Monday, 27 February 2017

Inflection Point

On Saturday, February 25th, the Democratic National Committee elected Tom Perez, an establishment favorite who served as labor secretary under the Obama administration, as the party chairman. Perez is, of course, the successor to former Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who was mired in accusations of corruption, favoritism towards Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, accepting corporate donations, and a tolerance for the flow of big money in campaign finance [1].

Perez closely defeated the runner-up, Congressman Keith Ellison––Perez came up a single vote short of a minority on the first ballot, and then won 235 of 435 possible votes on a second. Ellison was widely seen as the progressive alternative to Perez's establishment credits, as he was backed by Bernie Sanders and New York's Bill de Blasio, while the latter drew support from former Vice President Joe Biden and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett [2].

This blog will discuss in future posts the differences between Ellison and Perez, as well as Perez's failed run and the campaign launched against him. For now, however, we turn to examine the words of former presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has called aggressively on the Democratic party to accommodate progressive voices, regain the working-class vote, fight big business, and mobilize grassroots support and resistance to President Donald Trump's policies.

Sanders called for a "total transformation" of the Party, adding:

"We need to open up the party to working people, to young people and make it crystal clear that the Democratic Party is going to take on Wall Street, it's going to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, it's going to take on corporate America that is shutting down plants in this country and moving our jobs abroad."

Sanders words must here be heeded. In order for the Democrats to maintain relevance and avoid fading being locked out of political power for the foreseeable future, they must return to their roots, re-discover the working class, adopt a more progressive tenor, reach out to the youth, and renounce the Faustian deal it has struck with corporations and big donors.

The election of Perez over Ellison is not an encouraging sign that the Democratic Party has really committed itself to some much-needed soul-searching and is willing to undertake serious, structural, fundamental reforms in order to be competitive on the national level. One sign for cautious optimism is Perez's immediate appointment of Ellison as Deputy Chair, a newly-invented position which may prove to be little more than symbolic [3]. Either way, this is an inflection point in the history of the Democratic Party; it will be interesting to see whether the Party is willing and able to exorcise itself of its demons, or whether it will continue its spiral downwards into the political wilderness.