Sanders reaffirms support for Ellison after Biden backs rival

Sanders reaffirms support for Ellison after Biden backs rival
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' 4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet Progressives lost the battle for the Democratic Party's soul MORE (I-Vt.) took a shot at former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Abrams: Trump 'doing his best to undermine our confidence' in voting system MORE on Wednesday, as two of the party’s biggest names backed different candidates in the race to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Sanders said in a statement that in terms of the next DNC chair "the question is simple: Do we stay with a failed status-quo approach or do we go forward with a fundamental restructuring of the Democratic Party?”

The public split between Sanders and Biden highlights a rift between the progressive and more mainstream wings of the party. Democrats have sought to squash the notion that the DNC chairmanship race is a proxy war between the two wings, fearing a replay of the bitter 2016 presidential primary.

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But the internal divisions were in the spotlight once again on Wednesday after Biden announced that he would back former Labor Secretary Tom Perez to be the next DNC chair.

The endorsement brought to light what many Democrats have long suspected: that top Obama administration officials prefer Perez, an Obama administration alum, over Ellison, a progressive and early supporter of Sanders’s 2016 presidential bid.

"We have a lot of good people vying for this important job,” Biden said in a statement. “But I do think for this moment and in this time, Tom Perez is our best bet to help bring the party back. I’ve watched him work. I think I know his heart.”

Ellison responded by praising Biden for showing “loyalty to people he has worked with” but saying that the decision “must be the choice of the rank-and-file Democratic Party members.”

Sanders, who endorsed Ellison for chair early on and has campaigned for him, went further in criticizing the party's "failed status-quo approach."

“I say we go forward and create a grassroots party which speaks for working people and is prepared to stand up to the top 1 percent. That’s why we have to support Keith Ellison," Sanders said.