Keith Ellison or Tom Perez: Progressive DNC Chair Choices

Keith Ellison or Tom Perez: Progressive DNC Chair Choices

Keith Ellison and Tom Perez are the leading candidates for DNC Chair in 2017. While Ellison received wide progressive support early on, many outlets have since hailed Perez as a progressive and legitimate alternative to Ellison. Many outlets have even pushed anti-Ellison propaganda in favor of Perez, the establishment’s choice for DNC chair.

Bernie Sanders Supports Keith Ellison

Like Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressman Keith Ellison was a progressive before it was cool. In fact, he got arrested in 2009 while protesting Sudan’s Darfur policies. That’s progressive. He proved it again in 2015 by being one of the first public figures to endorse Sanders in the Democratic Primary. He also co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus and sort of predicted the rise of Trump:

Ellison is an African-American Muslim, and the first Muslim to serve in the United States Congress.  While his race shouldn’t matter, the recent election and influx of fake news proves perception is much more important than reality. As a black Muslim man, it is not a question of if, but when Donald Trump will call Ellison a thug-or-terrorism-apologist.

Barack Obama Supports Tom Perez

Labor Secretary Tom Perez is an Hispanic-American, representing the fastest growing demographic in the country. Democrats love checking demographic boxes, so it makes sense that Barack Obama is an enthusiastic fan. But more than being a fan of Perez, the establishment does not want Ellison to head the Democratic Party.

Perez represents the establishment, albeit the most liberal end of it. Though Republicans once called him a “left wing radical‘, his ardent support of Obama and long standing service in his cabinet firmly connects him to the Democratic establishment. More so, he campaigned with Clinton during the primary. He is known to be bank friendly and even gave a Clinton donor’s hedge fund a huge tax break. He also touts an ability to,  “speak to every stakeholder in the Democratic Party.” A clear nod to a Democratic establishment that is worried about opening up their ranks to real progressives.

Despite his establishment connections, he is running as a progressive outsider. On a conference call with the DNC, Perez stated, “Many folks in the field feel ignored by the national party.” and that the DNC had become “way too Washington-centric.”

Maybe the establishment learned a thing or two from Bernie, eh? Or is that rhetoric all talk?

Better For Progressives

My gut tells me Perez’s rhetoric is all talk. While he has a proven track record of building competent and efficient organizations, his progressive bona fides are not as strong. The DNC does not need strong connections to Democratic insiders. Those connections have proven fruitless since 2008, and especially since the Citizen’s United decision allowed unlimited corporate contributions to pour into elections. The Democrats have done nothing but lose ground since Obama’s first Presidential victory. Utilizing the same leaders with the same strategies will not yield different results.

My choice is Keith Ellison. I choose Ellison because Bernie chose Ellison. And I trust Bernie. More than that, he has a track record that offers few opportunities to second guess. Accusations that Ellison is anti-Semitic hold little water when looked into. He appears, all things considered, to be a real progressive with real principles. And that’s what Progressives need in 2017.

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

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