Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez has been elected the new head of the Democratic National Committee, narrowly beating out Rep. Keith Ellison from Minnesota. The final vote count was 235 for Perez and 200 for Ellison.
“Someday they’re going to study this era of American history,” Perez said following his victory. “They’re going to ask the question of all of us: Where were you in 2017, when we had the worst president in the history of the United States? We will be able to say that the Democratic Party led the resistance, and made sure this was a one-term president.”
Ellison’s defeat was met with bitter disappointment from his supporters, nine of whom shouted “power of the people, not big money,” before storming from the meeting room, the Washington Post reports.
Perez now has the unenviable task of attempting to rebuild the Democratic Party, which has been reduced to ashes following its catastrophic bungling of the election. He also has to convince Ellison’s supporters that he will be the progressive savior the party is hurting for, and not the milquetoast establishmentarian they’re rightfully concerned he’ll be.
Earlier this month, Bernie Sanders released a statement backing Ellison, saying that “the question is simple: Do we stay with a failed status-quo approach or do we go forward with a fundamental restructuring of the Democratic Party?”
Ellison’s defeat deals a symbolic blow to the idyll that it perhaps took electing a syphilitic banana slug to the nation’s highest office to finally debride the Democratic Party of its internal rot. Put slightly differently, Nina Turner, a Sanders surrogate, told the Post’s Dave Weigel that if Ellison loses, “the future of the Democratic Party will walk away.”
In better times, such a statement might have felt hyperbolic, since Ellison and Perez have similar politics. From the Post:
Perez’s victory did not represent a Democratic shift to right. On key issues, Perez’s platform mostly resembled Ellison’s. Perez promised to refocus on small donors and online fundraising; Ellison set a goal for “low-dollar contributions from everyday Americans [to] account for 33 percent of revenue.” Ellison called for an “Innovation Hub” in Silicon Valley; Perez promoted DNC fellowships to “encourage developers, programmers, data scientists, [and] engineers.”
That’s fine and well, but Ellison’s loss still cuts deep. If there was one minuscule shard of silver lining to take from Trump’s presidency, it was that perhaps this was the particular apocalypse the Democrats needed to reinvigorate its stultified base, one so underwhelmed by Hillary Clinton it largely couldn’t be bothered to vote. Unfortunately, this fact doesn’t seem lost on…anyone.
It’s still worth noting that Ellison’s views are more liberal than those of Perez—FiveThirtyEight’s ideological ratings determined that he’s more liberal than 90 percent of House Democrats, earning him a ranking of -57 (-100 being the most liberal.) Perez, though, weighs in at -45. It’s hard not to take Perez’s victory as a message that Democrats have no intention of initiating a systemic overhaul, however desperately it’s needed.
Perez wasted no time appointing Ellison as deputy DNC chair, a role that’s largely ceremonial. During his concession speech, Ellison asked his supporters to “give everything you’ve got to support Chairman Perez.”
“We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided,” he said. “We don’t have that luxury, and I just want to say to you that it’s my mind to support this party under Chairman Perez.”