Today, 435 of the Democratic National Committee’s 447 members voted to select their Chairman. With a majority of 235 out of 435 votes, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez edged out Representative Keith Ellison and secured his place as the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
As Chairman, Perez has the ability to help dictate and shape a national strategy to retake over a thousand lost seats in a bunch of state legislatures, governor’s mansions, and Congress (oh, and the White House). Perez also has the responsibility to help unite the Democratic Party after months of tense ideological conflict between its “establishment” and “progressive” wings, in part because he himself is a progressive Democrat who became the race’s establishment candidate by default.
His first act out of the gate was to nominate Representative Keith Ellison as the DNC’s Deputy Chair, serving directly under Perez. I was initially a little worried that the two friends would be unable to help bridge the DNC’s ideological differences, but it appears my worries are unfounded. Of course, the party is going to have a tough time balancing hardcore progressive activists against more moderate/centrist incumbents, but with their message of unity, I suspect that there’ll be less focus on primarying candidates of an insufficient level of ideological purity, and more focus on taking down Republican candidates in general elections (yay).
Both Perez and Ellison have an immense amount of organizing ability, and the two will make a formidable team in conducting the new Democratic agenda. Among his many stated goals, Perez wants the party’s organizers to focus on the following (paraphrasing here):
- Regain seats in every office, from state legislatures to Senate seats to school board seats.
- Pick up seats in traditionally red states and preserve existing ones, like Jon Tester’s Senate seat in Montana and Claire McCaskill’s in Missouri.
- Bring back rural and suburban areas (see: states like Iowa) to the Democratic Party.
- Ensure that Donald Trump is a one-term President.
Because Perez’s role as DNC Chairman and Ellison’s role as Deputy are both based around fundraising and organization, they don’t have a whole lot of power in actually setting policy. Both men want a $15 minimum wage in every state, along with a more effective social safety net and civil liberties for everyone, but they can only effect that change through indirect means (see also: $$$$$). In order to attain the Democratic Party’s favored policy measures, Chairman Perez needs to start raising metric buttloads of cash and funneling them into vulnerable swing districts and Senate campaigns. “Money out of politics” is a catchy chant, but ultimately the donations of a gajillion committed Party members (+ support from business, let’s be real here) will decide the victors of state, local, and federal elections. Previous chairmen like Howard Dean came up with organizational strategies like the “50-state strategy” with the intent of allowing Democrats to become competitive in every possible state, maintaining majorities in stronghold states and sizable oppositions in red states. If we repeat that strategy, the Democratic Party will need to pull in tens of millions of dollars each month just to keep pace with the Republican Party’s deep coffers.
With Chairman Tom Perez at the helm (and Deputy Keith Ellison at his side) I have little doubt in my mind that the DNC’s fundraising goals can be met and surpassed. There’s a crapton of energy in this nation at their disposal, and if anyone can harness it, it’s going to be a progressive* Labor Secretary and an even-more-progressive Congressman with the credentials, energy, and ideals to take back the United States government. The two have connections to a bunch of labor unions, grassroots organizations, and previous connected party leaders.
(*Side note: Chairman Perez isn’t quite as liberal as Ellison, but they’re pretty close. The attribution of Perez as an establishment figure comes from supporters like me who are more moderate, and are therefore slightly more inclined to follow Perez’s brand of progressive ideology than Ellison’s. For instance, Perez supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Ellison does not.)
If there is a road leading to the successful reconquest of the political majority, I suspect these two leaders have just taken the first step down that road.
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