Keith Ellison has been the subject of much attention from Democrats and progressive independents since Bernie Sanders endorsed him to be the new chairperson of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in December. While some progressives see Ellison as far from being a perfect choice to lead the DNC, many share the Sanders view that Ellison would be a better choice than the other candidates running in terms of moving toward a more open and inclusive Democratic Party rather than the heavily corporate-sponsored party it has become, in their view. Ellison’s chief competitor in the DNC chair race is the former labor secretary under Barack Obama, Tom Perez.
The race is still too close to call. According to reports, 447 Democratic Party insiders will be voting for the new chairperson at the DNC’s annual winter meeting to be held this coming weekend, so popular support is not really an effective barometer in determining who might win. However, many Bernie supporters have been extremely vocal in their desire for Ellison and their efforts could be paying off. According to the Hill, of 240 voting members of the DNC whose choices have been surveyed by the website’s researchers, 105 support Keith Ellison, 57 support Tom Perez, and the remaining DNC voters are either undecided or support one of the other candidates, none of whom have more than a dozen supporters out of those surveyed.
It’s perhaps telling that the race for DNC chair has seemingly come down to Perez vs. Ellison. To a certain extent, it is a proxy battle for the future of the Democratic Party, with Perez representing the Barack Obama wing of the party and Ellison representing the Bernie Sanders wing who wish to see the party take a decidedly less corporate, more populist direction.
Ellison has also received endorsements from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and most recently Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York. Perez counts as his supporters former attorney general under Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and former Vice President Joe Biden.
According to CNN, Representative John Lewis explained exactly why he’s supporting Keith Ellison. The endorsement comes as somewhat of a surprise, as Lewis was not a supporter of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 primary. That Ellison has managed to win his endorsement could be a sign that Ellison has effectively managed to reach out to members of the party who may have been skeptical of a takeover of the party by Sanders progressives.
“We need his leadership. We need his vision. We need his commitment and his dedication now more than ever before,” Lewis said. “Keith wants our party not just to wait until the next election but to organize now for the long haul.”
Interestingly, President Donald Trump decided to tweet words in vague support of Ellison this morning, praising Ellison for being among the few Democrats who predicted Trump’s victory. Trump’s intentions can only be guessed, but it’s possible he feels that offering support for Ellison could negatively impact the view of Ellison in the eyes of DNC voters, perhaps suggesting that Trump would rather Ellison not lead the DNC.
Keith Ellison quickly responded to Trump’s tweet.
According to the Hill, it is also entirely possible that the stark divide between those who want Perez and those who want Ellison could inspire the DNC voters to choose a compromise candidate rather than choose one or the other. This doesn’t seem entirely likely, as none of the other candidates currently have a ton of known support, but if there is a deadlock in early voting, someone could emerge, such as South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has received praise in recent weeks from former DNC chairman Howard Dean. Many progressives would like to see insurgent candidate Sam Ronan elected to DNC chair, according to a previous Inquisitr article.
Regardless of who becomes the next DNC chairperson, the Democratic Party will need to focus on rebuilding in the coming years. The 2016 election could be seen as either a harbinger of doom for a party that never learned from its mistakes, or a turning point where lessons were learned, the party regrouped, and came back with new ideas and goals. While not everyone may feel that Ellison, or Perez, or whoever wins is the best choice, it is not just one person who will ultimately decide the future of the Democratic Party.
[Featured Image by Sarah Rice/Getty Images]