Michael Blake is a candidate for DNC vice chair and a member of the New York State Assembly. Blake held senior roles in both Obama presidential campaigns, serving as associate director of public engagement and as deputy associate director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. He helped create the White House Urban Entrepreneurship Summit, and was recently a fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. The Gate interviewed Blake at the third DNC Future Forum in Detroit, Michigan.
The Gate: What sets you apart from the other candidates for DNC vice chair?
Blake: I have won in more states than the other male vice chair candidates combined. We have a clear message of leadership for tomorrow, of building the bench, of getting more Democrats elected to win races. How do we strengthen the party by having a clear economic message and having surrogates in our states making sure we’re empowering people on the ground? How do we embrace our future, understanding that communities of color and women and millennials and LGBT and low-income whites don’t feel that we’re listening to them? What makes us stand apart? I am a city elected official who sees this every single day. I have won races over the last twelve years across the country. We need to think about who will be the faces and the voices of our party to rebuild the party and push back in the resistance against Trump. That is the reason why we are running. We want to help change the party for the better.
Gate: If you’re elected, what is your agenda on your first day in office?
Blake: Listen to everybody. The numbers feel that the party is not listening to them. They are very frustrated. The reality is if eighty thousand votes had differed in three states, we would be having a very different conversation today about where we are at as a country. Our job right now is to take this moment and realize that because of the loss of the presidential election, we are able to have these DNC elections. If this is not a moment for us to listen and pay attention, then when will it be? I think showing up on day one and telling people, this is what you’re going to do, when you don’t even know what they need, is not the right approach. You have to find out what’s best for the states first.
Gate: There has been a lot of anti-Trump rhetoric among the Democrats recently. What do you think is the best way to turn that response into actual action that can get Democrats elected in the future?
Blake: You have to turn energy into action. Protests are important but you also have to make sure you get people elected, and you have to focus on tangible changes on the ground. You look at Ferguson and the tragedy of Mike Brown, and then you have four new council members that have been from there. You look at what happened in Chicago with Laquan McDonald and then Kim Foxx was elected. You look at Arizona where they kicked out Joe Arpaio. You have to turn energy into activism and action. When we are talking about what is going on with Trump, we have immediate opportunities. Block some of these votes, focus on the elections in New Jersey and Virginia, and make sure we get these wins. People want to see us fight. That’s the main thing. They want to know, are you going to fight for me? This is not just about campaigns—this is about livelihood. Families are being separated, and hope is being destroyed because of the policies of the demigod. It is our responsibility to make sure we turn that into action. Look at the Women’s March. The march included 1.2 million people in Washington, DC, three million around the country, or around the world rather. Now they have the ten actions for the next one hundred days. That’s how we build. Our job is to now get people very clear ways to get involved and get them to have those concrete wins. Sometimes you have disappointments, but it opens up the door for bigger changes down the line.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.