Jaime Harrison is a former U.S. Senate candidate who lost to Republican Lindsey Graham in November, but not before shattering fundraising records. Now Harrison is the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, selected by President Biden.
Despite his loss in South Carolina, Harrison points to Democratic victories in Georgia this month as signs that come 2022, his party can break the cycle of the incumbent president's party losing ground during midterm congressional elections.
"Well, 2022 is extremely important for us. And listen, history is not on our side. But this is the thing that I've learned just this past election cycle: You can make your own history," Harrison told NPR's Steve Inskeep in an interview Friday on Morning Edition.
And with Biden and other Democratic leaders in their 70s and 80s, Harrison says recruiting younger candidates "and building the next generation of leadership is something that I'm really passionate about."
Following are highlights of the interview, edited for length and clarity.
What is the opportunity for the Democratic Party at this moment?
It's about building for the future. I think the rut that the Democratic Party has gotten into over the past years is we're just thinking about the two-year cycle instead of thinking about the long term. We are going to embark upon a course to build for the future of the Democratic Party. I want Joe Biden, when he decides to leave the presidency, to be known as the best party builder that we've ever seen. And I think we have the ability to do just that.
There are Democrats who are already worried about 2022. There are Republicans I've talked with who are kind of eager for 2022. Congress is very closely divided. Very frequently, the incumbent president's party doesn't do well in the midterms. And if you lose just a few seats, you lose Congress. How much danger is there of that again?
Well, 2022 is extremely important for us. And listen, history is not on our side. But this is the thing that I've learned just this past election cycle: You can make your own history. You know, we had a history in Georgia of Democrats not winning runoff elections. Well, not only did we win one, we won two runoff elections.
There's also the history of incumbent presidents always getting re-elected. For the first time in almost 30 years, we changed that history as well. Donald Trump was not re-elected. And so we can make our own history. But in order to do that, we have to organize, organize, organize. Lay the foundation, embed ourselves in these communities, make sure we express the victories and the promises that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are able to keep through their legislative work. And if we do that, I feel good and bullish about where we go in 2022.
When you talk about the future, I have to note the president is 78, the speaker of the House is 80. The Democratic leader of the Senate is 70. Do you feel you know where the next generation of Democratic leaders will come from?
Well, I turn 45 in February. We got Stacey Abrams in Georgia, who's in her 40s. You know, there is a great bench of Democratic talent. And what part of my job is, is to make sure that I'm working with [state and congressional Democratic Party committees] to foster and develop the next generation of talent in our party. And we'll do just that ... Candidate recruitment and building the next generation of leadership is something that I'm really passionate about. It's what I did in South Carolina. And I hope to do that on a national level as well.