By Jim Miller
Many progressives were upset after the national Democratic party leadership recruited Obama’s Labor Secretary Tom Perez to block Minnesota’s Keith Ellison in the race for DNC chair and even more dismayed when Ellison lost very narrowly in the second round of voting.
While Perez immediately made Ellison Deputy Chair and did what he could to foster unity, it was evident to numerous observers that putting in a guy who, despite a pretty solid record on policy, supported the TPP and clearly represented the interests of the Clinton wing of the party was a mistake.
The bad feelings weren’t helped by the fact that there was a reprehensible smear campaign waged against Ellison or that big money donors had been stomping their feet and threatening to leave the party if Ellison won.
The Washington Post did a pretty good round up of both the critiques from the left and what the various factors were that led to Perez’s win, but the question that has many shaking their heads about is why would the party, even after a devastating loss brought to us by the Dem’s long-time leadership, continue to do everything it could to pour cold water on the only fire left in the Democratic base, precisely when the grassroots were exploding with dissent?
Shouldn’t the neoliberal wing of the party have to pay the price for losing an immanently winnable election and generally getting their asses kicked across the country?
The answer, outside of California where the Sanders revolution made big inroads in the party, is apparently not. Perez, while not a terrible person, lacks the organizing background, eloquence, and energy of Ellison, and his win has already alienated a good number of folks on the left despite his and Ellison’s best efforts.
While I was disappointed with the outcome, I was still holding out hope that the objectively horrible circumstances we are in combined with an angry base might continue to push the Democrats to go where they would not otherwise want to venture.
And then, as I was holding onto that fraying string of optimism, the Democrats trotted out Steve Beshear to deliver their response to Trump’s first big speech to Congress. He, it appears, is the answer to the DNC’s perceived “messaging” problem.
Thus, as much of the mainstream press was marveling at Trump’s ability to read from a teleprompter and opportunistically use the grief of a fallen soldier’s widow to boost his approval ratings, their generous commentary was interrupted by a geriatric former Kentucky Governor awkwardly reading a canned speech while surrounded by a sullen, nearly catatonic group of almost entirely middle-aged white people in a corner diner somewhere in Americana, USA.
And while the stock populism expressed was not dreadful, the optics communicated such a tone-deaf, lifeless vision that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I stared aghast at my TV while soaking in the latest WTF moment brought to you by Resistance, Inc. It was as if some whiz-kid in Party Headquarters had decided that they had just the ticket—old white guys in diners vote for Trump, let’s find one! So they headed over to the Bear Jamboree in Disneyland to find some props. Who needs Kamala Harris or some other progressive rising star when you’ve got Pa Kettle! And people say the party of the people has lost touch with the working class, go figure.
Meanwhile, the party had community activist, Astrid Silva, deliver a much sharper message for the Spanish language response. Wow, Micro-targeting! Those Spanish speakers aren’t into old white guys in diners so let’s give them something with more passion—not that we see people as stereotyped, malleable demographic groups–but that might be too hot to handle in Middle America. Whatever we do, let’s not present a bold unified message that brings people together. Stay with the same marketing strategies, for God’s sake.
The condescension and cynicism of these choices speak for themselves and illustrate why the national party was unable to find a way to defeat Trump’s cartoon campaign and is still apparently lost in the wilderness.
It was a pathetic embarrassment.
If this is the best the national Democratic Party has to offer, then the answer to our current political disaster will simply not come from them. In fact, the only real inspiration is on the outside, at the protests and town halls, in places where the geniuses who dreamt this stuff up don’t run the show. Time to change the channel.
See you in the streets.