Keith Ellison for DNC Chair

Rep-Keith-Ellison-photoIsn’t it ironic/funny/weird that the primary argument against having Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison lead the Democratic National Committee is because he holds elective office? Meaning, party people want someone less accountable to the people to lead the party.

I can’t. I just can’t. It’s like last year’s primary never happened with some folks.

In any event, THIS party guy (thumbs pointed to me) is completely pro-Ellison. As an elected representative, he’s held accountable by his district for his legislative efforts and he has a better handle on the pulse of his membership. But more, has it been so long since the chairpersonships of the likes of Chris Dodd, Roy Romer, Tim Kaine and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, all of whom held elective office for all or some of their tenures leading the DNC?

To me, it’s a non-argument to say that Ellison can’t do both (let’s not forget staff) and I think it’s safe to think that the resistance were seeing, however mild, is leftover from Ellison’s backing of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. I should note that I was a vocal Clinton supporter but was nevertheless troubled with aspects of the party’s role in the primary.

Ellison is a civil rights, employment, and criminal defense attorney who worked aggressively in Minnesota’s 5th district to stem the damage caused by the foreclosure crisis, which was the setting for my first experience with him. In 2011, when I was editor at Shelterforce magazine, a housing and community development publication of the National Housing Institute, I co-intereviewed Ellison. He had emerged as a leading voice on the effect foreclosures and predatory lending were having on low-income and middle-class communities. In his Hennepin County alone, foreclosures had spiked by 32 percent in 2008.

And this wasn’t just hurting homeowners, of course, but also landlords who could no longer pay their mortgages. As a result, Ellison advanced the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009, which would allow tenants at least 90 days’ notice before eviction. Crazy that those protections didn’t exist before, since we don’t think of a home as “at will.”

Since then, Ellison has proved himself more than adept at understanding the root causes of the economic challenges facing most Americans, and his public work and personal career have given him valuable expertise in identifying and working toward solutions related to our country’s racial ills.

On a conference call two weeks ago, Ellison characterized the post-Obama era a “movement moment” for progressives. Having a Democratic Party that better reflects the people it claims to serve is a cornerstone of that movement, and Ellison is the guy to lead the political piece of that movement.


Comments (2)

  1. vmars

    Myself, I think you were off saying “party people” are the ones making the time argument. I also think that the DNC chair’s focus shouldn’t be split, and we’ve seen the results with DWS (though her general incompetence was also a factor) and other chairs in the past.

    I’ve said it before, but I think a better spot for Ellison would be DCCC leader so that he can work with current House members to drive action in support of our House candidates in two years, and recruit the best progressive candidates out there for 2018 and 2020.

    The DNC is less powerful than most folks think when it comes to policy or candidate selection. It’s largely a money raiser and data support system. The DSCC picks its candidates and the DCCC picks theirs.

    I want an organizer who can build political structure that will support 2020 POTUS candidates as opposed to an ideological leader for DNC Chair.

    If we can get both, all the better.

  2. Matthew Brian Hersh (Post author)

    Thank you, vmars! I don’t pretend to be right here. I just happen to be very familiar with Ellison’s legislative portfolio and his work in his district. There are real legislative reasons why I think he stands above the rest and because he helped guide the platform process in 2016, I think he’s perfect for the task of promoting and articulating the Democratic platform in this new era.

    I’ll be honest, I’m probably playing down or even discounting the “time commitment” factor in my support for Ellison. My support stems more from his legislative achievements, his understanding the policy root causes of social and economic inequity (which is where the party needs to be) and the fact that because he was an early Sanders supporter, the party needs Ellison to keep together the big tent while advancing a new Democratic populism based on the policy goals identified in the primary.


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