Democratic insider Donna Brazile immersed herself in politics before she was old enough to vote. At the age of 9, she began knocking on doors in Kenner, La., urging people to get out and vote. She's been active ever since, serving as national student coordinator for the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Committee, regional director for the Hands Across America effort to fight hunger and homelessness, and the first executive director of the National Political Congress of Black Women. Brazile, 43, served as chief of staff to Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, and ran Al Gore's 2000 campaign, becoming the first African American woman to manage a major-party presidential bid. Brazile is currently chair of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute, which she says was established after the 2000 presidential campaign to help protect and promote the rights of all Americans to participate in the political process. Recently, she opened her own political consulting firm, Brazile and Associates.
What is going on right now with the Democratic and Republican parties, and how do African Americans fit into the equation?
In the aftermath of Trent Lott's decision to step down as Senate majority leader, I believe both political parties are trying to refine their messages on civil rights. The Republicans have spent the last 40 years ignoring the interests and dreams of African Americans. The Democratic party - my party - must face the prospect that in order to maintain the continued support of its most loyal constituency, it must continue to reach out and speak up on issues of concern to African Americans - what I consider to be the modern issues of the Civil Rights Movement - economic disparity, educational disparity, health care access and access to capital.
What is your message to African Americans who say we have been taken for granted but we want to leverage our votes?
The Democratic party must address the growing perception in the African American community that the party has taken it for granted. The party has embraced the civil rights agenda by raising the minimum wage, supporting affirmative action, supporting an end to racial profiling and supporting other issues of concern to African Americans. African Americans would like to see more. This new political season will provide an opportunity for Democratic candidates to reach out and talk about those issues. …