Friday, November 11, 2016

Ranting On...the DNC Chair Election

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
All right Democrats, it's time to calm the f@#% down on the DNC Chair race.  I am reeling from this election to, in a way I'm still grasping, but I also am now having flashbacks at how terrible high-ranking Democrats are at losing elections.  Already, with not even two candidates announced, we have the incoming Senate Minority Leader (the most powerful elected official in the party come January 20th) endorsing a sitting congressman, not even waiting to see what other candidates are potentially going to come out of the woodwork, as if we wanted to stifle as much conversation about the future of the Democratic Party as possible.

This is one of the worst moments in the history of the country, and Democrats are in a very bad place.  I have seen the Democrats lose all branches of government before (in 2000, and again in 2002/2004).  I know how scary this is, but Chuck Schumer, you have to realize that we are now looking to you and Nancy Pelosi to lead us for a couple of years.  It will be difficult, bordering on the impossible to expect President Obama to continue to serve as the guardian of the Democratic Party, even if he will remain our most beloved figure.  The Clintons have, possibly with the exception of Chelsea if she pursues a political future, relegated themselves to the pages of history-they are now the Carter Family, a respected pair of players that will be brought out in convention videos and occasionally for interviews with Larry King, but by-and-large they represent where we were, not where we have been.  This is hard for me to write, as I pictured Hillary as our champion for the next eight years, but I know what happens to presidential losers-they disappear into the dust jackets of history.

So Schumer, and Pelosi if she stays on, are now are most ardent fighters and the figures of the party until we get a nominee again.  And I don't like them shirking their duties here, because that's what Chuck Schumer is doing.  Let's forget the fact that you just lost us the Senate, possibly for six years, by not sinking baskets in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.  Let's forget the fact that the Supreme Court is likely lost for a generation because you wouldn't hold up all business in the Senate until McConnell forced a vote on Garland.  And let's forget for a second that I had to watch Rome burn on Tuesday knowing you were winning reelection by 40 points in a cycle where you ran ads for yourself.

Your leadership so far, Sen. Schumer, has been appallingly lacking, and now is not the time to relegate your duties onto another politician.  If you want to do that, go back to being a ranking member and let Patty Murray run the Senate-I promise, she won't be so quick to discharge her responsibility to the country.  You might be curious what I mean here-it's that Keith Ellison is not the right choice to lead the DNC, and you know it.

I like Ellison-he's a nice guy, a solid progressive, and he represents in Congress the building I'm currently typing this in.  But we have seen what happens when a public officeholder takes the reins of the DNC.  They do it for their own ambition, rather than the party's.  I'm not saying Ellison would be as bad as Wasserman Schultz, but that's not the bar we should be shooting to clear here.  We should be shooting for a fighter, someone whose only goals are that of a DNC Chair, which are to win as many races for Democrats up-and-down-the-ballot as is humanly possible, to raise money, lots and lots of money, and to be a pitbull.

Picking a sitting member of Congress limits our ability here-they still have a day job.  They still want to be a congressman at the end of this conversation, and their first goal is appeasing their own constituents.  That's the right self-survival priority method, but it's also going to hinder the DNC, which is in a tough spot.  The Republicans run the White House, Senate, House, and most of the country's governorships and state legislatures.  If we want a chance in hell of taking back power in the next twelve years, we have to kick ass in 2018 in governor's races, and in races for state legislatures.  If we want to limit Trump's power in two years, we have to win back the House and hold all of our red-state senators.  I'm sorry, but there's nothing in Ellison's background to indicate that he'd be a particularly good fundraiser or a political strategist.  He is a civil rights attorney and a US congressman from a sharply blue district, so I suspect he's strong in a debate, but really the DNC Chair's biggest job is recruitment, strategy, GOTV, and money.  You'd be better off going with the (very successful) path of the GOP and pick a party strategist with a large network and a proven track record.  Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily's List, or Roberta Lange, who just had a brilliant run in Nevada in 2016, would fit that bill.  Ellison does not.

Where I say you're shirking your duties as a party leader is that's what you're hoping Ellison does, confusing the title of the DNC Chair with that of a congressional leader or a president.  The DNC Chair is head of the business arm of the Democratic Party-he or she is not the leader of the actual party.  Ellison makes a fine leader, one who would appeal to Clinton voters and Bernie Bros alike, and you're smart enough to know that that's something that the Democrats need to do to move on.  But then hope he gets to lead the House or try to get him to replace Hoyer or Clyburn.  Bring him in as new blood on the Democratic House side, but don't confuse the DNC Chair with being a party leader for the people, because that's not what that is-they're a leader for the volunteers, for the donors, for the party backbone who wouldn't miss an election if their life depended on it.  They're cheerleaders and out there on every cable talk show that will have them, but they aren't supposed to be Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.  They're a leader for the necessary elite aspect of the party, not a leader for the masses.  Ellison would be wasted at the DNC if that's what you're hoping for, and it's evident you are.

The reality is that you and Nancy Pelosi are going to have the very difficult job of being our sole sources of hope for two years, perhaps longer.  You need to start thinking like a president with patience and the weight of our dreams on your shoulders, because that's what you are to many Democrats who find themselves without a rudder.  If you're not up for that, get out now so we can avoid two years of misery that end with the Republicans winning a supermajority.  If you're up for it, then have some patience, rely upon the same strategy that made your successor so successful, and step up to the big leagues like you've wanted to do your whole career.

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