, I think it will get better.” I just don’t.

I just think we are in a period here where we are essentially in political warfare and it’s over the future of… It’s not over the future of the country like the direction we will take, whether we have tax cuts or not. It’s kind of over the future of our democratic institutions. I mean you have a President who is saying the FBI should investigate someone who submitted a fucking OpEd to the New York Times. It’s a police state he wants.

And, the people who support him… If the police state defends their interest, particularly what they believe is their birthright for the country to be more like them, and more like the way they look and the way they talk, than the diverse nation that we really are. Then they are going to live with that. And, it’s going to be an existential fight. So, I think it’s going to stay as nasty as it is.

The hope on our side is… I like to believe that when they go low, we aim high. Michele Obama’s famous phrase. I would like to believe we can do that and win. I do think, whoever is our candidate in 2020, should not try to out-Trump Trump. We need to be tough on Trump, but we can not divide and win. We have to put together a coalition and win. We can’t divide and win.

Brent Jabbour:

I think we will wrap it right there. I always try to wrap on a solid moment and that one was dire and scary so, we will keep it there.

Brad, did you have fun?

Brad Woodhouse:

Yeah, this was great. And, I’m thrilled. This might be my first podcast.

Brent Jabbour:

I don’t know why I ask everyone if they had fun. Because that is the most important thing.

Brad Woodhouse:

No, it’s great. I enjoy it. I look forward to hearing it and sharing it and lifting it up.

Brent Jabbour:

Thank you so much, Brad Woodhouse.