The Democrats’ Most Recent Lost Opportunity

Keith Ellison: Not DNC ChairThe DNC chair position looms large — perhaps larger than it should — in the minds of Sanders supporters. Many Sanders supporters believe that former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz helped stack the deck against Sanders — and that this was a key reason Sanders lost the primary.

Few people outside the hard-core Sanders circle think this is true, but to an extent that’s the point: precisely because many Democrats think Sanders supporters overstate the institutional power of the DNC chair, this is a smart concession to make to them. Putting an unassailable Sanders ally at its helm is an easy way to demonstrate that the party is reformed and no longer “rigged” — especially if you don’t believe it was ever rigged in the first place.

The Emergence of Tom Perez Mutes Ideological Conflict

The most obvious alternative to a stalwart progressive like Ellison would have been for Sanders’ critics in the Democratic Party to elevate a standard-bearer of the party’s more moderate wing. Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, for example, ran far ahead of Hillary Clinton in the red state and would have been a plausible centrist alternative to Ellison.

Instead, Ellison’s strongest opponent looks to be Perez. Four Democratic governors are backing him, he’s received endorsements from a few labor unions, and some Sanders allies, bolstered by reporting from The New York Times, feels the Perez boom is being fueled by Obama’s political team — though the White House denies this.

But Perez doesn’t present much of an ideological break from Ellison. He was an ardent foe of the Iraq War within weeks of it being declared; he has longstanding connections to the labor movement and the “Fight for $15” minimum wage campaign; he’s widely considered Obama’s most liberal Cabinet member; union leaders have loved his work.

Nor are their stated agendas, both geared toward more comprehensive and more granual organizing, particularly different. Perez calls for a DNC strategy in every zip code, while Ellison has called for one in every county…

In many ways what really aggravates Sanders’ allies about the push for Perez is the very absence of any kind of clear strategic or ideological gap between Perez and Ellison. If a big part of the case for Ellison is that installing a well-known Sanders ally at the DNC would help unify the party, then the essence of the case for Perez seems to be a desire to freeze Sanders’ circle out.

–Jeff Stein
The DNC Race Has Become Another Fight Over Bernie Sanders


Note that I referenced Stein’s article at the time, Keith Ellison and the Difficult Path Forward. I don’t have a problem with Perez as the DNC chair. My point of digging up this quote is simply to show that this would have been an easy token for the establishment wing of the party to make to the liberal wing. But it wasn’t even willing to do that — as I discussed in that article almost two months ago.

2 thoughts on “The Democrats’ Most Recent Lost Opportunity

  1. Well since most of the pundits and the people commenting on the race online never got it had zero to do with policy views and everything to do with “do you understand the problem is voter suppression,” I don’t blame the establishment not giving in to people who want to hamstring the party from the get go.

    • I had a comment about this I must have forgotten to hit the post button on before changing pages. Ultimately I suspect you’re right and fighting voter suppression might end up being the biggest thing. In a lot of cases, people who actually want to vote and are eligible to vote don’t come out, because they think they’ll be turned away. We can do better making them aware of their rights. Giving people rides to polling places. Making them aware where the polling place is!

      I don’t think Ellison had any intention of hamstringing the party. But I do think he understands that some state-level party organizations are godawful messes. Our DFL is a colossal disaster. They don’t give a damn about winning locally. It’s all about keeping everyone in their salaried positions. And this is a state where there’s really only one sure-fire Republican district (MN 6). Look at 1, 7, & 8. That’s all farm country. The national posts are all held by Democrats in those districts. And the state reps from those regions are all Republicans. And the DFL couldn’t care less. If the legislature hampers Dayton at every turn, big deal — the DFL never liked him anyway. Too liberal for their blood. (Which is why he cruised to reelection easily. Over the guy who’s now our rep from 6. It’s Bachmann’s old district, a butter sculpture labeled GOP could win there.)

      This is a big problem. If it’s a problem here, in a fairly moderate state, how bad is it in conservative states? I’m with you on voter suppression being problem #1. But winning locally is problem #2. And until we clear out some entrenched lazybones, we’ll keep losing locally. And I don’t want another Republican governor! The last one was eight years of awful …

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