Saturday, 18 November 2017

New DNC Leader, is Tom Perez Good for Progressives?

New DNC Leader, is Tom Perez Good for Progressives?

Fivethirtyeight described the race between Perez and Ellison as “a battle between the party’s Obama-era establishment and the burgeoning progressive wing of Sen. Bernie Sanders.”

Progressives were behind Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison in droves. Sam Ronan also got some attention. Even South Bend, IN mayor Pete Buttigieg made a name for himself on the national stage during his short lived campaign.  But everyone knew the real race was between Ellison and Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

And the establishment won. Tom Perez is now the chair of the DNC.

(The Democratic National Committee is the formal governing body for the United States Democratic Party. The committee coordinates strategy to support Democratic Party candidates throughout the country for local, state, and national office.)

Is Tom Perez a Progressive?

Perez is as far left as the establishment will reach in my opinion. Fivethirtyeight claims he and Ellison were virtually identical in their vision for the DNC:

“Perez and Ellison laid out essentially identical visions for the party during the DNC race. Both called for a more decentralized organization that placed greater emphasis on the particular political climates and needs of each state, better candidate recruitment, and well-honed messages of economic populism that would speak to the party’s traditional base and beyond.”

But like most establishment sources, Fivethirtyeight ignores the main difference between typical establishment Democrats and Progressives. Corporate campaign donations and the influence that comes with them must be expelled from the Democratic Party if progressives are going to join. And on that issue the difference between Ellison and Perez can be seen.

For one, Perez refused to support the ban on corporate and lobbyist donations to the DNC, citing “unintended consequences”. That sentiment was reverberated during points-of-information during the DNC vote on the issue, but seems to be a solvable obstacle if anyone were to put some effort into crafting a new rule. Additionally, Perez has a bank-friendly record that severely tarnishes his reputation with Progressives. If there’s one friends-group that will kill you with progressives, it’s the banking and finance industry. Ask Hillary. Lastly, Perez’s deep ties to Obama are reminiscent of the Washington-insider swamp perception that voters have of the super-connected. Again, ask Hillary.

So is he a progressive? No. Is he a liberal? Yes. Is he better than debbie Wasserman Schultz? Definitely. Was he the best option for Progressives? No. Is he a step forward for the Democratic Party? Maybe.

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A Deputy Glimmer of hope

During the TYT Facebook live stream of the DNC election, Nomiki Konst made an off-the-cuff admission. “That means nothing” she said to Keith Ellison supporters who were celebrating Perez’s announcement that Ellison would serve as Deputy Chair.

While her bluntness may have been confused with rudeness, Konst is correct. There is no authority imbued upon a deputy, and little reason to believe he will be empowered in any way.

But there is a glimmer of hope. If Perez keeps saying “Keith and I” and lets Ellison be involved in decision making, there is hope.

If the partnership is real, then good. But if the partnership is a mere ploy for rhetorical unity, then Ellison will go down with the establishment ship. And he won’t drag the budding progressive wing of the party with him. I hope it is real. And i hope the DNC will begin supporting real progressive candidates.

So, is Perez Leading the DNC Good for Progressives?

Good probably isn’t the right word. At the very least, the partnership with Ellison shows that Perez is cognizant that progressives exist. Which is certainly an improvement from the DWS era!

But Progressives must stay weary and watch out for corporate favoritism within the Party. If Progressives won’t be given party leadership positions, they must make the leaders fear their backlash. Especially when dealing with how the organization is funded. There is no chance the party can grow if corporate cash still fuels its actions.

Lastly, Ellison has officially tied himself to the DNC ship. Time will tell if it was the right decision, but as far as I am concerned, the two are now connected. Until Ellison formally breaks ties, DNC decisions belong to Ellison as much as they belong to Perez. Good luck to them both.

Ryan Black is a documentary filmmaker, political consultant, and digital media professional who writes about Progressive Politics.

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