Not This Nonsense Again

You’d figure that the outcome of the 2016 presidential election–and the urgent need to resist Donald Trump by any political means available–would focus the mind of the Democratic Party, preventing party members from getting bogged down in the “establishment” vs. “outsider” fight that only serves to divide and destroy Democrats.

You’d figure wrong, as the party seems to be splitting all over again, with the latest evidence being the increasingly contentious battle over who will be the next head of the Democratic National Committee:

With Democrats shut out of power for the first time in a decade, the race to run the Democratic National Committee has taken on the feel of a real campaign, even though the group’s 437 members are the only ones who will decide on a new leader. Ellison and four rivals are campaigning across the country, appearing at forums and at a Huffington Post-hosted debate, while also issuing news releases on breaking stories…

There’s little ideological disagreement between Ellison and his four rivals — Labor Secretary Tom Perez; Ray Buckley, chairman of New Hampshire’s Democrats; South Carolina’s Jaime Harrison; and Idaho’s Sally Boynton Brown. None has challenged the left-wing rewrite of the Democratic Party platform, of which Ellison was a part…

In the run-up to the Feb. 23-26 election, Ellison is taking an inside-and-outside approach. Conversations with DNC members are supplemented by rallies, designed to show how the DNC could become the hub of a resistance movement.

Unlike the divisive Clinton-Sanders primary contest — when progressives battled the more-centrist Hillary Clinton supporters — there are not the same ideological cleavages in the DNC battle…Democrats instead are engaging in a gritted-teeth argument about who’s to blame for the devastating losses this year. Perez, who entered the DNC race two weeks ago, has institutional support at exactly the time Democratic activists have stopped trusting their institutions.

This has led to the usual allegations from those who apparently favor Ellison that Perez is little more than a hack who is not a true warrior for progressive change. This is, as you might imagine, a complete smear of Perez:

[F]or an establishment candidate, Perez would still be a pretty bold choice for a party that just selected the cautious, centrist Clinton/Kaine ticket: As his DNC campaign website highlights, he’s a former Department of Justice civil rights lawyer whose work as Labor Secretary has impressed progressive Democratic activists. His platform and website—much like Ellison’s—is one that’s aimed squarely at the grass roots and working class, highlighting issues like voting rights and small-donor fundraising while emphasizing his history of work on issues like collective bargaining rights and police accountability. Both Ellison and Perez seem to be aiming to win over lefty Bernie Sanders voters while at the same time drawing in the nonwhite members of the Democratic coalition that Sanders has sometimes been tone-deaf in discussing.

The knocks against Perez, the son of Dominican immigrants who was raised in Buffalo and lives in Maryland, are that he’s never himself run for an office higher than Maryland county council and that, for all the good his civil rights and labor work has done, it’s kept him in Washington, D.C. rather than out in the field. Meanwhile, Ellison has already locked in endorsements from high-profile labor leaders, outgoing Senate majority leader Harry Reid, and centrist New Yorker senator Chuck Schumer; he’s not exactly a long-shot insurgent at this point.

Ellison, Perez, Buckley, Harrison and Brown are all competent, high-quality candidates for the DNC gig; this will certainly not be the clusterscrew that was the race for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee after John McCain’s loss (the chairmanship race that Michael Steele infamously won). So we can we please knock it off with the suggestion that certain candidates are too “establishment” for their own good? Shouldn’t the most important criteria for this job be who can score the most victories over Republicans in 2018 and 2020, not who’s the least “establishment”?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.