Weekend open thread: Is Democratic unity possible?

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez will be the first Latino to chair the Democratic National Committee, having won Saturday’s election on the second ballot by 235 votes to 200 for Representative Keith Ellison. Perez immediately moved to name Ellison deputy leader of the party, and delegates approved that motion by acclamation. Soon after, Ellison urged those who “came here supporting me”

to give everything you’ve got to support Chairman Perez. You love this country, you love all the people in it, you care about each and every one of them, urban, rural, suburban, all cultures, all faiths, everybody, and they are in need of your help. And if we waste even a moment going at it over who supported who, we are not going to be standing up for those people. We don’t have the luxury, folks, to walk out of this room divided.

Perez and Ellison then did a joint media appearance, wearing each other’s supporter buttons. Unfortunately, the Facebook comment thread below that video is dominated by angry progressives threatening to leave the party.

I’ve seen similar arguments playing out in several popular Facebook groups for Iowa Democrats, ever since news broke late Friday that Iowa’s voting members of the DNC would support Perez. Many activists who favored Bernie Sanders in the caucuses, including some members of the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee, are upset by the unified vote for Perez, considering how many Iowa Democrats backed Ellison. Others felt it was poor form that the SCC didn’t get advance warning before Perez announced the Iowa delegation’s support on Twitter. A few claimed that state party chair Derek Eadon and first vice chair Andrea Phillips had led them to believe they would support Ellison for the DNC job.

More broadly, Democrats in Ellison’s camp were upset by what they perceive as party insiders choosing corporate lobbyists over progressives, failing to grasp the need for reform, attaching too much importance to fundraising, or being afraid of a black Muslim representing the party. The comments in this Bleeding Heartland thread reflect views I’ve seen in many other forums. Apparently the rhetoric is even harsher in some of the “secret” Facebook groups frequented by Iowa Democrats on the Sanders wing.

I understand why so many activists preferred Ellison, but I don’t understand the widespread condemnation of Perez, given his record on labor and civil rights issues. People who have followed his work closely think highly of him. After the jump I’ve posted excerpts from Perez’s official bio, along with the statement Sanders released following the DNC vote.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome. Yet again this weekend, legislative forums around the state drew hundreds of attendees. I’m always seeking tips on noteworthy remarks by Iowa House or Senate members at public events. If you have an anecdote to share, or better yet a recording, please post a comment in this thread or contact me privately by e-mail at the address near the lower right of this page.

UPDATE: Ellison sent the following e-mail blast to supporters:

Dear [first name],

The Democratic Party finally has a leader – a leader who has demonstrated time and again that he has what it takes to fight for all Americans. That leader is my good friend, Tom Perez.

I’m immensely proud of everything that our campaign accomplished, of how hard my staff, volunteers, and delegates fought. And now, I ask all those who love our country and believed in our vision to support Tom.

With Trump in the White House, at stake is the very essence of our democracy, and I want us to be able to look back at this moment and tell ourselves that we did the right thing and helped Tom succeed.

We must be united – because we live in times when the judiciary is under attack, when the press is under attack, and hate groups are desecrating Jewish cemeteries and defacing mosques. Two Indian men were even shot down for looking ‘foreign’ in the eyes of the terrorist who shot them.

I look forward to returning to Congress and continuing to represent the 5th Congressional district of Minnesota. And I look forward to helping the Democratic Party in any way that I can. I urge all to do the same. Working people across this country are depending on us.


Excerpts from the “Meet Tom” page on the Perez campaign website:

For the last three years, Tom has served as the 26th U.S. Secretary of Labor, working to reignite the department’s fight to protect and expand opportunities for American workers. Under his leadership, the Labor Department has fought to secure collective bargaining rights, better wages and overtime pay, and the opportunity for middle-class families to retire comfortably and securely.

But Tom’s story doesn’t start at Labor.

The son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Tom grew up in Buffalo where he learned the values of a union town: hard work, integrity, service, and perseverance. Having lost his father when he was 12, Tom understood early in life never to take a day for granted, and that urgency has driven him to spend his life in public service.

After high school, Tom put himself through college earning tuition money on the back of a garbage truck, went to law school, and started his career as a civil rights attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. There, he fought to protect and expand opportunity for all Americans. While prosecuting some of the Department’s most high-profile civil rights cases, Tom saw firsthand the effects of hate and bigotry, and he fought to ensure that our justice system held accountable those who would violate the civil and constitutional rights of their fellow Americans.

Later on, Tom was special counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy, advising him on civil rights, criminal justice, and constitutional issues. He worked with Senator Kennedy to fight discriminatory laws like the Defense of Marriage Act. And as African-American churches were being burned to the ground in the late ‘90s, Tom and Senator Kennedy worked to pass the Church Arson Prevention Act, making it a federal crime to commit arson or vandalism against a place of worship.

Tom also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under Attorney General Janet Reno and led the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the end of the Clinton administration.

