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Rep. Keith Ellison, pictured here speaking out against Fast Track, is backed by progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, to take over as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). (Photo: AFGE/cc/flickr)

Rep. Keith Ellison, pictured here speaking out against Fast Track, is backed by progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, to take over as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). (Photo: AFGE/cc/flickr)

Amid DNC Reckoning, Ellison Emerges as Progressive Antidote to Trump

The first Muslim elected to US Congress is being asked to take the reins of the Democratic Party

Lauren McCauley

Amid the growing post-election call for a "reckoning" within the Democratic Party, Rep. Keith Ellison on Minnesota has swiftly emerged as the favored progressive choice to lead that transition.

"Liberal lawmakers and advocacy groups have started plotting a major overhaul of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)," the Washington Post reported late Thursday, with the first step being a replacement for the embattled interim chair Donna Brazile. 

The progressive flank of the party has largely placed the blame for the stunning election loss on the DNC and its elitist leadership, which they say is out of touch with the Left's grassroots base, which wants to see a renunciation of corporate influence.

Following the lead of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has come out strongly in favor of Ellison to fill that position, numerous leaders within the party, including soon-to-be Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), as well as progressive groups, are also voicing support for the first Muslim elected to U.S. Congress to take the party reins.

While not fully endorsing him, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday, "I really, really like Keith. I think he's terrific and I think he would make a terrific DNC chair."

The co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus soundly won re-election this week and has long been seen as a champion of minorities and the working class. "Since coming to Congress, he's been a reliably liberal Democratic vote — he's campaigned on his opposition to the Iraq War and his support for universal health care, and he's been a vocal opponent of voter ID laws," a separate Washington Post story noted on Friday. What's more, the report notes that many within the party see Ellison as "the answer to Donald Trump."

Speaking with members of the grassroots Democracy for Action on Thursday, Ellison reportedly said he would "make an announcement Monday about whether he will be a candidate for DNC chairman," the Post reported. "He said he was eager to help the party organize going forward."

"My shoelaces are tied up tight, and I'm ready to get out on that court," Ellison told the group.

Former presidential candidate Martin O'Malley said he is also "taking a hard look" at the position, while former party chair Howard Dean on Thursday announced his bid for the post.

With the election set for March, the inter-party tussle is being cast as one of the first major trials for Democrats since Tuesday's devastating loss. As journalist Glenn Greenwald observed Friday, "The choice of Keith Ellison v. Howard Dean as DNC Chair is such a perfect test of whether Dems learned anything."

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, agreed, writing on Twitter:

Sanders supporters and MoveOn.org have both begun circulating petitions calling for Ellison to be the next chair.

At the same time, Politico reports that

others in the party, including New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman and DNC vice chair Raymond Buckley—who runs the Association of State Democratic Chairs—South Carolina Chairman Jaime Harrison, and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra are said to be open to bids of their own, fielding calls from other DNC members about their interest. [...] DNC vice chair R.T. Rybak, the former mayor of Minneapolis who nearly got the role under Barack Obama, and retiring New York Rep. Steve Israel—a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair—are also in the mix.

Meanwhile, during the DNC's first staff-wide meeting since the election on Thursday, a staffer reportedly interrupted a speech by the interim chair and accused Brazile of being "part of the problem."

"Why should we trust you as chair to lead us through this? You backed a flawed candidate, and your friend [former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz] plotted through this to support your own gain and yourself," the staffer, identified only as Zach, reportedly yelled.

"You are part of the problem," he continued, witnesses told the Huffington Post. "You and your friends will die of old age and I'm going to die from climate change. You and your friends let this happen, which is going to cut 40 years off my life expectancy," he added before walking out.

During the primary campaign, Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign as chair after leaked emails showed her staff improperly influencing the primary in favor of the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton. And in October, WikiLeaks revealed that Brazile had tipped off Clinton to possible debate questions during the primary.


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