What Comes Next For Democrats? Karen Finney Joins Flint Hill Young Dems Club To Discuss.


By Abi Baker , Editor In Chief

Karen Finney is a self-described political pundit who “goes against the grain”. She rose through the ranks of the Democratic Party, working on Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign as the senior media spokesperson and prior to that served as the Director of Communications at the DNC. Her experience in the media ranges from hosting a show on MSNBC to now serving as a political commentator on CNN. Our conversation covered the significance of Virginia’s gubernatorial race, what it will take to pass voting rights, and her day-to-day working on the Clinton campaign. 


Finney described Secretary Clinton as one of the most well-known and unknown public figures. After spending years getting to know her behind the scenes and away from the cameras, she wishes that voters knew the entire arc of her story. “She has a spirit of activism and goes against the system”, Finney also admitted Clinton has a sense of humor that usually doesn’t come across to the public. 


The disheartening outcome for Democrats in the 2021 Gubernatorial race in VA will set a new precedent for Republicans running on a fine line to please Trump’s base as well as moderate republicans. Finney doesn’t like when pundits draw conclusions from one single contest but, with that being said, “If it’s determined that McAuliffe didn’t turn out Black and Brown voters, it will be a wake-up call” ahead of the midterm elections. Finney has worked on a 50 state strategy to mobilize voters in parts of the country that have historically been written off by the democratic party. “As democrats, we need to compete everywhere. It is a sign of respect to show up and ask people for their vote”. 


The constant news whirlwind surrounding the Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema has created a fog around President Biden’s agenda and popularity, but Finney says, from an infrastructure perspective the party is in a good position. Speaking of infrastructure, her criticisms of the party are about the Infrastructure Bill which passed November 6th, after months of negotiations. “I think it was a tactical mistake over the past month to let the conversation be about the dollar amount.” Instead, she proposed that Senators need to humanize the bills, rather than making it about their personal political gains. 


Finney worked closely on the Georgia special election races in 2020 and witnessed Stacey Abrams firsthand flip the state electorate. The most consequential voting rights bills currently looming in the senate is the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, without these Finney believes “there is absolutely no way in my opinion, that democrats can win if those pieces of legislation are not passed.” The current debate over whether or not to preserve the filibuster will be the final indicator of the success Biden can achieve in the Senate. Finney thinks a temporary carve out of the filibuster will take place rather than a full abolishment. “Perhaps change the rules to pass voting rights then change it back.” 


As the Midterm elections approach, Democrats need to adopt a dual-track message, broad enough to address federal legislation and specific enough to gain traction among swing-state voters. To guarantee a sweep in the House and Senate races people need to be reminded that “without those majorities, we can’t win”. There must also be an understanding among voters that the legislative promises made by President Biden last November will be secured by keeping the majority in the midterms.  


Karen gave us a run-through of what a day in the life of a campaign official on Hillary’s team looked like. Each day began the same, with an initial team call around 7 am discussing the news of the day and the messaging the campaign hoped to push out. Attacks against Trump would be delivered some days by Tim Kaine and other days by Hillary, those decisions were also made on the call. 


In terms of rolling out new policy ahead of debates and rallies, Sec. Clinton would assign her policy team with a specific economic plan and have them outline it. Finney shared that the policy team was tasked with “figuring out how to afford” Bernie Sanders’ ‘free college plan’ whether it but, “they couldn’t make the numbers work” so decided to push for “debt-free college ”. 


It’s proven that the Facebook algorithm, targeted attacks, and Russian interference ultimately changed the course of the 2016 election. Finney was among one many Clinton staffers who had their email hacked and leaked. “We felt like we were at such a disadvantage”. While in Georgia for the special elections Facebook was a major factor that contributed to many poll watchers’ hesitations of participating. “People were being threatened, you can’t tell me [Facebook] doesn’t have some responsibility, they knew that’s how it was being used.”  


Misinformation campaigns continued through the 2020 cycle, specifically targeting Vice President Harris. Finney cites helping out in a “war room”, tracking misinformation about Harris, “they tried to undermine her”. The regulation of Big Tech can’t come soon enough, as we’ve seen the effects of misinformation on Facebook drastically change the course of elections. Facebook has to become “editorial in the same way the news is”, news articles have to be fact-checked, “this should be true for Facebook and all of these other platforms”, Finney concluded. The obvious congressional delays aren’t helping though, as of now Zuckerberg can sit back and say “ok regulate us”. 


As Finney continues to dedicate her life to public service and politics, she says young people are what gives her hope. She specifically outlined the dire issue of climate change saying, “you don’t dispute if climate change is real because you are living in it”.