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Sanders and Schumer are right: Ellison for DNC chair

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I stand with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), in support of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) as the next chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

All of the major candidates for DNC chair are good people with important roles to play in shaping the future of the Democratic Party.

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez is a staunch progressive who would have an excellent choice for vice president in 2016 if then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had decided to put him on the ticket. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, is a fabulous mayor and rising star in the party who is destined for great things at the state and national level.

What makes Ellison exceptional, though, is that among all the candidates for DNC chair, he most strongly believes in a bottom-up approach to political organizing, fundraising, recruitment and campaigning. It is vitally important and revealing that Ellison’s highest priorities for the DNC are voter registration, small-donor fundraising and grassroots political organizing.

{mosads}Ellison, like the other major candidates, believes in uniting the Democratic Party. It is indeed noteworthy that great progressive heroes such as Sanders, Warren and Lewis stand side by side with Schumer, the current Senate Democratic leader, and former Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.), the previous Senate Democratic leader, and many others in supporting Ellison for the DNC post.


Let’s be clear what is at stake, and what is not at stake, in the DNC race.

What is not fundamentally at stake in the DNC race is the party’s commitment to progressive values. Ellison, Perez and Buttigieg are all progressives who differ, at times, on style and emphasis, but not on core principles of progressives.

The fact is that the Democratic platform of 2016 united all wings of the party behind a solid progressive agenda. Individual progressives may differ on individual planks in the platform, but are blood brothers and sisters on the big things that separate Democrats and liberals from President Trump and Republicans in Congress.

While it is often said — largely incorrectly in my view — that the DNC race is a battle between major issues that divide the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party, what is at stake is an important difference in political tactics and strategy that do represent differences between the campaign strategies of the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.

Ellison, who has reached out to all Democrats who supported both candidates for the Democratic nomination, is the pure-play practitioner of the Sanders organizational vision of campaigning — which I strongly agree with.

The political revolution that changes politics is the historic and unprecedented surge of small donors who fueled the Sanders campaign.

The other political revolution waiting to happen, which Ellison stands above all others in promoting, is an enormous voter registration drive that would expand the Democratic electorate at a time when Democratic turnout will surge in 2018 and 2020 in response to the extremism of Trump and congressional Republicans.

The so-called liberal Tea Party that is besieging congressional Republicans during the recess is healthy, profound and vital. If all of these citizens who understand the peril of Trump register to vote, volunteer to campaign and make small donations to the party, the sky is the limit for Democrats.

Ellison gets it; so do Sanders, Warren and Schumer.

What worries me about Perez — although I emphasize that he is a very strong progressive and effective leader — is that he does seem to have been strongly encouraged to run by the old-style establishment wing of the party that relies on an old-politics paradigm of consultant-driven campaign ads that emphasize negative attacks rather than explaining why voters should support Democrats.

I have said this before: The “consultant industrial complex” that has dominated the Democratic Party is one reason the GOP now controls Congress and a majority of governorships and state legislatures after we just had a two-term Democratic president.

A small number of consultants make huge amounts of money when Democrats run. The consultants rely on negative television commercials at the expense of progressive issues, grassroots organizing and small-donor fundraising.

Do not underestimate the degree to which members of this consultant industrial complex are threatened by the Ellison/Sanders/Warren paradigm and their progressive vision for America.

Given that, I was very impressed by the vision shown by Schumer in his support for Ellison alongside Sanders, Warren and other leading progressives.

All of the DNC candidates are good — but for these reasons, Rep. Ellison is the best choice to lead the Democratic Party.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He is a longtime regular columnist for The Hill and can be contacted at

The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Bernie Sanders campaign chair Charles Schumer Democratic National Committee DNC Election Elizabeth Warren Grassroots Harry Reid Hillary Clinton register Voter registration voters
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