For a decade, Jehmu Greene has been a paid political analyst for Fox News and Fox Business. The self-proclaimed “unapologetic progressive” who made a 2017 bid to be elected chair of the Democratic National Committee says not once has she thought she might change Sean Hannity’s mind.
“It’s a mistake when Democrats go on Fox thinking they’re going to change the mind of one of these hosts,” says Greene, who grew up in Texas, worked on Ann Richards’s 1994 gubernatorial campaign, and later served as an adviser and national surrogate for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. “They need to be talking to a specific part of the audience. As a lifelong Democrat, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I was talking to somebody who was listening. The audience may disagree with me on 80 percent of what I say, but I’m going to get them every now and then. And it’s that movable middle that I’m trying to talk to. And it’s the movable middle that our Democratic candidates should be talking to.”
Before landing at Fox, Greene built an impressive résumé working on political campaigns and heading up nonprofits. She served as president of Rock the Vote and Women’s Media Center, director of women’s outreach and Southern political director at the Democratic National Committee, national director of Project Vote, and executive director of Texas Young Democrats.
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Greene was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, but raised in Austin. After nearly three decades in New York, she recently returned to Texas to live in Austin full time. On our podcast, she explains why (spoiler: she’s planning to run for a not-yet-declared political office at some not-yet-declared time). Also on the show—recorded last week before the Democratic field thinned—she handicaps the field of 2020 presidential candidates ahead of Super Tuesday and explains why she believes her party has mishandled its relationship with the African American community, a voting bloc that could make or break a Democrat’s chances in November.
Three takeaways from our conversation:
1. Greene believes July’s Democratic National Convention will be contested, with no candidate arriving in Milwaukee with a majority of pledged delegates. Rather than tear the party apart, she says, that scenario could strengthen it by settling on a more inclusive ticket.
“As jaded as I am about how this process has gone so far, I’m optimistic. We came through a presidential election in 2016 where a carnival barker changed every single rule, everything that we thought permanent. And the idea that we can go through a process that is different, that is uncomfortable, and come out better for it? I’m okay with that. I think that because we have not been given the opportunity for a more real examination of these candidates, because of the media environment, the way that it is right now, there’s a conversation that needs to happen at that convention that hasn’t happened through this primary. We should have been more innovative with this primary.”
2. Greene has concerns about what might happen down-ballot if Bernie Sanders wins the nomination, but she’s encouraged by the number of female candidates running for office and believes that the “Pink Wave” that started with the 2018 midterms is picking up steam.
“We have someone in the White House who has no experience at all and has galvanized women across the country to say, ‘I’m going to run for city council. I’m going to run for county commissioner. I’m going to run for state rep because I can do this better than the person who has more power than anyone else in the world.’ You’ve got places in rural America that have never had a woman on the city council, that have never had representation from a woman in any sort of elected political position. And I think for most of my career, we have been looking at gender parity, hopefully by 2080. We’re going to now see it in our lifetime. Thank you, Trump … And here’s the thing about waves: have you ever been to a beach? The waves don’t stop. Like they literally keep going and going. And that’s what we’re seeing because there’s something that’s been sparked in the hearts and minds of women who should have been running ten years ago.”
3. Greene says that the conventional wisdom that Joe Biden appeals to black voters because he was Barack Obama’s vice president is overrated.
“I think there’s certainly familiarity and respect within the black community for him, but that’s not solely tied to Obama. Biden’s been running for president for a long time too. Biden’s been a part of the Democratic establishment for a really long time, and he’s delivered for Democrats. He’s delivered for Democrats, and black voters are savvy because they look at who has delivered on these issues. That is a part of the calculation, and I think that is how they are assessing Biden. It’s not, ‘Oh, he was standing by Obama’s side.’ I think his positioning of that is actually a disservice to black voters. I get offended by it.”