Sanders warns against ‘same-old’ after Clinton ally edges progressive challenger to head DNC.
Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez clinched victory in the contentious battle for Democratic National Committee chair by a vote of 235 – 200 over Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) Saturday. The new chair needed 218 votes.
Perez, the establishment darling and secretary of labor under former President Barack Obama, faced vehement competition from Ellison — a candidate backed by the Democratic Party’s more progressive wing and former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In an attempt to ameliorate the stinging blow Ellison’s loss delivered to much of the party’s left-wing base, Ellison moved to make Ellison the DNC’s deputy chair.
“After a soul-crushing 2016, the Democrats just chose Hillary Clinton 2.0 as the face of their party.”
But as the Party continues to grapple with crushing Election Day losses and the dire need to regroup and refocus, some worry that Perez’s election signals more of the status quo.
“At a time when Republicans control the White House, the U.S. House, U.S. Senate and two-thirds of all statehouses, it is imperative that Tom understands that the same-old, same-old is not working and that we must open the doors of the party to working people and to young people in a way that has never been done before,” Sanders said in a statement after the vote.
“Now, more than ever, the Democratic Party must make it clear that it is prepared to stand up to the 1 percent and lead this country forward in the fight for social, racial, economic and environmental justice,” Sanders added..
Conservatives were likewise quick to make the case Perez’s victory over Ellison signaled Democrats would be doubling-down on the status quo.
“After a soul-crushing 2016, the Democrats just chose Hillary Clinton 2.0 as the face of their party,” Colin Reed, Executive Director of the GOP-aligned America Rising PAC, said in a statement. “Distrusted by the base and dismissed as the failed status quo by Bernie Sanders, Tom Perez is so entrenched in the swamp of D.C. he can’t admit that the 2016 primary was rigged. Perez is incapable of quelling the Democrats’ raging civil war, and takes over a depleted party hell-bent on a leftward march to oblivion.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel also hammered the selection of a “D.C. insider.”
“The Democrat Party has lost touch with the American people. Voters spoke loud and clear last November that they wanted a change in Washington and to reverse the failed policies of the last eight years,” McDaniel said.
“By selecting a D.C. insider, Democrats only create deeper divisions within their own party by pushing a far left agenda that rejects a majority of their base outside Washington,” McDaniel continued. “The DNC would be well-served to learn from two straight election cycle losses, encourage leaders in their party to listen to what the voters want and to get to work with Republicans to fix the mess they created.”
Prior to the vote, Ellison had said, “We believe we would rather have a million donations of $10 than 10 donations of $100,000. We got to go to the grassroots, y’all. Unity is essential … Trump is right outside this door, not just Trump but Trumpism. We gotta understand that it’s not just one fight.”
During his acceptance speech, Perez sought to unify the Party and its more progressive base by offering an optimistic assessment of his victory.
“When I was looking in the audience, there was someone holding up a sign that says ‘Unite.’ And I could not agree more. For the two of us, that is easy, because we were always united in our values,” Perez said. “And we are united in our love for the Democratic Party.”
Perez and Ellison even hugged on stage before Ellison offered his own conciliatory remarks and his rallying cry for unity.
“We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided,” Ellison warned. “We don’t have that luxury, and I just want to say to you that it’s my honor to serve this party under Chairman Perez … I am asking you to give everything you’ve got to support Chairman Perez.”
But even with the selection of Ellison as his deputy chair, the DNC’s first Latino chair will most likely face an uphill battle to foster unity among a bitterly divided Party still licking its wounds after the Republican Party’s decisive victory in 2016.
“It’s not even about Tom Perez. It’s about Obama, Hillary, and the people feeling slighted from Bernie Sanders’ slight,” Ellison’s brother, Brian, had said just prior to the vote, according to Business Insider.
A few hours before DNC members cast their ballots for the chair position, the committee also voted against reinstating a ban on corporate lobbyists from donating funds to the DNC — a move that was sharply criticized by fans of Sanders’ and Ellison’s. Former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had lifted that ban prior to former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s run.
“The Leaders of the Democratic Party missed an opportunity today. This vote may sting for progressives, particularly young people,” the progressive group Working Families Party said in a statement. “As chair, Tom Perez would be well-advised to take Keith Ellison’s counsel, and avoid that of the donor class that led us to this current crisis. The DNC’s vote today to continue accepting contributions from corporate lobbyists shows there is still much work to do.”
As for Clinton, she congratulated Perez, tweeting, “Congrats to @DNC chair @TomPerez & deputy @keithellison. Excited for strong, unified party standing for best of our country into the future.”