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Feb 27 2017

What Happened?

Be clear about what happened to Keith Ellison
by Matt Bruenig, Medium
2/26/17

The Obama people did not rally around an existing candidate in the field that they thought was better. They went out and recruited someone. The point of this recruitment was to beat back the left faction that Ellison represented. They considered many potential avatars for this anti-Ellison effort and eventually settled on Tom Perez.

On December 15, Tom Perez came into the DNC race. Around the same time, the establishment forces mounted a brutal smear campaign against Ellison, placing stories all over the place about how he was (or still is) an anti-semitic, Farrakhan-loving, Nation of Islam guy.

This effort ultimately paid off with Perez narrowly winning the DNC chair election over Ellison.

During and after the DNC chair race, many moderate pundits and posters took the position that who wins the DNC chair does not really matter and also that infighting between left and right factions of the Democratic party is unhelpful in the times of Trump. But this, bizarrely enough, wasn’t self-criticism of the moderate establishment wing of the party. No, it was criticism that was and continues to be lobbed at the left-wing sorts who backed Ellison.

Before this gets turned into another thing where the establishment Democrats posture as the reasonable adults victimized by the assaults of those left-wing baddies, let’s just be very clear about what happened here. It was the establishment wing that decided to recruit and then stand up a candidate in order to fight an internal battle against the left faction of the party. It was the establishment wing that then dumped massive piles of opposition research on one of their own party members. And it was the establishment wing that did all of this in the shadow of Trump, sowing disunity in order to contest a position whose leadership they insist does not really matter.

The establishment wing has made it very clear that they will do anything and everything to hold down the left faction, even as they rather hilariously ask the left faction to look above their differences and unify in these trying times. They do not have any intent of ceding anything?—?even small things they claim are mostly irrelevant?—?to the left wing.

Of course, that’s their prerogative and there is nothing underhanded about trying to beat your ideological opponents in a fair election. But if they do not care about the left, the left should not care about them.

Instead, the left should focus its energies on organizing under alternative institutions that, if they engage with the Democratic party at all, only do so in order to attempt hostile takeovers of various power positions (including primarying moderate Democrats and winning local party positions). Only a sucker would do more than that, given what the party has just shown itself to be about at this time.

Am I insane? I don’t know anything about Matt Bruenig but I picked up this story from Dave Weigel who writes for Pravda and it don’t get more institutional than that.

He also cites Nathan Robinson, Editor of Current Affairs, another Beltway mouthpiece, who thinks the Democratic Party is trying to commit suicide-

They Must Be Trying To Fail
by Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs
February 25, 2017

At this point, one has to conclude that the national Democratic Party has a death wish. Given the opportunity to throw a minuscule bone to the Sanders progressives, the DNC declined. By giving its chairmanship to former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, instead of Rep. Keith Ellison, party leaders have shown that they must be actively desiring electoral oblivion.

The race between Ellison and Perez was, however, a meaningful moment in determining the future of the party. And it wasn’t only the left-wing Ellison supporters who seemed to think so. After all, Obama-affiliated Democrats drafted Perez specifically in order to keep Ellison from attaining the chairmanship. Pressure had been brought upon them by swealthy party donors to make sure Ellison was foiled. Even though Perez’s supporters repeatedly insisted that Perez and Ellion were roughly equal in their left-wing credentials, it was clear that they couldn’t possibly have meant what they said. After all, they were desperate to thwart Ellison. As Clio Chang pointed out in The New Republic, the case for Perez made no sense. His boosters suggested that he was just as progressive as Ellison, but in that case, why run him? The only way Perez’s candidacy could be explained was by assuming that all the arguments made for him were false, and that party elites did perceive Ellison as a proxy for Bernie Sanders.

It was quite clear to anyone who thought about it honestly that this was an important moment for the party, and that party insiders knew it. They were willing to launch a disgusting smear campaign against Keith Ellison, which implied that he was a closet anti-Semite. (Some commentators verged into outright bigotry against Ellison’s Muslim faith; Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times suggested that Ellison was an ill-advised choice because he was black and a Muslim.) Ellison quite obviously represented the Sanders-supporting progressive insurgency, and Perez the traditional party elites. While some Clinton supporters went for Ellison, and some Sanders supporters for Perez, nobody could believe this fight was empty of political content, or purely about these two men’s personalities.

That’s why not selecting Ellison is a colossal mistake on a strategic level. Many of Bernie Sanders’ voters during the primary came to hate the DNC, resenting the party’s bias in favor of Hillary Clinton. Sanders voters didn’t like Clinton. They disagreed with her policies on a number of substantive points, and didn’t like being told they had to suck it up and vote for her after Sanders lost the primary. The 13 million people who voted for Sanders in the primary voted for him in part because they felt disillusioned with the traditional Democratic Party. They felt that the Obama Administration had been insufficiently progressive, and that Clinton represented the interests of a tiny group of incredibly wealthy people who couldn’t care less about the lives of the working class. Those people remained angry after the primary. Many of them did not show up to vote in the general election.

It was already extraordinary that the Democratic Party had made so little effort to appease the disaffected progressive faction. After all, when you don’t give ground to the left, they don’t organize for you. In the worst case scenario, they vote for Ralph Nader and destroy your electoral chances completely. It’s very important not to thumb your nose at your base. This was precisely what Hillary Clinton did. She selected Tim Kaine as her running mate, in what even Matt Yglesias acknowledged was an enormous “fuck you” to the party’s left flank. Her operatives spurned the offers of Sanders organizers to help get out the vote in Rust Belt states. We know how this turned out.

