Even though it is proceeding mostly out of view, the race for the chairman of the Democratic National Committee is important and it says something about the transformation of the Democratic Party. The phenomenon of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 campaign made it clear that the Democratic Party has fully abandoned the Clinton era. Hillary Clinton was the last gasp of an era and not the beginning of anything. Traditional Democratic policies and the cerebral, leftist character of the Obama administration have left the Democrats unfulfilled. Now, it looks as though there is an appetite for angry, full-bore liberalism that is essentially anti-capitalist.
One of the favorite candidates to become the next DNC chairman, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), is so far to the left that he is actually having to try to clean up some of his radical past statements and actions. It’s a bad sign that he is trying to appear more moderate by relying on feature stories in publications like Mother Jones to tidy up his record. But the highlights of Ellison’s career can’t be easily disguised. He was associated with radical leader of the Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan, previously defended the anti-Semitic views of Farrakhan and has fully embraced the Black Lives Matter movement.
Meanwhile, former labor secretary Tom Perez is Ellison’s most high-profile challenger. If Ellison is the Bernie Sanders-type figure in the DNC race, then Perez would be the more establishment figure, who wants his campaign to be anchored by support from the government unions. Perez is perfectly suited to nurture the politics of grievance and subgroup identities the Democrats are obsessed with. Government unions believe it is their time to run the Democratic party and actually take over the government. If Perez wins, the government unions will finally have someone in place who believes the government exists to serve the interests of the government unions, not the other way around. Incredibly, despite Perez’s hyper-focus on unions, the trade unions that supported the Democratic Party for decades have been abandoned by today’s Democratic leaders. And oh, by the way, very shortly after being inaugurated, President Trump held a meeting with union leaders at the White House, and for some of them, it was their first meeting with the president of the United States since before President Obama was sworn into office.
There are other, less well-known candidates in the DNC race who are trying to gain traction by going as far to the left as possible. Some of the more revealing quotes from these candidates include a statement by the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Committee, Sally Boynton Brown, during a DNC candidate forum discussion, when she said she sees her job “to shut other white people down when they want to interrupt. … I can go school the other white people. We need it.” It’s ridiculous.
All that said, this could be the low point for the Democratic Party. In politics, what is supposed to happen tends to happen, and the party out of power is supposed to make something of a comeback in the midterm elections. But equally, in politics, bad gets worse. The map for the senate races in 2018 favors the Republicans, with only nine Republican seats in play. Twenty-five Democratic senators face reelection in 2018, many of them from states that Trump easily carried in 2016. There is little chance the Democrats will take the House, and Republican governors and Republican state legislators do not appear to face any outsize risk, either. Plus, if the Democrats continue on their current trajectory and move further to the left, they might find themselves appealing to only a marginal audience of pampered government workers, the Black Lives Matter crowd and their sympathizers and university elites.