A Big Freakin’ Deal in the DNC Chair Race

Did former Vice President Joe Biden just do a favor for Rep. Keith Ellison?

Biden’s endorsement of former Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to become the next chair of the Democratic National Committee may have provided an unintentional boost to Ellison’s hopes to defeat Perez. Ellison’s backers have been promulgating the notion that Perez is an “establishment” hack who just can’t wait to betray progressives in favor of political insiders; Biden’s formal support of Perez could well destroy the former Justice Department official’s hopes to succeed Debbie Wasserman Schultz by further energizing Ellison’s already-passionate support base.

Ellison and Perez are equally qualified to do the job; either man could turn the Democratic Party into an elite fighting force, recapturing the electoral ground Democrats lost during the Obama years. It’s a profound shame that this race is viewed as a brawl between the “establishment” and “progressive” wings of the Democratic Party, when both men have objectively strong progressive credentials. However, Perez has been tarred with the “establishment” brush, and such a stereotype may well be impossible for him to overcome.

Either man would be a symbolic refutation of the Trump vision; the news of either Ellison or Perez becoming the new head of the DNC would be greeted by the usual slurs and sarcasm from America’s right-wing media empire. Like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the eventual winner of the DNC chair race should welcome the right’s hatred; underneath such fury lies fear–fear that the new head of the DNC will orchestrate the party’s return to power.

Whoever wins the seat at month’s end, let’s hope that supporters of the disappointed candidate rally behind the winner. A divided Democratic Party is all Donald Trump needs to maintain control; a circular firing squad would just leave this country and this world wounded. Neither Ellison nor Perez is the enemy; progressives should never forget who the true enemy is.

The next chair of the DNC will have an enormous task, far harder than the challenge Howard Dean faced when he became DNC head in 2005. The power of right-wing propaganda is far stronger than it was a dozen years ago. Citizens United wasn’t a factor back then. Mainstream-media false balance is arguably even worse now than it was when the Fourth Estate aided and abetted the invasion of Iraq.

Yet Ellison and Perez are talented and intelligent enough to overcome these obstacles. Progressives can be confident that either individual will lead the party to a full-throated resistance of Donald Trump, and a reinvigoration of the Democratic Party at the state and local level. If Democratic infighting can be avoided, the winner of the DNC chair race could make the Democratic Party even stronger than Reince Priebus made the Republican Party in the early- and mid-2010s.

With gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia this fall and the 2018 midterms on the horizon, the need for a competent, effective, progressive DNC chair is obvious. No matter who wins the DNC chair race, that need will most assuredly be met.

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.