The election for the new DNC chair is coming up. According to the bylaws of the Democratic Party the chairperson is mostly responsible for carrying out the programs and policies of the National Convention and Democratic National Committee. Further the person shall preside over meetings and serve full time.
Recently we have had two part-time chairs: Tim Kaine and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. I think most agree that Wasserman-Schultz was awful as chair. But I would go further and argue that nice guy Tim Kaine was awful too. Senator Kaine is the reason we have the corporate logo instead of the kicking donkey.
Essentially, the job of chair is to go around raising money and running the programs and policies for the Democratic Party as a whole.
They don’t have a lot of real power but they do have some influence.
Who Cares Who the DNC Chair Is?
There are a couple of reasons we care who the DNC chair is. The chair is in charge of party building and winning elections. Democrats can’t have an influence on policy if they don’t have elected officials to implement that policy. The US doesn’t work when the Democratic Party is as dysfunctional as the Republicans.
What the Chair Needs to Do
Essentially the DNC chair will need to create and implement a strategy that targets all of the congressional seats that will be winnable in 2018. At the same time, they will help build up the state parties so they can take over state legislatures we don’t have and hang onto ones we do.
There isn’t much more to the job than that.
A number of people have announced interest in becoming the next DNC chair. The most famous of them is Howard Dean. He previously had the job from 2005 to 2009 — an incredibly good period of Democratic Party growth. Unfortunately, Dean has withdrawn from the race for DNC chair. He sees the race as shaping up to be a proxy war between Keith Ellison (representing the Sanders side of the party) and himself (representing the Clinton side). He thinks the party needs unity and a high-profile fight between the two men would be bad for that.
Ellison is the co-chair with Representative Raul Grijalva of the House Progressive Caucus. He has been part of Congress since 2007 — elected in the Democratic wave year of 2006. Since he has been on the Hill for quite some time he has racked up a lot of endorsements from the Democratic Congressional Caucus: Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren from the Senate, his co-chair from the House, and others. After all, they know him. He has released a plan for action if he is elected chair that talks about the basics of party building along with some of the other things people are concerned about for party chair.
One problem is that he is in Congress and we need a full time chair. He has, however, indicated that he might resign as Representative if he is elected. Another issue is that he doesn’t have a political machine that stretches past his own district.
He has, however, generated a lot of excitement; and that is always good.
Perez is Obama’s Labor Secretary and he is a firecracker — exhibiting immense energy. However, he may decide to run for governor of Maryland instead. There haven’t been many articles about him running since 11 November. So it is unclear if he will actually run or not.
Perez has a lot of connections nationwide from being Labor Secretary, and they are with people who could be potentially recruited as candidates. How he is on fundraising is a different story. So he may have what is needed since he has energy and connections; but he could still fail since he doesn’t have the fundraising prowess.
Harrison is the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. And he was a lobbyist at one point for the Podesta Group (he left that position when he announced he was seeking to run for DNC chair). He would be a full time chair and he also gets that we need to focus on the state rather than national party. He is supported by Representative James Clyburn who he worked for when the Democrats were in charge of Congress.
Where he doesn’t have much of an argument is in the results of the South Carolina election cycles that he was in charge of. He didn’t manage to build the party or recruit candidates to run for office. Amazingly, 27 of the Republican-held seats for the state legislature were uncontested — one-quarter of them all. That is a bad sign for someone wanting to be DNC chair.
The most recent announcement in the race was from the chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, Raymond Buckley. He has run a very successful state party: New Hampshire picked up the Senate seat, a House seat, and gained 17 seats (10 percent) in the State House.
Buckley clearly knows how to build a party and win elections. He also has been doing party politics for a very long time. He probably knows that winning in 2018 involves an immense amount cat herding — something he has done a lot of locally. However, he isn’t inspiring like Ellison is, doesn’t appear to have the firecracker energy of Perez, and isn’t from a southern state like Harrison.
The Coming DNC Chair Campaign
The DNC has announced they will have candidate forums in four cities around the country. One is in Phoenix, so I will be attending.