Elizabeth deBrabander/THE REVIEW
BY Managing News Editor
During the National Agenda event held on Sept. 4 in Mitchell Hall, Dan Pfeiffer, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, detailed his own political journey, gave his commentary on the modern-day political environment and dispensed advice to the Democratic presidential candidates.
Pfeiffer, a Delaware native, attended the Wilmington Friends School. He went on to graduate from Georgetown University. Before joining former Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Pfeiffer worked for numerous senators, such as Tim Johnson, Tom Daschle and Evan Bayh.
“I got into politics,” Pfeiffer said. “I kinda thought I would go to law school one day. Just kept staying in politics. And to the extent, I had a goal… to find a candidate that I really believed in, go work for them really early and like be there at the beginning and ride that train all the way to the White House.”
After the presidential election in 2008, Pfeiffer would eventually become one of Obama’s senior advisors. He left this position in 2015, believing that he accomplished what he set out to do. He then traveled to Silicon Valley in order to begin the next phase of his life.
However, still deeply interested in politics towards the end of the 2016 election, he, alongside three former White House staffers, began what is now his full-time job and podcast, Pod Save America.
On Pod Save America, Pfeiffer converses about the press and politics. He dispenses advice on the modern political atmosphere — similar to what he did during the National Agenda conversation.
Throughout the conversation, Pfeiffer repeated advice for upcoming Democratic presidential candidates.
“First is, they have to be willing to — they have to be willing to run to win not to lose,” Pfeiffer said. “So many politicians are afraid of losing, they’re more afraid of losing than they want to win. And that leads to caution.”
Pfeiffer continued to expand on this idea of politicians being cautious.
“Incumbents almost always win,” Pfeiffer said. “Incumbents in good economies always win. And so this is an uphill battle for us and it is a winnable election. But we have to recognize that we’re going to have to go all out to do it.”
In fact, it was the very quality of taking risks that drew Pfeiffer to be a part of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign in the first place.
“Obama was like that,” Pfeiffer said. “I worked with some people before Obama who did not incentivize that. They did not want to take any risks. And I thought that was a bad fit for me.”
Pfeiffer additionally believes that the key for Democrats to win this upcoming presidential election is to be innovative.
“I’ve been in politics twenty years,” Pfeiffer said. “The structure of the modern campaign is mostly the same today as it was when I got into politics in the late 90s, it is still fundamentally centered around television ads, medium pieces of paper delivered by car to people’s homes and phone calls to landlines.”
Pfeiffer continued to discuss this topic.
“The other thing I’d say is find people under the age of 25 and talk to them all the time,” Pfeiffer said.
When asked about which states are key to the upcoming election, Pfeiffer shared his thoughts.
“If the Democrats flip Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, they win,” Pfeiffer said. “If they flip Michigan, Pennsylvania Arizona, they win. If they win Florida, they would only need one of those other states to do it.”
When questioned on the supposed divisions between centrists and progressives within the Democratic party, Pfeiffer actually begged to differ that the real division is between those who understand that democracy is under attack and those who don’t.
“I really believe it’s between people who understand that democracy as we fundamentally understand it is under threat,” Pfeiffer said.
“[The Republican Party] has been engaged in a strategy, to which by voter suppression, gerrymandering, changing campaign finance laws to increase the influence of billionaires, you know, stealing Supreme Court seats and rigging the courts. That is part of a strategy to ensure that a conservative minority that is plutocratic in nature will govern a growing, diverse, progressive, more populous majority.”
Pfeiffer also believes there to be another major flaw in the election system: the electoral college.
“If you have a system that picks the decisive person with the fewest votes to become president like that’s a flaw in your system,” Pfeiffer said.