The election to find a new chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to lead the party to future electoral victory (they hope) is underway as the top five contenders met in Texas Saturday to make their pitch to be the new DNC chair. According to Austin’s Star-Telegram this was the first joint appearance by the five candidates vying for the DNC chair position and they all made it clear that one major goal was to shift the focus away from Washington and on to the task of rebuilding the party at the level of state organizations, some of which, such as in red states like Texas, have been neglected by the national party in favor of continued focus on Democratic strongholds and swing states. With the miserable showing in the 2016 election, not only by Hillary Clinton but in governor races, senate races, and house races, it is painfully clear that the party needs a bold new vision if it wants to change the losing course on which it currently finds itself.
The five candidates competing for the DNC chair come from a broad range of backgrounds and experience within the party. Bernie Sanders made headlines shortly after the election by endorsing Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison for the role. Ellison is a progressive who is popular among his constituents and whose focus on economic inequality and civil rights makes him an obvious choice for Sanders. He’s reportedly not the top choice of everyone within the party. According to Politico, Tennessee committeman William Owen, a Hillary Clinton supporter, harbors a major grudge against Ellison and says he will never win the DNC chair position.
“I’m a Hillary person. Bill Clinton said, ‘I’ll be with you till the last dog dies,’ and I’m the last dog,” Owen said. “I will not vote for Keith Ellison, I will not vote for a Bernie person. I think they cost Hillary the election.”
It’s quite possible that this sentiment within the party could spell doom for Ellison, who due to Sanders’ support has probably been the most highly publicized of the DNC chair candidates. Four other major contenders have emerged for the election to fill the DNC top spot.
Current U.S. secretary of labor Tom Perez is one of them, and he carries with him the weight of being seen as an Obama insider. According to ABC News, Obama recently described Perez as one of the best secretaries of labor in the country’s history during statements that came just short of a full-on endorsement of Perez for the DNC chair post. Barack Obama is still very popular among the Democratic base, so Perez could very well be viewed as the frontrunner.
Hillary Clinton supporters may be inclined to opt for someone closer to the Clinton inner circle. Despite her loss, she did win the popular vote by almost three million votes. South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison might be an obvious choice for the Clinton faithful. According to the Post And Courier, Harrison has past associations with the Podesta group, a fact that will certainly hurt his DNC chair chances among Sanders supporters and other progressives still embittered by what they see as a primary election that was stolen from them in 2016 by Clinton, Podesta, and their associates. Still, Harrison’s relevant experience as the South Carolina Democratic chair and his associations with powerful players in the party make it impossible to count him out.
New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley is for now seen as something of a dark horse candidate in the race, but he may emerge as a favorite due to his neutrality and his strong credentials. According to the Star-Telegram, Buckley touts that very fact as a selling point in his bid for the DNC chair.
“We’ve got to look at what we did in this nominating process because if we do not address and fix it, we have lost millions of voters. They either voted for Jill Stein or wrote in Bernie Sanders or simply didn’t vote,” Buckley said, going on to tout how he has been “100 percent neutral and 100 percent fair” as Granite State chairman.
Mentioning Stein and Sanders alone could perk up the ears of the progressive wing of the party, and Buckley’s record as a competent, capable, and open leader of the New Hampshire Democrats won’t hurt his chances either.
NH Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley joined Chris to discuss his bid to lead the DNC.... https://t.co/DQgt8QXd9n— Concord News Radio (@wkxlnh) December 6, 2016
A fifth contender for the DNC chair position is Idaho Democratic Party executive director Sally Boynton Brown. Boynton Brown is positioning herself as a moderate from a red state whose populism and ability to appeal to more conservative voters will allow her to widen the appeal of the Democratic party. According to the Idaho Statesman, Sally Boynton Brown feels as DNC chair she will be able to reach across the ideological divide as in this country and be a uniter.
“Our party can’t afford to spend the next two years having an ideological debate on whether we are liberals or moderates,” said in a prepared statement. “The Democratic Party has always represented the people and now more than ever we must blow the walls off our tent so everyone feels welcome.”
Regardless of which of these candidates, or perhaps one yet unnamed, is chosen as the next DNC chair, the party will have its work cut out for it. Republicans are dominating our government right now at both federal and state levels. The Democratic Party will need a bold and clear vision for the future if it wants to succeed in wrestling some of that power away from the GOP and implementing a more liberal or progressive vision for the United States.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]