It’s been more than 30 years since there was any suspense surrounding the election of a Democratic National Committee chairman, but Saturday’s vote had the various wings of the party biting their nails right through the first round of voting. Would the DNC go with former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, the favored son of the Clinton/Obama establishment? Or would they take a chance on Rep. Keith Ellison, a controversial Muslim-American who had the support of the Sanders/Warren progressives? After the first round of voting, the answer was still up in the air.
Ultimately, though, the position went to Perez, inspiring an angry outburst from the Ellison liberals who began chanting, “Party for the people, not big money” in response to the announcement. Perez quickly sought to throw a blanket on the outrage, naming Ellison his deputy chairman and cutting through the worst of the anger.
Ellison also implored his supporters to accept the outcome. “We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided,” he said. Later, he told reporters that he wanted his backers to put their energy behind Perez. “If they trust me, they need to come on and trust Tom Perez as well,” he said. “The very fate of our nation, I believe, is in the balance right now.”
President Trump had a cheeky response to the election, weighing in on Twitter. “Congratulations to Thomas Perez, who has just been named Chairman of the DNC,” he wrote. “I could not be happier for him, or for the Republican Party!”
Maybe Trump is just trying to sow the seeds of discontent within the Democratic Party; maybe he really does think the DNC made a mistake in choosing Perez over Ellison. If it’s the former, we have to marvel once again at Trump’s unbelievable gamesmanship. If it’s the latter, we have to reluctantly disagree. While Perez is firmly “establishment” in his associations and his ideology, the Democrats would have seriously regretted going with Ellison. The hard left has the energy and the visibility, but they do not have the votes. Combine that with Ellison’s history of anti-Semitic remarks and his dubious ties to organizations like the Nation of Islam, and his election would have been a disaster for the party.
But that disaster may be coming anyway, since Perez believes that the Democrats have no mandate to moderate. This country may not be as “hard right” as Trump’s agenda would indicate, but we’re much closer to that end of the spectrum than we are to the insanity of the “hard left,” which Democrats seem unable to understand. If voters have to choose between two extremes, we firmly believe they’ll opt for the one offered by Republicans.