Tom Perez was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee today. I’m bitterly upset and optimistic about the outcome.
It’s clear that the voting members of the DNC still feel that the influence of corporate money within the party is ok. They voted today to lift Obama’s ban on such donations. They also voted to elect Tom Perez, a man whose candidacy was totally redundant, who refused to renounce the TPP, Israeli home demolitions in the West Bank, lobbyist contributions to the DNC and was a weak prosecutor of big banks during his time at the DNC.
Even more upsetting is that a smear campaign, orchestrated rather publicly by some very questionable characters went unchallenged by Tom Perez, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and other top Dems, the same people who cried for “unity” at every turn. At a time when people on the left are rightfully pushing back on Trump’s anti-Muslim smear tactics, to not do so when it is a member of your own party is totally disgusting, hypocritical and inexcusable.
Now the positive, because as upset as I am, I still believe there is some positive to this outcome.
While I have issues with some of Perez’s political viewpoints, I don’t doubt his ability to run a large organization well. It’s clear he is able to enact positive reforms, as exemplified with his stellar rule making at the Department of Labor. Despite his hypocrisy on the TPP, it would be absurd for me to deny that he was also an advocate for working people and an agent for positive change while at DOL.
At the outset of the Perez era, it appears that the DNC will be returning to the very successful 50-state strategy model. Under Howard Dean’s tenure at the DNC, this model was responsible for big gains in Congress and the Senate. It helped Obama get some of his signature accomplishments through Congress in the first two years of his administration.
And though it feels more like a moral victory than an actual one, progressives will be getting a seat at the table. Shaun King (who I admire quite a bit) pointed out that Bernie won 20 states in 2016 and Keith received just about half of the votes of DNC members. It is clear at this point that progressives and their causes are not only a part of the coalition, they are critical to accomplishing party goals and their agenda will have to be taken seriously. Indeed, immediately after winning, the first thing Perez did was give Keith Ellison the number two position within the organization: Deputy Chair of the DNC.
Progress is hard. Progress is tiring. Progress is frustrating and losing really sucks. But when progress happens, it is incredibly fulfilling. I’m going to keep my head up and keep knocking, phone calling and advocating for progress. And I hope that today’s outcome will not deter my fellow progressives from continuing to march.