On Feb. 25, the Democratic National Committee moved to elect former Labor Secretary Thomas Perez as the new chairman of the DNC. Perez triumphed over Congressman Keith Ellison of the Minnesota Fifth congressional district. Congressman Ellison was the favorite of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but eventually fell in the second round of voting, at 235-200 committee votes. Immediately after the election, Perez moved to appoint Ellison as deputy DNC Chairman, a gesture that was well received by party members.
The election, which took place in Atlanta, garnered a high degree of attention. The successor of Deborah Wasserman Schultz, the previous deputy chair, will be tasked with guiding the Democratic Party into an era of success, as the past decade has been marred by losing control of congress, being uprooted from dozens of governorships, and losing control of hundreds of state legislatures. The most significant defeat occurred in the past national election with Hillary Clinton’s defeat by Donald Trump.
On the surface, the contest between Ellison and Perez mirrored the primary battle waged among Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Perez won the support of senior members of the Obama administration, like Joe Biden, while Ellison was backed by the likes of Senator Elizabeth Warren. After the loss of the 2016 presidential election an undeniable lack of leadership became apparent in the Democratic Party. Those who supported Sanders in the primary saw the brutal failure of Clinton in the general election as a strong reason to oppose Perez’s bid for chairman – as a former member of the Obama administration, he represents the centrists of the party. Although policy differences between Ellison and Perez can be observed, such as when Perez supported the Trans Pacific Partnership while Ellison staunchly opposed it, the responsibilities of the chairman of the DNC are not in the sphere of public policy. With the party, when officially out of the White House, the Chairman becomes the face of the party on television and becomes responsible for recruiting candidates capable of winning elections at all levels of government. Given the massive grassroots response to moves made by the Trump administration it will now be imperative that the new Chairman demonstrates the capacity to turn the outcry of ordinary citizens into victories in the 2018 mid-term elections and the 2020 presidential election.
According to an estimate by FiveThirtyEight, both Thomas Perez and Keith Ellison are more progressive than the average house Democrat. In sharing their vision for the party’s future Perez chalked up the Party’s current state of affairs to a “crisis of confidence” in one of his election speeches, vowing to change the culture of the Democratic Party. Ellison shared a similar outlook in a nomination piece in which he stated that the plight of the Party was due to, “not just one election, but 1,000 elections.” The newly elected Chairman wasted no time in solidifying his desire to work towards keeping the Trump administration in check, tweeting a response to the President saying that he, Ellison, and Democrats across the country would be the President Trump’s “worst nightmare.”