by Eric Robertson
I took a bit longer to process my thoughts on Tom Perez’s victory over Keith Ellison. Here’s what I got:
Losing is losing.
BUT there is a strong tendency to over exaggerate the political implications of Tom Perez beating Keith Ellison. Ellison’s vote total once again demonstrated the strength of the “Berniecrat” Left of the Democratic Party. Ellison received 200 (46%) votes to Perez’s 235 in the second round of voting, the threshold was 214. This is a strong performance by the left of the Dems by any measure. A congressman who is a Muslim with social democratic politics came within 14 votes of capturing a major chunk of the Dems national apparatus. This is further evidence of our new political reality.
Perez’s support of the TPP and his loyalty to the Dem machinery are real and justified making the case that Ellison represented the consistently progressive and populist values that are on the ascendancy. Nevertheless Perez, with the exception of TPP, was a true ally and partisan of working people during his time as Labor Secretary. The candidacy of Tom Perez in itself represented a political concession to the left.
The stakes of winning were not that high to begin with. Keith taking over the DNC would have moved the dial of American politics further to the left and opened up more space for the anti-corporate, left wing of the party, but it would definitely have had limits imposed by the party machinery. It is is worth pointing out that, with a few exceptions, the majority of people claiming that Perez’s victory means the final straw signifying the need to break completely from the Dems were also the same people who claimed Keith Ellison’s campaign for chair meant nothing and would not change a thing. Neither is correct and a flexible “inside/outside” strategy remains as the most viable strategy going forward. The fact is Keith Ellison’s campaign is just one more demonstration of the left’s increasing strength in American politics as a whole.
All this being said, what is happening at the town halls, in the streets, in our workplaces, and in the thousands of grassroots meetings happening across America is infinitely more important than what happened this weekend at the DNC.
Eric Robertson lives in Fairburn, Georgia. He is political director and a “man of many hats” for Teamsters Local 728.