U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and health-care lobbyist Howard Dean seem to be the front-runners for chair of the Democratic National Committee, in a field that is becoming more and more crowded. It is perhaps no surprise that Sen. Bernie Sanders is behind a run by Ellison.
Ellison was an early endorser of Sanders’ candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he made that endorsement in the face of the resistance of most of the Democratic establishment, including the DNC and its then-chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The DNC should not have played favorites during caucus and primary season. There is a lot of evidence that it did, including, of course, the WikiLeaks e-mail troves. It may have picked the wrong favorite, though.
There has been a lot of bellowing about the leaks as interference in the democratic (little “d”) process, including by the editorial writers at the Star Tribune. But I cannot accept the idea that the truth (there has never been a legitimate claim that any of the e-mails were not genuine) is opposed to democracy.
It must also be said that the DNC’s favoritism was the real interference with democracy.
All of the revelations — not just the WikiLeaks e-mails — brought Wasserman Schultz low, and caused a DNC vice chair, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, to issue an apology for the DNC’s having not its thumb, but its entire posterior, on the scale. I have always wondered if his apology was really a DNC decision or just an announcement by somebody who thought it was a good idea. I suspect the latter.
There have been a lot of Democratic apologist voices in recent days saying, “Bernie wouldn’t have done any better.” There has been a lot of blaming of everybody, too: Sanders, the “Bernie bros,” Jill Stein, James Comey, the media, sexists and racists, and the nefarious Donald Trump.
Everybody except the candidate that the Democrats ran. The one thing they could control.
The DNC, in an absolutely predictable act of “my-turnism,” cleared the field for Hillary Clinton so early that a legitimate field of candidates could never arise. Think back to the meeting of the DNC in Minneapolis in summer 2015. This was where the Hillary Victory Fund was hatched, providing a virtual and exclusive lock on the DNC as a fundraising mechanism for Clinton. It was supposed to provide a lot of money for down-ballot candidates in the states, but we know that didn’t happen.
Sanders was the only serious candidate to take Clinton on, and he came pretty close to winning, bless his heart. That alone should have told Democrats something.
Trump, on the other hand, had more than a dozen opponents for the nomination, and he systematically destroyed every one of them.
But back to Ellison. He said early on that Trump might well win the Republican nomination, a pronouncement that earned him the laughter of the national press. But the media are not laughing now, and, of course, neither is Keith. He understood, as apparently very few Democrats did, that Trump was the working person’s Molotov cocktail. Thomas Frank, a Sanders supporter and author of “Listen, Liberal,” did, too. Well, and Michael Moore.
To put it directly, the DNC, as it is presently constituted, needs to be burned — metaphorically, of course — to the ground. It has presided over the loss of not just the presidency, but a national disaster election for Democrats. There is no way to sugarcoat this.
It seems unlikely that Dean, who helped lead us into the Affordable Care Act — which many people on both sides of the aisle regard as being a failure or at least having serious affordability problems — is the Moses to lead the Democrats out of the wilderness. Or any other establishment Democratic figure, for that matter.
Ellison, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the indefatigable fundraising and progressive get-out-the-vote machine, on the other hand, seems perfect.
The contest for a new DNC chair will be a litmus test to see if the Democrats have learned anything.
Steve Timmer, of Edina, is a retired lawyer and DFL activist. He is a founder of the website left.mn.