The Democratic Party is suffering a nervous breakdown.
An entitled cast of urban liberals is taking to the streets protesting the free and fair defeat of a candidate for whom they couldn’t be bothered to volunteer. Twentysomething Democratic staffers are reportedly offering their resignations in the form of screaming meltdowns, blaming acting Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile for their inevitable death due to catastrophic climate change. Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has implied that, having won the presidency as a result of a campaign of hate aided by the less-than-covert works of Russian intelligence, Donald Trump lacks legitimacy.
This liberal pain is real, but also projection. The party has been decimated at every level, and is now entering a rebuilding period. How it rebuilds is the question. The first choice the party will have to make is who is going to right the ship at the DNC, and the choices before the party perfectly reflect their conundrum in the post-Obama era.
The two most viable candidates who appear interested in leading the DNC through this grim valley are indicative of the Democratic Party’s addiction to radicalism. Howard Dean—a former DNC chair, presidential candidate, and Vermont governor—has thrown his hat in the ring. On first glance, an intemperate absolutist who earnestly accused the teetotaler president-elect of nursing a cocaine habit would seem to be a perfect fit for America’s post-rational moment. There is, however, a candidate even better suited to channel the unrestrained Democratic id in our self-indulgent age: Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison.
Under Barack Obama, the Democratic Party has been reduced to a modest faction representing the interests of urban, progressive America. Who else is a better fit to epitomize the party than an urban progressive?
Ellison represents the most liberal district in a liberal state, just outside central St. Paul. He is an African-American Muslim convert, thereby appealing to the party’s self-conception as a champion of the rights of ethnic minorities, which they perceive to be particularly vulnerable in the coming Trump era. Because he is a solid fit for the DNC on paper, Ellison has won the support of the most important voices in his party.
According to reports, Ellison has the outright backing of incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Senator Bernie Sanders. He has been praised by Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has emerged as a power broker in the new Progressive Era. In extending to Ellison their endorsement, though, the Democrats are making a big bet on fanaticism.
Ellison, a former disciple of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, has compared the 9/11 attacks to the Reichstag fire, implying that its effects—the empowering of the Bush administration to prosecute the Global War on Terror—was the attack’s design.
Though he had since denounced Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism, Ellison has kept the torch of antipathy for Israel burning. He has accused Israel of being an apartheid state and advocated that Israel provide security concessions to Hamas, the terrorist organization that uses the Gaza Strip and its people as leverage in a perpetual war against Israel. Ellison has also voted against funding Israel’s Iron Dome, which has saved countless lives from the perpetual threat of rocket assault from Gaza. He contended that Israel’s ability to shield its civilians from Hamas terror prevents dialogue and, in the case of the Gaza War of 2014, a swift ceasefire. For someone like Schumer, who fancies himself a Democratic champion of Israel, to support Ellison for DNC chair exposes the extent to which the Democratic Party has drifted toward revisionism and radicalism.
Ellison is also the perfect embodiment of the sentiment within the Democratic Party that the tired status quo liberalism of Hillary Clinton is what lost in 2016. Ellison has one of the most liberal voting records in Congress. He was the second sitting lawmaker to endorse Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary race. He was a member of the committee that drafted the Democratic Party’s 2016 platform, which endorsed the most progressive agenda in the party’s history. Tuition-free college at state universities, a $15 federal minimum wage, 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all Americans, a public option in ObamaCare, expanded Social Security, and an end to privately-operated prisons; all these provisions and more found their way into this list of Democratic aspirations.
There are more centrist challengers to Ellison, but these Democrats fail to channel the Democratic Party’s fierce desire for revisionism. The Minnesota Democrat embodies his party’s abject refusal to diagnose the conditions that led to its rejection in two consecutive midterm elections and, now, a presidential cycle. If the Democratic Party is inclined to reject voters’ criticisms and wallow in radicalism, there is really only one man for the job.