The pitiful wisdom of 442 DNC delegates was on full display this past weekend, as a majority of Democratic operatives and officials voted down a corporate money ban that would have reinstated former President Barack Obama’s 2008 ban corporate PAC money donations to the DNC – his pledge to return the party back to the people instead of corporate interests. You can thank former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for quietly lifting the ban back in February 2016, allowing lobbyists and corporate PACs to continue fanning the flames of neoliberalism. Thanks, Debbie.
Unfortunately, although Keith Ellison and Tom Perez might now be (Democratic) household names, the formal return of corporate money to the DNC has been lost in the coverage. Yes, the same group of folks elected Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez as the organizational head of the Democratic Party, but in the process have lost sight that grassroots, small-donor donations can power campaigns and excite the organizing capacity of the Democratic base. Democrats can’t ostensibly be the party for the working class while being funded by corporate interests. But f**k me, what do I know!
Perez will serve as the defacto spokesperson as we await to determine our next party standard-bearer in 2019 (holy s**t). I think Tom Perez will do a solid and highly consequential job. If he doesn’t, we’re all screwed so I wish him nothing but the best. FOR THE RECORD: I am #TeamTom now, for whatever it’s worth.
I thought Keith Ellison was the superior candidate, though it is good to see he’ll still have a large influence at the DNC and Perez’ ear. If the job description of the DNC Chair is to boldly organize, effectively fundraise, and elect Democrats country-wide – I would’ve gone with the guy who visited 30 states this cycle, vigorously campaigned for a progressive upstart candidate and a mainstream nominee, and has personally won many campaigns. The guy we elected has served exactly one term on the Montgomery (Maryland) County Council more than a decade ago and when given the chance to hold Wall Street officials accountable, acquiesced like most of the rest of the party – including Rep. Keith Ellison.
But I wouldn’t linger on the results of this election too much. We’ll have our chance over the next few years to have a robust battle over the soul of the party. Our party isn’t divided – it wasn’t whole to begin with – it’s just unsettled and unsettling to see the party leaders take a steep learning curve to realizing the future of the Democratic Party. I for one believe that The Future is Female; Diversity is Destiny. Neoliberalism needs to die; The return of relevancy is towards the left, not towards the center; Progressive Populism can bring us together. These are discussions for another post – I digress.
I’ll end by saying that caring about the results of the DNC isn’t stupid; it isn’t misguided. It isn’t a mistake to care about organizations and institutions, leaders and symbols. Governing creates policies, but those policies are driven by the symbols and values fueling politics. These things are consequential. It would only be a mistake, however, to believe that a transformative grassroots movement within the liberal left (and this is what we need) would be led by the whomever occupied the highest seat in the Democratic Party. Now let’s continue resisting.
By Robin Ye
(AB ’16; Former President of UChicago Democrats)