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Transcending Hyper-Partisan Politics

CNN’s Patti Solis Doyle refl ects on her time with the Clintons, the #MeToo movement, and healing a divided nation

By Dawson Bell

CNN’s Patti Solis Doyle refl ects on her time with the Clintons, the #MeToo movement, and healing a divided nation By Dawson Bell Raised in Chicago as the youngest of six children to working-class, Mexican immigrant parents, Patti Solis Doyle knows what life outside the citadels of power is like. As a veteran of Bill Clinton’s two presidential campaigns, a White House aide throughout his tenure, and the 2008 campaign manager (the first Hispanic-American women to hold that position) for the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, she also knows what it is like on the inside.

But in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, Solis Doyle admits she was, like many Americans, left wondering, “How did that happen?” and “Where do we go from here?” In an interview with the Detroiter, Solis Doyle said she is still grappling with the former. But as a lifelong Democrat and progressive activist, she is confident the 2016 election re-awakened and re-energized the coalition on the left, and will result in a significant course correction in 2018 and 2020.

Solis Doyle now heads a Washington, D.C.-based consulting fi rm and is a regular contributor to CNN. In advance of her appearance at the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference, she shared her thoughts on a range of topics, including the tenor of debate in contemporary politics, the expanding role of women and minorities in the body politic, and how the reckoning over sexual harassment and abuse affects political campaigns and American society going forward.

The discussion of politics and policy today in America is increasingly acrimonious and uncompromising. Do you view that as regrettable? Is there anything that can be done?

I’m happy the Chamber is taking this topic on. It is important. I think we are at a unique time in our history and in our culture. I don’t think we have ever been this divided. Politicians on both sides have contributed: the president with his comments about women and immigrants; and Hillary Clinton talking about some voters as ‘deplorable’ while her voters are ‘forward-thinking.’

We must take steps to fix it. It may not be fixable if we don’t get started. The first step is always dialogue and conversation. We don’t need to disagree for the sake of disagreement. There are things Democrats and Republicans agree upon, like the need to address our infrastructure. Another thing we must get back to is being able to disagree with civility and respect.

Minorities and women are a growing force in American politics, especially for Democrats. How would you judge their role and influence going forward?

The one good thing that came out of the last election is the commitment to do better in 2018 and 2020. People have taken it upon themselves to get motivated. They want their country back. We particularly see it in women, blacks and Hispanics.

A lot of things happened in 2016 (Russian interference in the election, Hillary Clinton’s email issues, missteps by the Clinton campaign). There was an expectation by everyone — voters, pundits, politicians — that Hillary was going to walk away with this thing. Democrats now very much know what happens when they don’t show up to vote. The early signs (in special and midterm elections) in Pennsylvania, Alabama and Virginia are very encouraging.

What about the #MeToo movement? What does it portend for politics and American life generally?

Women are really pissed off. There has been story after story — Harvey Weinstein,

Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Donald Trump — powerful men taking advantage. Women are angry. Now they can make their anger heard and known. Something is finally being done. Men are losing their jobs, their fortunes, their reputations. It is a very affirming event. There is always the danger of a backlash. But for the most part, it is empowering. As it plays out, we’re seeing more women in prominent positions in media, a push for equal pay in Hollywood, more women running for office … and winning.

You’re a Hillary loyalist. However, you have been critical of her recently for comments about President Trump and in response to a New York Times report that she allowed an accused sexual harasser to remain with her 2008 campaign. How has she helped shape the current political conversation?

I was critical of her comments (that women voted for Trump under pressure from the men in their lives and that the ‘optimistic’ part of America voted for her), although they were somewhat taken out of context. To suggest, even slightly, that people in Trump states are “backward” is not only wrong, it’s not helpful in getting the country moving forward.

I would add that President Trump’s comments about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville weren’t helpful either. I have regrets about (Clinton campaign aide Burns Strider). My biggest regret is that he went on to harass more women. If even one young woman dropped out, decided that politics was something she didn’t want to be a part of because of that, it’s not acceptable.

She (Hillary) made a mistake. But this is a woman who I worked with for 17 years. She allowed me to bring a crib to the White House when I ran into childcare difficulties. Her career and her lifelong advocacy for woman mean something. She’s made a difference. We’re not done yet. The process (of redressing sexual harassment) is still convoluted. But these strong women who have come forward have opened the door. Things are changing.