So it was incredibly important that the Democratic Party take some steps to indicate that it cared about progressives. Since the election, it hadn’t been doing a very good job of this. (Nancy Pelosi’s insistence that nothing needed to change, and her rebuke to a young leftist, demonstrated the prevailing attitude.) Appointing Keith Ellison to chair the DNC was the perfect opportunity. After all, chairing the DNC is a pretty minor role. It would mostly have been a gesture of friendship and unity, showing that even after the catastrophic mistake of ignoring leftist warnings not to run Clinton, the party was capable of valuing its leftmost members.

But no. Instead of granting the tiniest possible concession, the party has decided to affirm precisely what Nancy Pelosi has indicated: democratic socialists and social democrats don’t belong in the party. It’s not for them. What the party does depends on what billionaire donors want it to do.

This is politically suicidal. During the 2016 campaign, I made efforts to convince leftists to vote for Hillary Clinton. I ran into a lot of resistance. The general theme was: why should I vote for her when she doesn’t seem to care about my values? Why should I support a party that exists for its billionaire donors? And it was hard to come up with good answers to those questions. People on the left despised Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment, and didn’t feel as if there was any reason to be loyal to a party that didn’t seem to want them.

Democrats are losing incredibly badly at every level, they needed someone who could motivate people and get them to organize. They needed someone who would harness the force that led to Bernie Sanders’ massive rallies, an enthusiasm that Hillary Clinton could never generate. With a significant segment of those people seeing their candidate yet again blocked (this time by an even more absurdly undemocratic process, in which ordinary party members had absolutely no say), it’s hardly likely that Perez will be able to energize those same forces. Electing Ellison was essential because it could have kept more left-wingers from quitting the party in disgust, and helped bring back some (much needed) robust grassroots organizing.

Now, progressives in the party are further alienated. Good luck getting them to vote for Democrats. No matter how many people may have insisted that Ellison/Perez wasn’t a replay of Sanders/Clinton, it’s impossible to deny that in some ways it was. The progressives needed to receive some kind of gesture. And they have received one: an enormous middle finger.

An enormous middle finger?

The Case for Tom Perez Makes No Sense
By Clio Chang, New Republic
February 23, 2017

It appears that the underlying reason some Democrats prefer Perez over Ellison has nothing to do with ideology, but rather his loyalty to the Obama wing. As the head of the DNC, Perez would allow that wing to retain more control, even if Obama-ites are loath to admit it. Sanders has been accused of re-litigating the primary in his criticisms of Perez, but the fact that Perez was pushed to run, while Ellison was quickly and easily unifying the left and center, seems like the move most predicated on primary scars.

And it’s not just Obama- and Clinton-ites that could see some power slip away with an Ellison-headed DNC. Paid DNC consultants also have a vested interest in maintaining the DNC status quo. Nomiki Konst, who has extensively covered the nuts and bolts of the DNC race, asked Perez how he felt about conflicts of interest within the committee— specifically, DNC members who also have contracts with the committee. Perez dodged the issue, advocating for a “big tent.” In contrast, in a forum last month, Ellison firmly stated, “We are battling the consultant-ocracy.”

These concerns about power, control, and money echo of the dismal failures of 2008, when top Democratic operatives decided to fold Obama’s online grassroots behemoth, Organizing for America, into the DNC. The
story is infamous now: Party regulars wanted to ensure control of the group, rather than allowing it to flourish as an independent entity, one that could challenge the party itself. The muzzling of Obama’s grassroots support has been blamed for being partly responsible for the Democratic Party’s enormous losses in state and local seats over the past decade. Chris Edley, who pushed for OFA’s independence, told the
New Republic recently about the choice, “If you’re not really that committed, as a matter of principle, to a bottom-up theory of change, then you will find it nonsensical to cede some control in order to gain more power.”

The same could be said of today’s battle over the DNC and the push to install a loyal technocrat like Perez. This reluctance to cede control comes despite the fact that Democrats have lost over 1,000 state legislature seats since 2009. There is no case for Perez that cannot be made for Ellison, while Ellison is able to energize progressives in ways that Perez cannot. The question that will be answered on Saturday is whether Democrats have more urgent priorities than denying power to the left.

Evidently not. I want to highlight the record of failure- “Democrats have lost over 1,000 state legislature seats since 2009”. That’s not a figure you get from being too “populist” (by definition popular) or “Left”. Those are numbers you get by being Republican-lite Corporatist Sell Outs. Even in still Blue Connecticut we are scant seats away from being the 34th and final State to call for an Article 5 Constitutional Convention that will gut the Bill of Rights. Who needs Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly anyway? Don’t you know there’s a War on those scary Sharia Law Muslims like Keith Ellison? Freedom of Religion? If you believe the right kind (Mormonism, just because people think it’s Christianity, but it’s not at all).

Too stark for you? Not stark enough for Institutional Democrats. Sacred underware and a ban on Tea and Lattes that you can get around if you have enough money, ruthlessly enforced on everyone else.

Those 235 “Democrats” voted for that.

Sigh. I aspire to be “moderate” and “reasonable” and “respectable” and right now I am consumed by rage. Not just at the Institutional Democrats and their Media Acolytes who can only be expected to whore their already mortgaged souls (I apologize to sex workers, most of whom have higher ethical standards) to the highest bidder, but Party members who are too stupid, deluded, or corrupt to see what is happening right before their eyes.

1 comment

  1. ek hornbeck

    Vent Hole

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