Will Tom Perez bring the real change the Democratic Party needs?
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Though many Democrats are obsessed over whether the Russians helped turn the 2016 election, the truth is Vladimir Putin is a welcome misdirection for a failed liberal-progressive edifice complex that wants to hold on to power. That’s what the election for the chair of the Democratic National Committee was partly a fight over.

The opposition to Tom Perez’s candidacy was not really about the candidate himself; he was, as I reminded many people, a good Labor secretary and progressive on many issues. But, his candidacy was created, and backed, by a circle of people and organizations — inside the Democratic Party itself, non-profit organizations, consultants of various stripes and individual self-promoters — who work mightily to maintain an iron grip on power and prestige, even as they fail to have any footprint in the struggle that has unfolded, from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter.

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This establishment, which often is housed in well-appointed edifices, is run by handsomely paid operatives and professional non-profit leaders who often earn significant six-figure salaries and benefits that put them firmly in the one percent. They hold on to these positions for years. They are very, very comfortable.

 

Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight MORE exposed this truth, when he said during his 2016 campaign, “I would love to have the endorsement of every progressive organization…I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights Fund and Planned Parenthood. But you know what? Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Overnight Tech: Equifax hit by earlier undisclosed hack | Facebook takes heat over Russian ads | Alt-right Twitter rival may lose domain MORE has been around for a very, very long time. Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment.”

It was patently obvious that Sanders wasn’t criticizing the basic mission or work of the organizations. His point was something else entirely: establishment leaders of progressive organizations sided with the establishment’s chosen candidate, arguably, not for the good of the millions of people who were quite clearly saying they had had enough with the status quo and an economic system that had been taken over by the powerful and the rich.

The vast majority of the people in such circles are not evil. I’d take them any day over the ugly Republican/right wing brew of clowns, racists, white supremacists and climate change deniers. The missions of the progressive-liberal organizations are lofty and good.

But, if serious accountability mattered, most of these folks would be fired or, at least have the decency to resign having failed miserably. The statistics are bracing: while this group has controlled money, messaging and policy over the last decade, Democrats have lost 910 state legislative seats just during Barack Obama’s presidency. After the 2016 election, Republicans hold power in 67 of the 98 state chambers, and, for the first time in history, control every state house in the South.

Republicans also upped their control of governors mansions to 33 by winning races in Missouri, Vermont and New Hampshire. Finally, notwithstanding tiny gains in November 2016 by Democrats in Congressional races, Republicans still hold a near-record margin in the House (because of the 2010 shellacking in which Republicans gained 63 seats) and will likely increase their slim Senate majority in 2018 when the electoral map appears quite hostile to Democrats.

Putin had nothing to do with this decade-long failure.

Indeed, the recent DNC meeting stood out more for its startling lack of any deep introspection about the party’s failure beyond empty slogans of needing to “unify” and to “connect with the American people.” Astonishingly, a majority of delegates refused to re-impose a ban on corporate contributions, clearly choosing big money donors over the rising people's chorus who detest a corrupt electoral system. The Democratic Party’s Titanic message seems to be: what iceberg? Full speed ahead.

How do you know who they are? Check out what organizations are inundating people with fundraising emails. Watch the David Brocks of the world and the Super PACs like Priorities USA — all of which have participated in the meltdown — shaking down big donors for millions more. Or look at the organizational funders and the boards of directors.

The Center for American Progress is a good example: Tom Daschle, the former Senator from South Dakota was a mainstream liberal during his tenure, but after his re-election defeat in 2004, he became a lobbyist for, among others, the corrupt health insurance industry that is bankrupting Americans and the economy.

Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state, who, putting aside her hawkish penchant for war, quickly hung out a shingle for a hedge fund, Albright Capital Management, to cash in on her connections even though she had absolutely no experience in capital markets. And, there’s Donald Sussman, a hedge-fund billionaire Democratic Party funder; and Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire.

These are not the leaders of a resistance to a bankrupt system. They are, in fact, beneficiaries of that system.

Already, many activists have turned their backs on the DNC, choosing to pour energy into resistance and organizing in local communities. The new Perez administration has very little time to show the party will truly change, particularly when it comes to directing money, hiring people, leading a serious effort to reform voting laws and, most importantly, being a real voice against corporate power. If it does not, it will simply wither away.

Jonathan Tasini was a national surrogate for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. He is an economic and organizational strategist and host of the Working Life podcast. Follow him on Twitter @jonathantasini


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