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DNC’s Winter Of Discontent

- February 23, 2017

With No Clear Favorite In The DNC Chair Race, The Divisions That Led The Democrat Party To Its Weakest Point In Decades Have Resurfaced And Produced An Uninspiring Race Characterized By Pablum, Malaise, And A General Apathy Towards The Candidates


TOP TAKEAWAYS

  • Seven candidates remain in the race to be the next chair of the DNC, but with no unifying figurehead or vision for the future emerging, Democrats have splintered into factions that have been unable to gain any momentum in the race.
  • A symbolic fight has emerged between factions that support Clinton acolyte Tom Perez and Keith Ellison, carrying over divisions between the far left and establishment wings of the Democrat party that were prominent in the 2016 Democrat party.
  • With Perez and Ellison reenacting the 2016 Democrat primary, protest candidates, propelled by dissatisfaction that Perez and Ellison are the best that Democrats have to offer, have enjoyed unusual staying power.

WITH PARTY DIVISIONS ON DISPLAY IN LAST NIGHT'S DNC CHAIR DEBATE, A FIELD BEREFT OF STRONG CANDIDATES HAS LEFT THE RACE DIVIDED ONLY DAYS BEFORE THE ELECTION

With DNC Chair Elections Set To Occur This Weekend, The Democrat Party "Is Now Staring At An Electoral Deficit Not Seen Since The 1920s." "Eight years after Democrats surged back into the White House and won control of Congress, the party is now staring at an electoral deficit not seen since the 1920s." (Emily Cadei, "Does The Race For Democratic Party Leader Matter?" Newsweek , 2/21/17)

Last Night's DNC Chair Debate Highlighted The Pervasive Divisions Within The Democrat Party

CNN Headline: "Democratic Divisions On Display At DNC Debate." (Eric Bradner, "Democratic Divisions On Display At DNC Debate," CNN , 2/23/17)

  • The Debate Over Who Will Be The Next DNC Chair "Is Underscoring The Divisions Still Lingering Within" The Democrat Party. "For all the marches and protests the left has generated since Election Day, the debate over who will lead the Democratic Party in the early stages of Donald Trump's presidency is underscoring the divisions still lingering within its ranks." (Eric Bradner, "Democratic Divisions On Display At DNC Debate," CNN , 2/23/17)
  • The Eight Candidates "Struggled… To Define A Vision" Of Where Their Party Should Go Next. "Eight candidates to become the next Democratic National Committee chair -- led by former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison -- struggled during a debate sponsored by CNN Wednesday to define a vision of how they would effectively counter Trump's administration and break through in clear opposition to his message." (Eric Bradner, "Democratic Divisions On Display At DNC Debate," CNN , 2/23/17)

The "Wounds" Of The 2016 Presidential Primary "Were Ripped Open At The Debate Over A Question About Whether The Race Between Sanders And Hillary Clinton Was 'Rigged.'" "Another central challenge for Democrats is to recover from the bitter split of the 2016 presidential primary. The wounds of that race were ripped open at the debate over a question about whether the race between Sanders and Hillary Clinton was 'rigged.'" (Eric Bradner, "Democratic Divisions On Display At DNC Debate," CNN , 2/23/17)

  • "The Candidates Also Broke Over Future Primary Contests." (Eric Bradner, "Democratic Divisions On Display At DNC Debate," CNN , 2/23/17)
  • "Buttigieg Has Positioned Himself As A Break From The Sanders Vs. Clinton Proxy Battle… That The DNC Race Has Become" Between Ellison And Perez. "Buttigieg has positioned himself as a break from the Sanders vs. Clinton proxy battle -- with Ellison backed by Sanders and Perez supported by many Clinton allies -- that the DNC race has become." (Eric Bradner, "Democratic Divisions On Display At DNC Debate," CNN , 2/23/17)

John Podhoretz Tweeted "Have To Say If I Were A Democrat This Debate Would Make Me Feel Dispirited." (John Podhoretz, Twitter Feed , 2/22/17)

While There Are Two Dominant Factions, There Is Still A Sense That The Outcome Of The DNC Chair Race Will Be Entirely Unpredictable Due To The Lack Of Enthusiasm Towards Perez And Ellison Surge And The Staying Power Of The Protest Candidates

