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Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

In Final Pitches for Ellison, Progressives Say He's Exactly What Dems Need Now

Democratic National Committee votes Saturday

Andrea Germanos

With just hours left before the 447 voting members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) choose their next chair, leaders of progressive groups are making their final case for "the candidate who has most consistently been in the trenches with the grassroots progressive base that Democrats need in this moment"—Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

The joint letter issued Friday from the leadership of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee,, Democracy for America, Presente Action, and 350 Action argues that with Ellison in the post, "we can hit the ground running" as he "has worked collaboratively for years as partners with groups like ours." The letter states:

The DNC has traditionally operated separate from groups like ours that organize millions of people. If Keith Ellison was Chair and proposed partnering on state-level voter registration activities and issue mobilization rallies, we would be eager to engage in that conversation. If he announced a plan to wean the Democratic Party off dependency on big money and toward a small-dollar fundraising model, we would be eager to engage in that conversation as partners. If Keith Ellison is DNC Chair, we can hit the ground running—and because of the pre-existing trust that exists between Keith and the grassroots, every state party would have a head start harnessing the power of the resistance."

The letter urges the voting members "to be heroes" and choose Ellison.

National Nurses United (NNU) also reaffirmed its backing of the congressman on Friday, with its executive director, RoseAnn DeMoro, saying in a statement: "Selecting Keith Ellison to chair the DNC is exactly the direction the Democratic Party needs to go to rebuild and strengthen its ties with working class Americans, young people, communities of color, and the full diversity of the 99 percent of Americans who should be the base of the Democratic Party."

"With allies of the far right and corporate interests now in control of all the branches of the federal government and a majority of state governments, it could not be more clear that the Democratic Party needs a new path that represents a fundamental break with reliance on Wall Street donors and the corporate class," said DeMoro.

The other front-runner for the spot is former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who, as The Intercept wrote this week, "has an established record of not taking on the banks; both at the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor." founder Bill McKibben, one of the signatories to the joint letter, wrote this week that Ellison and Perez "clearly represent the two wings of the party."

Perez is from the ruling wing, the institutional party. He is closely identified with Barack Obama, who he worked for, and Hillary Clinton, who he supported. Ellison is from the movement wing. He is closely identified with Bernie Sanders. Indeed, he was one of the few members of Congress who actively supported his insurgent candidacy.

Making his pitch for Ellison, filmmaker Michael Moore said Thursday the party has "a real chance to change things."

"To just put in what the old guard wants again—what's the message to young people out there?" he asked.

Another observer offered similar thoughts about what the choice of either Ellison or Perez would represent in a "tweetstorm":

As NPR puts it, whoever wins

will have a lot on his or her plate. In addition to fundraising and reorganizing the DNC, the chair will likely function as one of the party's top surrogates in the media. [Former DNC chair] Howard Dean views something else as the winner's most important job: "coordinating the tremendous rush of young people who are interested in the process, and really weren't much before."

According to Ajay Singh Chaudhary, executive director of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, the choice will be "about the future of the Democratic Party—and perhaps even if it has one." He writes at Quartz:

Will that choice be a candidate that represents the best of this moment, uniting hopes for racial and economic justice, expressing the aspirations of so many Americans in the streets, at townhalls, and, in some cases putting their livelihoods on the line and their bodies in the way of injustice? Or will the choice be a candidate that represents the idea that the victory of President Trump and such total Republican domination is a mere bump in the road, an aberration from a more tolerable status quo?

The vote takes place Saturday in Atlanta, and as NBC News wrote: "Balloting could go multiple rounds before a victor emerges and back-room deal making for endorsements is expected. "

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