The vote on the second ballot was 235-200 indicating that the rift between the old guard and the new left continues. So what does this mean for our party?
First, Tom Perez is a good guy. He’s smart, he’s well educated, he has held political positions (both elected and appointed) of increasing responsibility, most recently as Secretary of Labour. While his tenure at Labour was not a rousing success, he is in favour of the Fight for $15.
However, he was in favour of TPP. In addition, he feels that the Democratic Party does not answer enough to rural Americans, and that the DNC did nothing to help Hillary Clinton directly. And therein lies the problem with his election.
First, rural America is not the future of the Democratic Party. The future of the Democratic Party, if it is to ever be successful again, requires a push into the purple suburbs around the large cities, as well as outreach to people of colour and young people, plus making Working Class/Blue Collar needs a cornerstone of any policies.
Second, a lot of Democratic registered voters did not vote for the party up and down the ticket in 2016 for a lot of reasons, including the perception that the system was rigged in Hillary Clinton’s favour, and had been set up that way 4 years earlier when the primary schedule was determined. To reach those people we need a 50-state solution, á la Howard Dean, and we need policies and platforms dedicated to the needs of young people and minorities. Perez isn’t going to do those things.
The Democratic Party is currently a top-down organization, and under Perez’s leadership, will remain that way. Had Keith Ellison been elected, it would have been a very different situation. The people who voted for Perez were party regulars who have worked their collective way up the ladder from committee people to zone leaders to county leaders to state leaders. As individuals, they have a lot to lose if the status quo is upended.
Will the party survive? Yeah, but in its current corporatist state. The values the party stood for from the 1930’s through the DLC in the 90’s are still MIA. Outreach to youth, people of colour and the working class will be limited.
There is a silver lining in all of this, and that is that people on the ground are organizing. Some are making a push to be committeepeople and to work their way up so that they too will be able to vote in the DNC elections a few years down the road. Further, groups outside the party are organizing, and will likely run candidates to primary standard Democrats from the left, and will help to move the party back to what it used to be: the party of the people. ALL people.
It will be a rough couple of years as all of this settles out, but I personally take comfort in the fact that Perez’s intentions are good, and there will be people “helping” to adjust his implementation policies.
As always: REMEMBER TO VOTE, there are elections this year, at least two in every state. Mark your calendars and bring a few friends to the polls.