Transcript: DNC Chair Tom Perez on "Face the Nation," September 9, 2018

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez that aired Sunday, September 9, 2018, on "Face the Nation." 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face the Nation. As this year's midterm election campaign kicks into high gear, we wanted to sit down with the chairs of both the Republican and Democratic parties. And we begin our conversation with Tom Perez chairman of the DNC. You got 58 days to go. A lot of work Democrats do to pick up roughly about two dozen seats or so to win a majority in the house. When we look at our CBS polling it shows a blue wave is far from guaranteed.

DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR TOM PEREZ: Well progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability, Margaret. And we're working our tails off everywhere. I feel excited because we're organizing everywhere we're fielding great candidates everywhere. You see the energy out there. Democratic turnout in the primaries in 2018 has been up 84 percent from 2014 and so you see that out there --

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- that's the enthusiasm you're talking about --

DNC CHAIR PEREZ: That's the enthusiasm. And people are enthusiastic because we're fighting for the issues they care about. People's health care is on the ballot. This is the most important election of our lifetime. Your health care is on the ballot - if you have a preexisting condition. That's on the ballot. Good wages are on the ballot. Education is on the ballot. And frankly our democracy is on the ballot because this is not simply an election about right versus left. This is an election about right versus wrong. I worked at DOJ for 13 years. A president does not tell the Justice Department who and who not to prosecute. That is wrong. The president of the United States should not believe the former chief of the KGB over our intelligence community. We shouldn't rip children from parents. This is about all those critical issues of health care. But it's also about who we are as a nation. Our democracy is on the ballot --

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- so you want to put President Trump on the ballot then? --

DNC CHAIR PEREZ: -- well we're fighting for all of the things that Democrats care about and that includes our democracy. And this president has undermined basic principles of our democracy. Presidents should unite they shouldn't divide.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But when you mention President Trump himself I mean this is one of the questions here. You know, are you antagonizing or energizing voters when you put not just President Trump, but President Obama was out on the campaign trail this week and broke precedent. The White House hit him for that for invoking President Trump's name. This is sort of one of those unwritten rules that you don't slam your successor. Is this a risky strategy to be engaging like that?

DNC CHAIR PEREZ: I welcome President Obama on the campaign trail because he's fighting for the issues that people care about --

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- but attacking Trump by name. --

DNC CHAIR PEREZ: -- Well our healthcare is on the ballot and our democracy as we know it is on the ballot. You look at what's gone on in this country and you see a president that again I worked under Republican and Democratic presidents at the Justice Department. You see the unmitigated attacks the attempts to delegitimize the press the attempts to do things that should never be done. I thought Canada was our ally and- and it appears that they are our fiercest adversary. The world is upside down and our democracy is indeed on the ballot in what we're doing is we're fighting for health care we're fighting to make sure that if you have a preexisting condition you can retain your healthcare coverage. We're fighting to make sure that a union- a worker can join a union and organize and get good wages. Those are the things we're fighting for and that's what Americans want in their leadership.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  You have the challenge of messaging against what are positive economic indicators right now and you look at CBS polling in the competitive districts that really matter for you to flip the majority of Americans feel positively about the economic direction of the country either going from very good 26 percent to somewhat good 45 percent. How do you push back against that isn't what happens at someone's kitchen table going to dominate how they vote?

DNC CHAIR PEREZ: Oh, it's very important. And if you are very, very wealthy in this country, the economy's doing great, but if you're everybody else, the economy's not doing so great. Corporate profits are soaring and wages are flat. People's healthcare is at risk because the President has destabilized the Affordable Care Act. The cost of prescription drugs are skyrocketing. So if you have a dollar more in your pocket, but the gasoline is gone up fifty cents, and your cost of prescription drugs have gone up immensely because they're not taking on the industry, and your cost of healthcare has gone up, you're not- you're not even treading water. And that's the reality for millions of people, including the Harley workers in- in Missouri who are about to lose their job.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Wages did go up in August at their fastest pace since the recession, but I do want to ask you about the direction of the party in terms of identity. You have said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,  who has been this sort of rock star in many ways since she won in New York a few months ago, you've called her the future of the party. Is that a sign that more people within the Democratic Party need to tack left. Is that the identity, to go more progressive?

DNC CHAIR PEREZ: What I have said is Connor Lamb is the future of the party. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the future of the party. Doug Jones is the future of the party. We have a party that reflects America in every zip code. We have a party that's fighting for healthcare. We have a party that's fighting for fair wages. We have a party that's fighting for a democracy that works for everyone, not just a few at the top. And your question about wages, it's important for your listeners to understand that real wage growth is what it's about. If wages go up by a dollar and your cost of living goes up by a dollar fifty, you're not better off. And that's the problem with this economy. If this President would take on the pharmaceutical industry, we could do something about it. And- and this is indeed. We've got 58 days till the weekend and the most important thing we can do is vote. And one of the things we're doing is making sure we get the vote out everywhere. And we're actually working next week to call on businesses to give two hours of paid leave for people so they can get out their vote. I'm- I'm going to ask Chairman McDaniel to join us in that because we should have this debate and then we should- we should make sure that every eligible person --

MARGARET BRENNAN: -- Point taken. --

DNC CHAIR PEREZ: -- can get out there and vote.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We got to leave it there. Thank you very much. We'll bring out here Republican Chair Ronna McDaniel next.

DNC CHAIR PEREZ: Always a pleasure.