It’s hard to miss Donna Brazile. She’s literally been all over the TV with her political tell-all, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, which debuted at No. 6 on the coveted New York Times best-seller list.
But Sunday afternoon, she was in Atlanta, in an intimate black-owned art gallery dedicated to black art, speaking with Atlanta-based attorney, former radio personality and recently defeated Atlanta City Council candidate Mo Ivory about the book that has rung the alarm in every white bastion of the Democratic Party, as well as with black Democratic supporters. People, black and white, haven’t hesitated to call Brazile out for what they consider half-truths or outright lies. When was the last time Gayle King had a heated on-air exchange with a CBS This Morning guest?
With so much heat, why wouldn’t Brazile retreat to the nation’s reigning Chocolate City? Rachelle O’Neil, a staffer for Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), actually organized the intimate book signing in downtown Atlanta, just walking distance from the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium that some see as the long arm of gentrification.
In this crowd, Brazile could be as bold as she dared to be, and was met with cheers, not jeers. And after years of being in the shadows and towing the perfect party line, Brazile let loose. She spoke up and loud, letting the crowd know who she was and still is and exactly the pivotal role she’s played in the Democratic Party, especially as it pertains to ensuring diversity. She let be known her impact—especially as it related to the Democrats’ Super Tuesday victories a few weeks ago—on the party’s past and its future.
“Just a few weeks ago, I was in Virginia. I was in Virginia,” she shared. “When people said that Justin Fairfax would not have the money to run, Donna Brazile stepped up to raise money. Most people don’t know that he was one of my kids. I recruited him to work for Tipper Gore back in 2000. He’s now lieutenant governor.”
Then she pointed to another potential gubernatorial victory in 2018. “Setti Warren is running for governor [of Massachusetts]—my kid,” she said.
“I have watched people just come out of nowhere telling people who I am,” she quipped, taking a tip from Jay-Z and kindly reintroducing herself. “They would have never been able to back Barack Obama had there not been a Donna Brazile and many others,” she schooled.
“Don’t step on me when I tell you my story,” she challenged. “Where were you when no one knew who Barack Obama was?”
Brazile didn’t shy away from the material in her book, either, commenting on everything from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders and even, gingerly, on the beloved Barack Obama. She spoke about the Russian hacking and fearing for her own life, even now. Brazile shared that, just recently, someone tried to break into her hotel room in New York City. She revealed that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was undergoing treatment.
She spent a lot of time on cybersecurity, as well as addressing corruption with the Democratic National Committee, acknowledging that she found that there were folks who never showed up for work making as much as $25,000 after she took over last summer. She told the crowd that she named names. But as much as she ragged on her party, she also stood up for it.
“I’m a Democrat because my party has stood up for me. They have fought for me. They fought for my voting rights. So I’m giving it back because I’m going to pay it forward. But just because I’m giving it back and paying it forward, don’t treat me like a Patsey. I’m not Patsey,” she warned, referring to Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar-winning role in 12 Years a Slave.
Speaking to The Root privately as she signed books before heading off to her flight, Brazile couldn’t contain her excitement about the recent election of LaToya Cantrell in her hometown of New Orleans.
“I spent the weekend in Louisiana, had a chance to go home to New Orleans to watch history being made with the election of LaToya Cantrell as the first female mayor,” she said.
“She now follows in the footsteps of Sharon Weston Broome in Baton Rouge and Ollie Tyler in Shreveport. So Louisiana has at least three out of the four largest cities [where] we have black female mayors,” she bragged.
“I feel like we’re in a period of awakening where people are discovering not just their own political power, but they have determined that the best way to proceed in the 21st century is to get more and more Americans to run for office. So I’m excited about this moment. Perhaps more excited than in 2008 when we elected Barack Obama,” she said.
And, as for her future within the Democratic Party, Brazile assured The Root that she is not worried: “I’ve been a Democrat all my life, but more importantly than a Democrat, I have been an activist. I’ve been an activist for American democracy. I have organized voter-registration campaigns. I’ve recruited people to run for office. I still have a seat at the table. No one can move my seat.
“But even if they tried, I would bring up a folding chair and reopen the doors,” she promised. “Every time I’ve gotten involved, I’ve brought others in the room. And so I maintain my seat, and I’m going to continue to speak my truth.”