My preference in the race for Chair of the Democratic National Committee would have been Missouri's former Secretary of State Jason Kander, but he chose not to be involved in that melee. The young Kander (age 35) was both a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a skilled political operative who nearly unseated an incumbent Republican senator from a red state that Trump easily carried. Kander is young, tough, smart, and politically seasoned with exceptional organizational skills - exactly the qualities that the Democratic Party needs.
My second choice was South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a young (also 35) war veteran who was also elected to office in a very red area - but Pete, who saw the writing on the wall, dropped out of the race prior to the first-ballot voting.
My gut on the matter was that the party needed to undergo a serious shakeup if it was to harbor any hope of stumbling out of the political wasteland any time soon. The next leader needed to be a firebrand, someone young and dynamic enough to engage with our future and take us there - not someone who was content with snuggling up to the past and prattling on with the status quo.
So when the race narrowed down to two fifty-somethings - Tom Perez and Keith Ellison - neither of whom I found to be particularly exciting - I just sort of turned it all off. Our other national face of the party, House Minority Leader (and former Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi, a seventy-something, had retained her stranglehold in Congress last month and kept the whipper-snappers at bay for at least another two years. The Democratic Party was not going to have to deal with any substantive change from within before the elections of 2018.
There is also a troublesome story floating about that Hillary is contemplating a rematch with Trump in 2020 - at a time when she will be seventy-three and he will be seventy-four.
Another thing the party officially did yesterday was to vote to allow corporate donations by lobbyists into the party coffers. Obama had put a stop to that shameless activity eight years ago, but then Wasserman Schultz had quietly allowed the return of corporate contributions before the 2016 elections. Some in the party argued that this money was needed to compete with Republicans, while others noted that the party had a cleaner image without it. But greed prevailed.
It was more than a little disappointing to hear a commentator on National Public Radio this morning refer to Perez and the "establishment" candidate - and Trump's favorite newspaper, the New York Times, labeled Perez the "establishment favorite." Back in the day "establishment" was a fighting word. I guess now it no longer is, but I also sense that it might have become synonymous with a reluctance to fight.
Tom Perez was encouraged to enter the race for DNC Chair by Barack Obama and his administrative team in the White House - and while I love and admire Barack Obama, I can't get past the fact that he was the one who put Debbie Wasserman Schultz in charge of the party. Her political shenanigans aimed at securing the presidential nomination for Hillary Clinton helped to lay the groundwork for the catastrophe of last November. And what Wasserman Schultz didn't rend asunder prior to her ouster from that office, dishonest Donna Brazile managed to do in her stead.
And now Perez is the Chair. The party that needed a new broom has instead gotten a feather duster.
The Bernie faction, of which I am a veteran, by and large supported Keith Ellison, and while it was never verbalized by the politically correct Obama White House crowd, the fact that Ellison was a Muslim must have carried a certain amount of weight in their decision to give him some opposition. Had Ellison become Chair of the DNC, Trump, who repeatedly referred to Bernie as a "communist" during the primary campaign, would already be banging out tweets calling the Democrats the "party of Al Qaeda," Bullies are nothing if not predictable.
The good news for the Democratic Party is that the base is already fired-up and fighting. While many of our elected officials seem to be wringing their hands in despair, the party faithful are marching in the streets, taking over town halls, and making their voices heard all over social media. Laissez faire and lame leadership will not quell the tide of righteous anger that is bubbling up in the bowels of real America. Just as Trump's people had their moment, we, too, shall have ours.
Good luck in your new position, Tom Perez. You can either be a dynamo for change in society, or you will undoubtedly be run to the curb by people who are tired of waiting for change. It's your choice, but you are going to have to act quickly.