It's not exactly a secret the Democratic party is currently in shambles and fighting to regain its strength in the wake of a devastating election.
Democrats are divided, struggling to effectively challenge President Donald Trump and do not have a consistent message — or even clear leaders — at present.
But New York Assemblyman Michael Blake, a veteran of former President Obama's campaigns, is looking to help the Democratic party find its voice and rebuild as it gears up to vote on the party's leadership in late February.
Blake, born and raised in the South Bronx and the child of Jamaican immigrants, is running for vice chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Blake recently took some time to speak with Elite Daily about why he chose to run, what he thinks he can bring to the DNC and how young people can get politically engaged beyond skipping brunch to join marches (which is still a good start).
In Blake's view, he had a responsibility to step forward and run:
When you have moments such as this, if you are a leader, you need step up. I always say, you can't sit on the sidelines when moments of challenge and crisis present themselves.
This is definitely a "moment of challenge" for both Democrats and the country, but also a moment to reevaluate and emerge stronger, in Blake's opinion.
Blake understands many communities across the country feel neglected right now, and the Democratic party needs to do a far better job engaging with people from a wide array of backgrounds.
You can't engage someone two weeks before an election, you have to engage them all the time.
The DNC emerged from this election with a tarnished image.
Senator Bernie Sanders was very critical of the DNC throughout the US presidential campaign, and it was frequently accused of being biased toward the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
To top it all off, DNC staffers' emails were hacked and released by WikiLeaks, which only furthered distrust of the organization due to some of the controversial revelations that emerged.
Long story short: The DNC is viewed by many as the epitome of dysfunction and elitism in Washington.
Whether this is a fair characterization or not doesn't eliminate the image problems Democrats have at the moment, and Blake is cognizant of this. He said,
We need to be much more effective with message and communicating message — especially the economic message — and how we're fighting for communities all the time. We need to make sure millennials and communities of color and whites and LGBT people, and these different constituencies and different communities, are feeling engaged throughout and not just feeling like they're hearing from you late in the game. You can't engage someone two weeks before an election; you have to engage them all the time.
Those who criticized Clinton for not engaging more with voters in Rustbelt states would likely agree with Blake.
Despite how unpopular Trump is, the DNC definitely has a long way to go in terms of regaining the trust of many voters, including progressives.
Blake seems to view these challenges as a chance to revamp the Democratic party. He said,
What we have to recognize is, as disappointing as the election results was and is for many, this is an opportunity to be able to reflect on 'Where do we stand as a party?" [and] "Where do we stand as a country?" That's why we're running. That's why we're involved. There are a lot of things that need to be improved upon. But, the only way you can be serious about it is by being in the game.
When asked what he'd characterize as the DNC's biggest issue, Blake stated,
I don't think anyone can say there is “the biggest issue” or “one issue.” That would not be the way to approach it. There are a lot of things we need to be doing better. Whether it be DAPL, whether it be student loan reform, whether it be making sure we're implementing elements of [Obamacare], we have to find those ways to continue [that discussion]. There's never just one issue when you're trying to rebuild.
Blake, who's been involved in politics for many years, is encouraged by the amount of engagement he's seen from young people since the election, especially following the inauguration.
You can't sit on the sidelines when moments of challenge and crisis present themselves.
But, he's urging people to take it all even further:
You have to turn that energy into concrete action. Look at the Women's March. You go to [the Women's March] website, and it shows you the 10 actions over the next 100 days. Yes, you have to go march, you have to protest. But now you have to do more. How do you turn that energy into getting new people elected to office?
He recognizes things are disconcerting right now, and he vehemently disagrees with Trump's agenda thus far.
As someone who's the son of immigrants, I reject what is happening.
The New York assemblyman referred to Trump's controversial executive order regarding refugees and people from seven predominately Muslim countries as "racist" and "xenophobic" without hesitation:
It's a Muslim ban that has an effect on immigrants across the board. We can't sugarcoat it. It is what it is. It is unjust and I believe it also unconstitutional. As someone who's the son of immigrants, I reject what is happening.
Blake also thinks Democrats need to step it up big time when it comes to challenging Trump.
We need to much more forceful, much more direct, much more clear that we reject what he is doing.
We need to much more forceful, much more direct, much more clear that we reject what he is doing. We have to recognize that this is a moment where you have a demagogue in the White House and you have to be aggressive in calling it out and rejecting it every possible step. And anytime we're allowing this behavior to go by that is a missed opportunity for us to help people.
But, despite the obstacles the country and the Democratic party currently face, Blake remains positive.
Blake definitely seems to share the optimistic disposition of his former boss.
Blake views what's happening in the country right now as more of a welcome challenge than cause for despair.
"Sometimes you need that wake-up moment to rebuild. And this is what's happening." - Michael Blake
Sometimes you need that wake-up moment to rebuild. And this is what's happening. When 1.2 million show up in DC and millions around the world at the Women's March… you're seeing people move past the heartache and turning it into action. I do think that's going to be a positive that's going come out of all this. That's part of the reason I'm running, because I want to be a part of the movement that's happening.
Regardless of the outcome of the DNC election, it's safe to say Blake will continue to be a very active voice in the Democratic party.