Fmr. Obama Adviser: Dems Have The Big Tent Now

Fmr. Obama Adviser: Dems Have The Big Tent Now


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Democrats today can boast of being the political party with the “big tent,” according to Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser in President Barack Obama’s White House.

Jarrett made her remarks in the context of advice for, and summing up, the field of Democratic candidates for president. At well more than a dozen and growing, that field of hopefuls is quite sizeable, and all are trying to make their mark with voters.

“First of all, I think it’s important that the candidates, and I said this to all those who asked for my opinion, make an affirmative case about what they stand for,” she said during an interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton. “Be honest and authentic, and really say: ‘This is where I’m coming from, this is my expertise, and this is how I’m sure I can execute my vision,’ and earn the trust of the American people based on their vision, not criticizing somebody else, but what do you believe in?

“And the other thing I would say is, look, one of the advantages of the Democratic Party is we have a big tent, lots of ideas. They are all welcome. We are not polarizing. We’re trying to bring everybody in,” Jarrett added.

More than a generation ago, it was President Ronald Reagan and the Republicans of the time who claimed the “big tent” mantle.

However, under Trump, the GOP has become much more homogeneous while the Democrats can claim Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on the left of the party, and Sen Joe Manchin of West Virginia–who supported a number of Trump appointees–on the other side.

And in Washington, policymakers have to learn to compromise again, said Jarrett, who served as a close adviser and confidant for the full eight years of the Obama administration.

“It cannot be a dirty word. You got to figure out how to not let perfect be the enemy of the good or you won’t get anything done,” she said. “So figuring out how to reach out to the other side of the aisle and seeing if there’s room for compromise, and that doesn’t mean walk away from your ideals and values. But you do try to look common ground.”

Jarrett doesn’t see the large size of the 2020 field of Democratic contenders as a negative.

“We have an embarrassment of riches,” she said. “There are terrific candidates out there and I want them to stay optimistic and describe how they want to serve our country and how they’re going to look out for the American people.”

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