ECLECTIC RANT: Congressman Keith Ellison the frontrunner for chairman of the Democratic National Committee

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday December 10, 2016 - 01:16:00 PM

It is time for the Democratic Party to undergo a fundamental reassessment. The Democrats will shortly choose a new Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman. Hopefully, the DNC will choose wisely as the Democratic Party needs to be re-imagined as less of an insider’s club focused on raising money, more of an advocate for the working-class, and not rest on the current status quo. With a new, reinvigorated DNC and a new presidential nominee, the Democrats can take back the White House in four years. 

The DNC was created during the Democratic National Convention of 1848. For 167 years, it’s been responsible for governing the Democratic Party and is the oldest continuing party committee in the U.S. The DNC plans the Party’s presidential nominating convention, promotes the Democratic Platform, and develops the statement of core principles at the heart of the party. 

Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison seems to be the frontrunner for DNC chairman. Ellison is the co-chair along with Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07) of the Progressive Caucus, the first Muslim elected to Congress, and the first African American to have been elected to the U.S. House from Minnesota. He has already been endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, and so far a dozen more members of Congress, including Rep. Elijah Cummings, Rep. Maxine Waters, Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Sen.-elect Tammy Duckworth. He also has support from the United Steelworkers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. 

Before being elected to Congress Rep. Ellison was a noted community activist and ran a thriving civil rights, employment, and criminal defense law practice in Minneapolis. He also was elected to serve two terms in the Minnesota State House of Representatives. 

Ellison diagnosed the party’s recent electoral troubles: “You’ve got to have a vision to strengthen the grass-roots,” Ellison said. “Make the voters first, not the donors first. I love the donors and we thank them, but it has to be that the guys in the barbershop, the lady at the diner, the folks who are worried about their plant is going to close ― they’ve got to be our focus.” 

Already, two of Ellison’s opponents for the top DNC job — former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison — have made the point that congressional responsibilities would dramatically undercut the ability of the next chairman to do the job effectively. I agree that the DNC job should be full-time. Ellison has not said whether he would step down from Congress if he got the chairmanship.  

Clearly, Ellison, Howard Dean, or Jaime Harrison would be a better than Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who had a troubled tenure as DNC chief. 

I favor Ellison for the DNC job mostly because Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have endorsed him and the DNC’s need to have a new face leading the party full-time.