Tom returned to the Department of Justice in 2009 after President Obama was elected, serving as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Leading the Civil Rights division after the Bush administration had decimated it, Tom oversaw the effort to restore and expand the division’s achievements.

With his leadership, they successfully implemented the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act; protected equal housing opportunity by pursuing and resolving the largest fair-lending cases in history; helped ensure schoolchildren are free from discrimination, bullying and harassment; dramatically expanded access to employment, housing and educational opportunities by fighting for people with disabilities; defended Americans’ right to vote free from discrimination; took record-setting efforts to ensure that communities have effective and accountable policing; and safeguarded the employment, housing, fair lending and voting rights of service members. Tom expanded the division’s partnerships, working across federal agencies to address shared challenges in human trafficking, employment discrimination and fair lending, among others.

Tom’s also been a local leader and organizer, running and winning a seat on the Montgomery County Council. He was the first Latino elected to the council, serving from 2002 until 2006, and was Council president. He then served as Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. In 2002, Tom started as board president at CASA de Maryland, an organization that provides services to immigrants. Under his leadership, CASA experienced monumental growth – from the basement of a church to a $7M headquarters that opened without a lease – and grew from a service provider to one of the largest immigrant advocacy organizations in the country.

February 25 statement from Bernie Sanders:

I congratulate Tom Perez on his election as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and look forward to working with him. At a time when Republicans control the White House, the U.S. House, U.S. Senate and two-thirds of all statehouses, it is imperative that Tom understands that the same-old, same-old is not working and that we must open the doors of the party to working people and young people in a way that has never been done before. Now, more than ever, the Democratic Party must make it clear that it is prepared to stand up to the 1 percent and lead this country forward in the fight for social, racial, economic and environmental justice.

About the Author(s)


  • Dean

    I was a Dean supporter in this race, and didn’t really care about who won the race once he dropped out. I say that because I knew he would focus on actually building the party and recruiting candidates. Now the whole thing will be based upon the ideological splits.

    We have to become the party that wants to protect manufacturing jobs again, even if means protecting outdated technology. This is extremely hard to do in a world where younger people think all technological advances are a good thing. Trump is beating us to the punch in the media by painting his brand as the guy who will protect your blue collar job.

  • Bleeding Heartland, let me crack this code for you.

    First of all, if you’re not reading The Intercept every day, you should be. It’s the go-to site for progressives these days. Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are contributors. (Ever heard of them? Edward Snowden reached out to them to help him blow the whistle on the NSA.)

    Maybe the question you should be asking is, “Why did the White House Recruit Perez to Run Against Ellison?”

    Key Question About DNC Race: Why Did Obama White House Recruit Perez to Run Against Ellison?

    Clio Chang writes:

    “There is one real difference between the two: Ellison has captured the support of the left wing. … It appears that the underlying reason some Democrats prefer Perez over Ellison has nothing to do with ideology, but rather his loyalty to the Obama wing. As the head of the DNC, Perez would allow that wing to retain more control, even if Obama-ites are loath to admit it. …

    “And it’s not just Obama- and Clinton-ites that could see some power slip away with an Ellison-headed DNC. Paid DNC consultants also have a vested interest in maintaining the DNC status quo. Nomiki Konst, who has extensively covered the nuts and bolts of the DNC race, asked Perez how he felt about conflicts of interest within the committee — specifically, DNC members who also have contracts with the committee. Perez dodged the issue, advocating for a “big tent.” In contrast, in a forum last month, Ellison firmly stated, “We are battling the consultant-ocracy.”

    Glenn Greenwald writes:

    “In other words, Perez, despite his progressive credentials, is viewed — with good reason — as a reliable functionary and trustworthy loyalist by those who have controlled the party and run it into the ground, whereas Ellison is viewed as an outsider who may not be as controllable and, worse, may lead the Sanders contingent to perceive that they have been integrated into and empowered within the party.”

    Tom Perez Apologizes for Telling the Truth, Showing Why Democrats’ Flaws Urgently Need Attention

    • ah yes, the all-knowing Glenn Greenwald

      Sure, let’s ignore most of what Perez has worked for over a career spanning decades. He “is viewed as” a reliable functionary, so he must be one.

      Ellison is willing to work with Perez–why aren’t you?

      • Perez is pro-TPP. How can you ignore that?

        Do you think that Perez’s support of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) might be why he is viewed as a reliable functionary?

        Yep, a pro-TPP DNC chair just what we need to snap up those blue-collar Democrats in the Rust Belt who voted for Trump!

        Don’t take Greenwald’s word for it. A top Clinton fundraiser who whipped votes for Perez says Ellison was blocked to stop the left.

        “We had a sense — and think this is what a lot of folk had a sense — that this [electing Ellison] would shift the party too far to the left.”


        What we on the left wonder is: why won’t the Democratic party elites work with *us*? The Democratic Party is a smoking pile of rubble right now, and the enthusiasm lies with the progressives. We *need* enthusiasm to win elections. Do you honestly think that Perez will deliver as much enthusiasm as Ellison?

        Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry were all milquetoast. And milquetoast doesn’t win elections. Saturday’s outcome fits the proverbial definition of insanity of doing things the same way, over and over, and expecting different results.

    • speaking of consultants

      Some people got pretty rich off the Bernie Sanders campaign. Bernie didn’t have a problem with this:

      By the end of March, the self-described democratic socialist senator from Vermont had spent nearly $166 million on his campaign — more than any other 2016 presidential contender, including rival Hillary Clinton. More than $91 million went to a small group of admakers and media buyers who produced a swarm of commercials and placed them on television, radio and online, according to a Washington Post analysis of Federal Election Commission reports. […]

      That has meant big payouts for the firm of senior strategist Tad Devine, which has produced the bulk of the campaign’s ads; Old Towne Media, a small media placement operation run by two of Devine’s longtime buyers; and Revolution Messaging, a digital firm led by veterans of President Obama’s 2008 campaign. […]

      On top of Devine’s commission, which is paid out of funds sent to Old Towne Media, Devine Mulvey Longabaugh has received more than $4 million for media production from the Sanders campaign, FEC reports show. A share of that money was used to pay licensing fees for images and music. […]

      Another large share of the campaign’s spending — more than $23 million — has gone to Revolution Messaging, a 60-person digital firm founded by Scott Goodstein, who served as Obama’s external online director in 2008. […]

      Many of the smaller vendors who have benefited from Sanders’s success are outside the usual Beltway consulting class. The campaign has paid $2.6 million for polling to Tulchin Research, a firm run by San Francisco-based pollster Ben Tulchin, who worked on the 2004 presidential campaign of former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

      An additional $7.5 million went to Tigereye Design, a company in western Ohio that provides unions and Democratic campaigns with merchandise. The Sanders account is so large that it is now the company’s main focus, said owner Monica Baltes.

  • Let's see where this goes

    I’m extremely disappointed that the party is going to be led by Tom Perez. However, he is just a chair; he’s not the state rep running in my district, he’s not my state senator, he’s not the candidate that will hopefully knock off my republican congressman in the 1st district. He’s just a chair. The biggest worry I have with him is that i’m under the impression that he thinks the party just needs a few tweaks.

    He wants Sanders list because he thinks that is going to make the difference. He’s wrong. Sanders was successful because of who he was not because of a list. I’m also under the impression that he and others think that money is going to solve the problem….well it’s not. To quote Jimmy Dore “Hillary went to a knife fight with a tank and Donnie Tiny Hands still kicked her A**”

    I’m in the wait and see mode, but people shouldn’t put too much stock in a chair. It will ultimately come down to the candidates themselves. As long as he truly remains neutral in his job and doesn’t pull a DWS we will be fine.

  • What Perez will be

    Pros of Perez: Will undoubtedly be more competent than DWS, Brazile, or Tim Kaine.

    Downside: No one i’ve talked to is excited about him. I’ve talked to people angry he was chosen, and people angry at the people angry that he was chosen. But at the end of the day I don’t think anyone is really thrilled with the result outside of the members of the party who cast a vote for him. This election will be taken as a pretty clear sign that the DNC continues to be an obstacle for the left to overcome rather than a partner that is willing to work with that wing of the party.

    • "No one I know" or "someone I know" is not representative evidence

      Perez has a great, progressive record, ESPECIALLY with labor, which will be a boon to appealing to the working class that Bernie champions. We had an outstanding slate and any of them would have been great. It would behoove Sanders/Ellison supporters to remember that Sanders did not win the primary and that he did not represent the choice for many Democrats. To act as if this was some kind of popular vote overthrow akin to the election is false. The Democratic party is not the Bernie Sanders party (Sanders is not a Dem anymore, anyway); nor is it the Hillary Clinton party or the Perez party or whatever. If you don’t want to be a part of a diverse group of people who agree on something like 98% of the issues, I invite you and anyone else to declare yourselves Independent or Green and go away. Otherwise, I suggest that pre-Nov 8 grievances be set aside and we unite behind the work at hand, which is going REALLY well in Iowa, and not relitigate the election through a DNC chair proxy award.

      • Please, continue telling us what we like.

        I was born working class and continue to be working class, like most Scott County democrats. The county has shifted further and further red as unions have died and labor rights have eroded, and it was barely blue this year. Dubuque tipped red for the first time since the 60s.

        The absolute worst case scenario has already happened. There was a reason to unify on November 7th. We have a solid 3 year and change before there is any realistic chance of taking the presidency or senate. It is absolutely time to clean house. Third-wayism in little more than a cult for upwardly mobile professionals that lends a handy moral justification to ignoring the economic and racial reality affecting so many Americans. In any case you will probably have a bright future as a Republican. Maybe you can write some amazing essays about how sweatshops are actually really woke because they exclusively employ a PoC workforce.