Now the minority party in all spheres of Washington, the Democrats are still stinging from last November’s presidential election. Instead of getting the slam-dunk victory predicted by every pundit, the Democratic Party suffered a horrific upset to an odious political novice. Adding insult to injury, Democrats also lost additional seats in both the House and Senate. Net losses even occurred at the state level, with more state governments turning from blue to red. Tankers of ink will be spilled by authors trying to explain this rapid cultural shift, but the Democratic Party doesn’t have time for exhaustive analysis.
Liberals need to get their mojo back, and fast.
Step one is to re-establish Party leadership. Shortly after former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination in an unexpectedly close primary, it was revealed that the Democratic National Committee had broken its oath to remain neutral in the contest. Leaked emails revealed that DNC leadership had overtly favored Clinton over U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), prompting the resignation of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
The DNC’s unethical favoritism of Hillary Clinton undoubtedly cast a pall over the former U.S. Senator’s (D-NY) general campaign by tainting the entire Democratic Party. Step one of the Party’s recovery is to find a new DNC chair who does not reek of corruption, as does current interim chairwoman Donna Brazile. Since Election Day, various factions of Democrats have been jockeying to promote their champion for the chair.
Supporters of populist Senator Bernie Sanders have largely rallied behind U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who was one of only six Democrats in the House to endorse the liberal Vermonter for president, as DNC chair. Supporters of the Washington establishment have coalesced behind former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, an Obama appointee who is considered one of the former president’s most liberal cabinet members. The silver-lined cloud in this entire brouhaha is that the entire Democratic Party seems to be moving leftward, ending decades of drift toward the center/right.
But the race for DNC chair could grow more complicated with the endorsement of Pete Buttigieg by former DNC chair (and 2004 presidential candidate) Howard Dean. Dean, the former governor of Vermont who controversially evolved from staunch liberal to devout moderate between 2004 and 2016, was a vocal proponent of the Washington establishment during the recent presidential primaries, backing Hillary Clinton instead of fellow Vermonter Bernie Sanders. It would seem that Dean would be backing Perez for DNC chair, but he is instead arguing that Democrats find a leader from “outside the Beltway.”
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is argued by Dean to be the “young blood” that the Democratic Party needs. At age 36, the Indiana mayor is certainly a fresh face, and his resume is an intriguing mix of Ivy League of armed services. He has been touted as a compromise candidate who would be acceptable to virtually all voting Democrats.
But…is Dean’s support for Buttigieg the result genuine of admiration, or is it an attempt to scuttle Keith Ellison? Instead of eschewing Bernie-backer Ellison for Clinton-backer Perez, which may be considered too overt a dig at fellow Vermonter Bernie Sanders, Dean may be trying to jab at the Sanders wing of the party by taking a roundabout route.
By promoting a relative novice of a candidate, Dean may be hoping to ensure Perez’ victory in the DNC chairman race by drawing some votes away from Ellison. Democrats should resist the call to vote for Buttigieg: Despite the mayor’s appealing resume and outsider status, there is little guarantee that the young man could stand up for progressive values the way Ellison will. The kid’s got his mind in the right place now, but can he stand strong against the temptations of selling out?
Howard Dean sold out big time. Can we really trust that such a sellout is genuinely trying to promote a devout progressive who will remain devoutly progressive? Something smells fishy.
It seems unlikely that, following Clinton’s upset loss, Dean is honestly trying to return to his populist roots. He may simply be trying to help install a DNC chair, either Perez or Buttigieg himself, who will give Dean another chance at the limelight. Though it might seem outlandish, there is the remote possibility that Howard Dean dreams of a 2020 presidential candidacy. He would be 71 on Election Day, which is younger than Sanders and Joe Biden were in 2016.
Though it may be forgotten, Dean himself indicated in 2013 that he was considering a 2016 presidential candidacy, though he quickly deferred to Hillary Clinton many months prior to the announcement of her candidacy in the spring of 2015. Could Dean’s tortured political evolution in recent years be intended to land himself a cabinet post or, in a long shot, another bid for the Democratic presidential nomination?
Don’t fall for it, Dems. Stick with Keith Ellison, who was one of the few liberals in Congress who had the courage and foresight to back Bernie Sanders. Sanders would have won the 2016 presidential election, guaranteed. Amazingly, despite Sanders’ clobbering of Donald Trump in all pre-election polls, the Democratic Party establishment continues to avoid recognizing the important ideas and leadership of the progressive Vermonter. When the topic of 2020 comes up, there seems to be an almost blatant attempt by the mainstream media to avoid mentioning Sanders as a credible option.
Defiant in the aftermath of defeat, the Democratic Party establishment, including its allies in the mainstream media, seems hell-bent on preventing Sanders’ progressivism from taking root. To avoid another catastrophe in 2020, the Democratic Party needs to admit that Bernie was right and that the party platform needs to include Sanders’ key campaign pillars of universal health care, tuition-free public higher education for qualified students, and strong fiscal policy based on infrastructure development and social welfare. Keith Ellison will accomplish that and guarantee major victories in Rust Belt states and swing states.
Tom Perez and Pete Buttigieg? Not so much.