Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Briahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service MORE (I-Vt.) took a shot at former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal 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.
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.