By Mike Dewar
Imagine a world where after a contentious primary season, and a devastating general election, the Establishment and the populist wing of the party had agreed on a candidate for the party’s figurehead going forward. Congressional leaders endorsed this candidate, along with over 750,000 proud Democrats. Labor got behind them. The Democratic Party was united, tanned, rested, and ready to rebuild and take back Congress in 2018.
That was the world of December 2016, when Keith Ellison was the frontrunner for the race to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Unfortunately, 235 people in a room decided differently.
People attempting to downplay the significance of the election make two mistakes. First, while it is a bureaucratic and fundraising position (a fact that missed incredibly few Ellison supporters I talked to), the way we raise money and the way we disburse it matters. I need to be confident that the Chairman of the DNC can A) raise the money that is necessary to run modern campaigns B) do it from sources that don’t critically compromise the party’s policy positions and C) develop effective electoral strategies that favor grassroots organizing over DC communications consultants. I had faith that Ellison would do that because he was the only candidate in the race that had run major campaigns, the only candidate that was able to raise large amounts of money (and do it mostly from the grassroots, no less!), and the only candidate with endorsements from both sides of the party.
Second, please understand what an absolute slap in the face Perez’s election was to the populist wing of the party. It’s great that Chairman Perez cares about unions. It’s great that his policies are pretty similar to Keith’s. Why not then elect Keith, the candidate endorsed by Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Warren, the largest labor unions in the country, and former Majority Leader Reid? If the race is so inconsequential, why not let such a broadly supported candidate have the position? It’s clear that there’s a section of the party that simply does not want grassroots Democrats to have a meaningful voice in the party. It’s clear that some people don’t want to unite, and don’t want to collaborate to make a better America. They want to keep their clubhouse. And they are willing to engage in shockingly Islamophobic and racist tactics to keep it.
Let me be clear: I’m a devoted Democrat. I’m staying a devoted Democrat. I’m looking forward to taking away Paul Ryan’s Speaker’s gavel, and taking back Governor’s mansions from Maine to Arizona. I even think Perez will do a great job as chair, especially with Keith Ellison’s fundraising and organizing expertise supporting him as Deputy Chair. I have the Party’s back.
But make no mistake, my disappointment at this outcome does not come from media incitement. I’m not ignorant of the process of electing the chair, or the role of Chair of the DNC.
I have the Party’s back. I’m just worried that the Party doesn’t have mine.