WASHINGTON - New Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, who campaigned on the need for his party to reach out to groups that felt left behind, expressed optimism Sunday that the fractured Democrats were coalescing around a common goal: Opposing President Donald Trump and his agenda.
Despite some members of the party resisting the idea that Democrats were purely in "resistance" mode, Perez told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he hasn't seen any actions from Trump thus far that his party could get behind.
The president "hasn't proposed anything but chaos and carnage," Perez said.
Asked about a potential infrastructure package — something progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders have supported and an issue on which some Democrats indicated a willingness to work with Trump — Perez said, "We've seen no evidence of anything constructive from this president."
Perez was formerly the U. S. Secretary of Labor under President Barack Obama, and has numerous connections within the Obama and Clinton worlds.
Like he did throughout the race for chair, Perez reiterated Sunday where he felt Democrats fell short in communicating their message. In addition to the lack of investment in state parties, he said he heard from voters that too much of their message was focused on Trump, and that he "heard from rural America that the Democratic party hasn't been there for us recently."
"In Ohio, I went out there, I talked to voters, and what they heard from Donald Trump is, 'I'm going to bring your coal jobs back.' That's a lie," Perez recounted. "But what they heard is that he felt their pain. What they heard from us was that, you know, 'Vote for us because we're not him.' And we have to make sure we're communicating our affirmative message."
The race between Perez and his top challenger, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., seemed to echo divisions within the party exposed in the Democratic party primary. Ellison was backed by Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other more progressive stalwarts of the party, while Perez was endorsed by members of the Clinton campaign and President Obama.
Perez is the first Latino leader of the DNC and was elected by the voting members of the committee on Saturday. After winning on the second round of balloting, he quickly named Ellison the deputy chair of the party.
Perez pointed at those fledgling steps toward rebuilding the Democratic Party in Atlanta while speaking to "Meet The Press."
"We were there together," he said. "We were united. And our unity is our greatest strength. And frankly our unity is Donald Trump's greatest nightmare."
Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, also appearing on "Meet The Press" on Sunday, resisted the idea that his party is becoming a "party of no" or focused too solely on being anti-Trump.
"I'm not sure it's moving that fast in that direction," he said. "Certainly there's a lot of you know, anxiety and anger and protest going on."
But he continued, "Some of them, people like Sen. Schumer, have got to be thinking back to when President Obama was first elected and within a couple of weeks that same kind of anger was being used against him and they'd to beat him… You can't blame anybody for being that upset and so, there's been a lot of problems in the first month of this administration."