Progressive National Committee
In Atlanta, on Saturday, March 25, 2017, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) effectively became the Progressive National Committee (PNC).
The political transition was never in doubt. The top two candidates for the new chair of the DNC, Cong. Keith Ellison, and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, are “cut from the same progressive cloth,” according to a Hillary Clinton aide.
Ellison has been co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus since 2011 and Perez was “the most liberal [read progressive] member of Obama’s cabinet.”
Ellison and Perez offered similar views on how they wanted to “reshape” the DNC. Ellison said, if elected, “the main thing we have to do is organize the grassroots. Organize, organize, organize.” Perez pledged “to build the strongest grassroots organizing force this country has ever seen.”
Ellison was the early front runner after receiving endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Cong. John Lewis, Sen. Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Perez entered the race on December 15 at the urging of Barack Obama and soon thereafter won the support of Vice President Biden and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
Perez was the victor on the second ballot during the three-day winter meeting of the DNC. Perez’s first action was to nominate Ellison as deputy chair, which was unanimously approved.
Progressives believe they can be more successful in winning elections by moving the Democratic Party further to the left. Progressives also are relieved the DNC will no longer be biased against progressive candidates.
In the 2016 election, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz secretly directed the committee’s resources to favor Hillary Clinton’s campaign, to the disadvantage of progressive Bernie Sanders. Schultz is a member of the Congressional New Democratic Coalition, a more moderate wing of the Democratic Party, and is viewed as the “Democratic Establishment.”
Progressives argued the Democratic Establishment had its chance and now it’s time for progressives to lead the party.
Ellison vs. Obama
The battle for the chair of the DNC was in reality a contest on who would control the progressive movement in America – Keith Ellison or Barack Obama.
Obama does not plan to quietly fade into the sunset. Near the end of his term, Obama said, “You’re going to see me early next year and we’re going to be in a position where we can start cooking up all kinds of great stuff.” Obama cut his teeth on community organizing and wants to protect the gains he made while president and continue to expand the power and infrastructure of the progressive movement.
It would be viewed as highly improper for Obama to openly challenge the policies of the Trump Administration. So he convinced Tom Perez to challenge Keith Ellison as chair of the DNC. Perez would be the front man and Obama would would work behind the scenes. Obama and his top aides, Valerie Jarrett, David Simas, and Paulette Aniskoff, lobbied voting members of the DNC to support Perez. An aide said “If Obama was the only one who could make a difference [in a vote] then he’d be the one to call.”
Obama prevailed and now controls the DNC vis-a-vis Tom Perez. Together, they’ll be organizing campaigns to elect progressives/Democrats in the midterm elections, applying many of the same strategies he used in his elections.