How four women and their friend­ship helped shape the Demo­cratic Party

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOK WORLD -

If you are a Demo­cratic Party in­sider, the women who give us “For Col­ored Girls Who Have Con­sid­ered Pol­i­tics” are fa­mil­iar names. Un­der the tute­lage of for­mer com­merce sec­re­tary and Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man Ron Brown, and for­mer la­bor sec­re­tary and DNC op­er­a­tive Alexis Her­man, th­ese women helped shape a more in­clu­sive Demo­cratic Party. Donna Brazile has served as in­terim chair­woman of the DNC and was a ubiq­ui­tous talk­ing head on CNN and ABC News. Yolanda Caraway chaired the DNC’s Fair­ness Com­mis­sion, which pushed states to change rules from win­ner-take-all del­e­gate ap­pro­pri­a­tions to pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Leah Daugh­try has chaired Demo­cratic na­tional con­ven­tions twice. Minyon Moore was the first African Amer­i­can woman to be po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor in the White House, un­der Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. Along the way, the women be­came close — and some­times con­tentious — friends. This book is the story of their friend­ship and their po­lit­i­cal his­tory.

If you aren’t an in­sider, fas­ten your seat belt. You’ll learn a lot about the machi­na­tions of the Demo­cratic Party. You’ll also dis­cover the back­grounds of th­ese women. All come from rel­a­tively hum­ble be­gin­nings, and all are grate­ful and amazed at the roads they have trav­eled. You’ll learn about how Brazile and Moore, who worked on field op­er­a­tions for the 1988 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign of Michael Dukakis, stood their ground when they were told that their of­fices would be re­lo­cated to an­other floor, out of the mix of cam­paign ac­tiv­ity. In re­sponse, they com­man­deered a con­fer­ence room, claim­ing it as their own and putting up a hand-let­tered sign that read, “COL­ORED GIRLS . . . WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED.”

Be­cause I know all of the “Col­ored Girls” per­son­ally, read­ing this book was like walk­ing down mem­ory lane. My read­ing was punc­tu­ated with ex­cla­ma­tions. “No she didn’t.” “Um, hum.” “Oh, spit.” “Right on, girl.” I can hear each of their voices in the book, and I must com­pli­ment their co-writer Veronica Cham­bers, who has deftly in­ter­wo­ven their chal­lenges with their po­lit­i­cal his­to­ries, and their mother wit with their sage wis­dom. The book’s ti­tle echoes a play by the re­cently de­ceased Ntozake Shange, “For Col­ored Girls Who Have Con­sid­ered Sui­cide/ When the Rain­bow Is Enuf,” a ground­break­ing work that “has in­spired women for decades,” the au­thors write.

Jesse Jack­son’s 1984 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign gave the women, and many oth­ers (in­clud­ing me), a first taste of pol­i­tics and po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. Each played a key role in 1984, and each re­mains con­nected to Jack­son and the Rain­bow/PUSH Coali­tion. They are gen­er­ous in their praise of him and the peo­ple around him, and grate­ful for the doors he opened.

Climb­ing up the lad­der at the DNC, the Col­ored Girls in­evitably con­nected with the Clin­tons and re­main fond of Hil­lary Clin­ton. They re­count the dis­ap­point­ment of the 2008 pri­mary cam­paign and the crush­ing and dis­heart­en­ing de­feat in 2016. Each was, in some way, im­mo­bi­lized and trau­ma­tized by Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion, as many Democrats were. With­out know­ing about Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence, they knew that some­thing was wrong. This book is part of their re­cov­ery. “I’ve never felt so help­less,” Caraway writes of her re­ac­tion af­ter the elec­tion. “I just didn’t know what to do . . . . When the s--- hap­pened with Gore, we fought it. But this one — I just couldn’t be­lieve [Hil­lary] con­ceded so soon. . . . We all wanted to fight. Who knows what would have hap­pened if we had done that?”

The Col­ored Girls have dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent tem­per­a­ments and dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to life and pol­i­tics. Caraway, the el­dest, is of­ten de­scribed as “the black Martha Ste­wart” for her im­pec­ca­ble taste, stylish dress and en­ter­tain­ing skills. Moore, a part­ner at a Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ing firm, is the “con­nec­tor” who brings peo­ple to­gether and smooths ruf­fled feathers. Brazile is blunt and bold, of­ten ag­gres­sively so, and doesn’t mind tak­ing flack for it, even when she finds her­self in hot wa­ter. Daugh­try is both a po­lit­i­cal strate­gist and a faith leader, and she re­lies on her faith to man­age ad­ver­sity — par­tic­u­larly Clin­ton’s 2016 loss, when she took to her bed for a while but then found the strength to carry on.

Some­times the Col­ored Girls’ friend­ship has been strained. Th­ese women have cried to­gether, yelled at each other, rec­on­ciled and been pulled apart again, and the book is can­did about some of it. Brazile’s book “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Break­downs That Put Don­ald Trump in the White House” is fea­tured here be­cause it dis­ap­pointed and hurt the other Col­ored Girls. Her book re­vealed flaws of the Demo­cratic Party, and the crit­i­cism stung th­ese loy­al­ist women. But the four au­thors say their friend­ship is on the mend. Chap­ter 24, ti­tled “Bro­ken Friend­ships and Heal­ing Spa­ces,” ex­plores some of their chal­lenges with­out go­ing into much depth. This guarded can­dor may help oth­ers find their way back to one an­other af­ter their friend­ships stum­ble over pol­i­tics.

In the last chap­ter, the women of­fer ad­vice to young peo­ple who have con­sid­ered pol­i­tics. Their words are, like Brazile, blunt; like Caraway, kind; like Moore, prag­matic; like Daugh­try, full of faith. Any­one who has con­sid­ered pol­i­tics will be re­newed by the strength and vi­sion of this vol­ume. Ju­lianne Malveaux is an econ­o­mist and au­thor. Her most re­cent book is “Are We Bet­ter Off: Race, Obama and Pub­lic Pol­icy.”

If you aren’t an in­sider, fas­ten your seat belt. You’ll learn a lot about the machi­na­tions of the Demo­cratic Party. You’ll also dis­cover the back­grounds of th­ese women . . . all are grate­ful and amazed at the roads they have trav­eled.


Donna Brazile, right, then in­terim chief of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, talks with CNN’s Dana Bash at the 2016 con­ven­tion.

FOR COL­ORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CON­SID­ERED POL­I­TICS By Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daugh­try and Minyon Moore with Veronica Cham­bers St. Martin’s. 316 pp. $28.99

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