WASHINGTON — California Gov. Jerry Brown said on Sunday that Democrats’ troubles cannot simply be attributed to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," he said the party needs to “rise above” to appeal to a wider swath of the country.
“If you added up pluses and minuses, I think Nancy Pelosi is a major pillar of the Democratic Party,” Brown said. “And the answer is not to try to replace her with somebody, but to make sure the candidates represent and can empathize and be a part of the district they're running in.”
Despite President Donald Trump’s unpopularity nationwide, Democrats have lost a string of high-profile special elections. Those failures have put Pelosi's long-time role as the leader of congressional Democrats under the magnifying glass as calls for her to step aside have grown.
But Brown said he does not believe the party has a Pelosi problem. Instead, he countered, the Democrats need to focus on finding better candidates and not forcing members to be beholden to litmus tests on polarizing issues like abortion.
“If we want to be a governing party of a very diverse, and I say diverse ideologically as well as ethnically, country, well, then you have to have a party that rises above the more particular issues to the generic, the general issue of making America great, if I might take that word,” Brown said.
Brown and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona appeared on a special edition of “Meet The Press” focused on how to bridge the country’s political divide. Flake has been highly critical of both the president and his party. His new book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” is a take-down of the GOP’s embrace of Trump.
Flake has irked the White House to the point where the administration has openly floated the idea of supporting a primary challenger to run against the incumbent in Arizona.
On Sunday, Flake also denounced the president’s frequent calls to jail his former rival Hillary Clinton, and said his party should do more to speak out against the chilling rhetoric.
“I wish that we as a party would have stood up, for example, when the birtherism thing was going on,” Flake said.
“We shouldn’t be the party for jailing your political opponents,” he added.
Flake accused Trump of simplifying the country's problems, especially when it comes to manufacturing. He said he plans to oppose forthcoming trade legislation likely backed by the White House.
“My concern is that populism is a sugar high," Flake said. "Once you come off it, it’s particularly troublesome for the party."