The Democratic National Committee chair election will occur this week, between February 23rd and 26th. The two top frontrunners are Keith Ellison, Representative from Minnesota, and Tom Perez, former Secretary of Labor under President Obama.
For months now, progressive Democrats and those who believe that the party needs a new direction have overwhelmingly thrown their support behind Keith Ellison. They have worked to send a message to their local, state, and national Democratic Party personnel urging them to support Rep. Keith Ellison, a grassroots candidate who believes in a 50-state strategy, small individual campaign contributions, and a "knock every door" outreach agenda.
Regardless of what you identify as a single cause for Donald Trump's election victory, whether it's Russian interference or third-party voting, you would probably hit a dead end when considering how a man like Donald Trump could get anywhere near the White House. Where did his message work and why? How could the Democratic Party have missed these voters? It's safe to say that the Republican Party will have to do some of their own rebuilding, but this specific week will be about transforming the Democratic Party.
This is not simply about President Trump. The situation for Democrats is much worse. Under President Obama and the leadership of former chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Democrats have lost over 1,000 seats all over this country in the House, Senate, and state legislatures. We have solid blue states with Republican governors, like my own state of New Jersey.
As a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison believes in a new direction for the party, as do many of the 12 million former Bernie Sanders voters and Democrats who believe in a new direction as well. Then there are those voters who voted for Barack Obama twice in 2008 and 2012, yet made a dramatic switch in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump. Where did the party go wrong?
If the Democratic Party is truly the party of the people, it would begin to undo the criticisms it has received over the last 8 years, and keep what works. Yes, the Democratic Party is socially progressive and much of this country is on board with social progress and justice. However, this is clearly not enough. The party has become a party for the elites. It receives massive funds from lobbyists, corporate donors, and a small handful of wealthy individuals. It is not funded by the people and therefore does not work for the people.
Social progress is great, but it is not enough when the American people realize how much they are actually losing in establishment politics and economics. It is not enough when the people see the middle-class disappearing, with an enormous gap between the rich and the poor, and 52% of all new income is going to the top 1%. The people do not believe that a politician can receive large financial contributions from Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry, or the pharmaceutical industry, and then stand up and support ordinary working people. This is simply not what the people believe.
The people believe in being spoken with, not being spoken to. We no longer accept a politician coming through our town and telling us what is best for us. We will not turn out to vote out of fear, but out of hope. This is traditionally how Democrats vote. Republicans are loyal. They will vote red no matter who. Democrats are much more difficult to turn out to the polls. We are not persuaded by voting against another candidate. We want to vote for a candidate. The Democratic Party will need a nationwide strategy to present energetic, honest, and hardworking candidates with a proven track record of supporting the working and middle-class.
The word "nationwide" is important here. I have heard from voters in states like Kansas and Oklahoma who are rightfully upset with the DNC. The DNC virtually ignores their state's Democratic candidates, focusing only on the most likely areas for them to win. It is no wonder that former Democrats and left-leaning Independents, who are in red states, feel ignored and disenfranchised with the party.
The young people of this country are looking for an aggressive, progressive movement to counter President Trump's agenda. Like any average Democrat, younger Democratic voters will vote out of hope. It is already difficult to register and bring young people to the polls, but have we considered why that is the case rather than blaming it on political apathy? No, young people do care about politics. Young people do believe in voting. They will not do so when they are made to feel that their votes and voices do not matter.
Young people will not vote when Democratic candidates do not take a strong stand against a growing level of college debt. Older voters will not vote when Democratic candidates do not take a strong enough stand against the rising cost of prescription medications, health care costs, or protecting social security. Democrats will not vote when both major parties receive funding from the fossil fuel industry, the Koch Brothers, and Wall Street.
Keith Ellison's district in Minnesota has seen an incredible rise in turnout since his election. Keith believes that red states can turn into blue states when the right message is reaching the people, that Democrats can win when they openly and honestly support those people. The key to Democratic wins is a high voter turnout and enthusiasm, giving the people someone to vote for. To do this, the Democratic Party will have to stand up to all of the entities and legislative acts that the people will not accept.
The party must protect voter's rights, radically transform our outreach strategy, mitigate the damages of climate change, protect the rights and well-being of all individuals regardless of age, race, religion, income, or sexual orientation, and protect the middle and working class from being taken advantage of.
It will be a close race, but Keith has already won the support of many Democratic Party members including the more establishment Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Mayor Bill De Blasio. Keith has won the support of many unions, including the AFL-CIO. State party chairs all over this country have endorsed Keith. The list goes on.
Sign onto the Keith for DNC campaign and find out what you can do in the next few days to help transform the Democratic Party.