By Mikala Cohen
I worked for the Office of the Chairwoman at the Democratic National Committee, and there really wasn’t much to do during my time there. Compiling daily clips was a consistent task that may have just been busywork, and I had a desk right next to the offices of the CEO, Chairwoman and other important people. While the office was understandably mired in, well let’s call it controversy, it was still the office of the Chair who would, at least in theory manage the efforts and direction of the Democratic Party on all levels. The position of Chairwoman or Chairman of the Democratic National Committee has been distorted and disproportionately propagandized by the media to be some lofty or powerful office with real control and leeway. The reality, at least from the perspective of an intern for that very office, is quite different.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is the formal governing body for the Democratic Party in these United States of America, which has the responsibility to coordinate strategies and conduct fundraising to support those strategies to elect Democratic Party candidates to office at the local, state and national levels. The DNC also formulates the official party platform that few voters actually read, and organizes the Democratic National Convention that is held every four years to nominate and confirm a candidate for office with balloons and performances by Alicia Keys. The DNC is an organization that supports candidates for office who self identify with the Democratic Party or are better than the alternative, but they have no power over the very elected officials they support and shill for.
If you’re asking me, the only reason you know the name Debbie Wasserman Schultz is because she became a key character in a media circus centered on scandal, definitely influenced by sexism and propagated by Russian computer geeks. Most average Americans know who their President is and maybe the Vice President, but the head of the organizing arm of an American political party that has no real power over their elected offices? Nah. Before DWS became a target for the mainstream media and Americans to oppose (maybe deservedly, but also come on), she was just a bureaucrat appointed to a position by the President in an attempt to gain more power in the House of Representatives. Like all politicians, she wanted more power and the DNC was a convenient stepping stone that did not work out for her in the end. Seriously, can you name the DNC Chair before her? Did you know anything about the DNC and the RNC before this election? The DNC and RNC have become characters in a media circus that attracts headlines and views.
Now, this DNC race became another proxy-primary fight for the media to focus on from a pigeonholed perspective of partisanship and ooh-la-la-how-many-boxes-of-people-can-debate-this-simulanteously that centered on the idea of the “progressive movement.” Since Hillary Clinton’s electoral (but not popular) loss and Bernie Sanders’ better than expected performance in the primary race due to a number of factors from a compelling platform, sexism (that yes liberals do have and don’t like to acknowledge and more), the Democratic Party’s storyline has been about this idea of the progressive wing of the party deserving more of a voice in the future of the Democratic Party. Never mind the fact that the oh-so-moderate candidate Hillary Clinton resided over the most progressive platform in American history, the Democratic Party was deemed moderate and too “right” for some to handle.
I thought Bernie presented a number of outcomes that would have been incredible if they were accomplishable had he won the Presidency; in my opinion, he did not provide sufficient plans and details as to how he would accomplish them. But still, I liked what he was talking about and agreed with most of his policy outcomes, and I supported the candidate in primary and general race who had plans that could lead to his policy outcomes. This race for DNC Chair perfectly encapsulates my frustration with how I suddenly do not deserve an equal voice to supporters who still are obsessed with rehashing the general election with their preferred candidate who lost in the primary.
The primary election has been over for such a long time, and, yes, Bernie Sanders did influence the platform that the Democratic National Committee formulates in coordination with the presidential elections that occur every four years. No, Bernie Sanders was not denied the nomination or the presidency. More importantly, Keith Ellison is not Bernie Sanders, did not run for the presidency and was not denied the highest power in the land or a position with much power. Tom Perez has been a progressive long before Bernie Sanders made the word in vogue again for the millennial generation to frankly obsess over. Before the media’s popularization of hating and shilling opposition to Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee, races or nominations to positions within the Democratic National Committee were not interesting or covered much by the media. Do you know how Debbie Wasserman Schultz first “won” the position of DNC Chair? She was appointed by President Obama in 2011. There wasn’t a contested race, but rather a confirmation in a meeting of members.
Funnily enough, I did seen Tom Perez speak to a group of young Democrats at a Democratic National Committee event two years ago. Where? The College Democrats of America Convention in Washington D.C. where infamously there was a controversial election for various positions in the leadership of College Democrats. Just like their senior counterparts, young Democrats emphasized and obsessed over pretty pointless positions that look great on resumes for field organizing positions in 2016 or 2018. Tom Perez was a passionate progressive Secretary of Labor who railed at a pretty empty auditorium about unions and the need for policies that Bernie would later shout about on the campaign trail. If Bernie had won the nomination, Tom Perez would have been a solid candidate for Vice President as a former Obama bureaucrat who successfully reformed the Department of Labor and advocated for the civil rights and liberties of Americans.
I supported Tom Perez for DNC Chair primarily because of his experience in managing and bettering a large bureaucratic agency in a time when bureaucracies are known for inefficiency and maligned by most average Americans. What can I say? I think the DNC should be a meritocracy when the only real differences between Keith Ellison and Tom Perez are their ethnicities and religions. Tom Perez will serve as the head of a large bureaucracy that lost an election with a highly qualified candidate for office in the face of large sexism and opposition by conservatives and Russia. I understand why so many people supported Keith Ellison for the position, but I think that they should be grateful he didn’t win. As someone who worked for a Congresswoman who doubled as the DNC Chair and mother, I wanted a DNC Chair that would be solely focused to the project of reforming and bettering the DNC. Thanks to this race that was turned into something monumental by a ratings-focused media, Keith Ellison has a heightened national profile with gubernatorial and senatorial races coming up in his home state. You now know the names Tom Perez and Keith Ellison, who can and should become big players in the Democratic Party.
But obsessing over a “race” for a position in a bureaucratic agency under a different name is counterproductive and a disservice to the progressive movement. Your guy lost to a guy with the same principles that the media decided was somehow representative of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party because President Obama supported him over Keith Ellison. I worked for the Chair of the DNC and know this loss is the equivalent really to your friend losing the race for Student Council but still working for the prom fundraising committee. Yeah, your friend wanted “Starry Night” as the theme, but hey they’re still selling tickets for the party in the school gym. The Republican Party is willfully opposing an investigation into claims that Russia interfered in our election to the highest office in the land. The Republican Party is ready to deny insurance coverage to millions of Americans, and support the efforts of an increasingly politicized ICE agency that is deporting undocumented immigrants who deserve to be here. Millions of Americans are willing and ready to oppose the Republican Party and the President of the United States. Why not focus on how we reach those Americans and get them to the polls in 2018? Tom Perez AND Keith Ellison are. Why aren’t you?