Politico Headline: "Politico Survey: DNC Race Is A Nail-Biter." (Daniel Strauss And Brent Griffiths, "Politico Survey: DNC Race Is A Nail-Biter," Politico , 2/23/17)

  • The Surge Of Buttigieg, Harrison, Brown, And Greene Has Made "Many DNC Members Expect [That] The Vote Will Go Beyond A First Ballot Saturday." "Between Buttigieg and the other top contenders - South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison, Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown, and Democratic strategist Jehmu Greene - many DNC members expect the vote will go beyond a first ballot Saturday." (Daniel Strauss And Brent Griffiths, "Politico Survey: DNC Race Is A Nail-Biter," Politico , 2/23/17)

Most Perez Supporters Said That They Would Not Vote For Ellison As A Second Choice If The Election Goes Through Multiple Rounds, Calling Into Question The True Standing Of Each Frontrunner. "While Ellison's supporters had few qualms about backing Perez as their second choice, the same didn't hold true for Perez backers -- few who ranked Perez as their first-choice candidate said they would back Ellison as their second choice." (Daniel Strauss And Brent Griffiths, "Politico Survey: DNC Race Is A Nail-Biter," Politico , 2/23/17)

"With No Candidate Likely To Win It Outright In The First Round Of Balloting, A Few Fresh-Faced Second-Tier Contenders Hope To Make A Late Charge." (Greg Bluestein, "Nation's Democrats Coming To Atlanta To Pick New Leader, Path Of Action," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , 2/20/17)

THE BORING AND LOW ENERGY DNC CHAIR RACE HAS MADE THE DIVISIONS WITHIN THE DEMOCRAT PARTY ALL THE MORE APPARENT

The Current Contenders For DNC Chair Have Failed To Inspire Much Enthusiasm In The Race

Politico Headline: "DNC Race: Low On Energy, Ideas, Imagination" (Edward-Isaac Dovere and Daniel Strauss, "DNC Race: Low On Energy, Ideas, Imagination," Politico , 1/28/17)

The DNC Chair Race Has Been Described As "Bland" And The Candidates Are Only "Offering Conventional Ideas They All Agree On." "The race for Democratic National Committee chair is bland and bloodless. The seven candidates are downplaying differences and offering conventional ideas they all agree on." (Edward-Isaac Dovere and Daniel Strauss, "DNC Race: Low On Energy, Ideas, Imagination," Politico , 1/28/17)

The Ideas Being Offered By The DNC Candidates Are "Not Very Complicated, Imaginative Or A Break From The Past." "Go local. Pursue a new 50-state strategy. Something about cybersecurity. Organize. The list goes on, but the pitches share one thing in common: they're not very complicated, imaginative or a break from the past." (Edward-Isaac Dovere and Daniel Strauss, "DNC Race: Low On Energy, Ideas, Imagination," Politico , 1/28/17)

According To A Morning Consult/Politico Poll, Most Democrats Aren't Even Paying Attention To The DNC Chair Race. "But ahead of Saturday, when DNC members will vote, a new Morning Consult/POLITICO survey finds that attention has not seeped down to rank-and-file voters. Just 17 percent of self-identified Democrats said they have heard a lot about the vote. Roughly a third (31 percent) have heard some about the race to determine the next DNC leader, but most Democrats (53 percent) have either heard not much or nothing at all." (Eli Yokley, "Most Democrats Not Paying Attention To DNC Chair Race," Morning Consult , 2/22/17)

The DNC Chair Race Has Further Divided The Democrat Party And Forced Segments Of The Party Even Further To The Left, Creating Tensions That "Could Further Undercut The DNC" Even After The New Chair Is Installed

NBC News Headline: "Democrats Are Eager To See The End Of The Race For DNC Chair." (Alex Seitz-Wald, "Democrats Are Eager To See The End Of The Race For DNC Chair," NBC News , 2/19/17)

  • The Length Of The Race For DNC Chair "Has Allowed Tensions To Fester Between The Establishment And Progressive Wings" Of The Democrat Party. "But the length of the race has also allowed tensions to fester between the establishment and progressive wings." (Alex Seitz-Wald, "Democrats Are Eager To See The End Of The Race For DNC Chair," NBC News , 2/19/17)

The DNC Chair Race Is Seen As "The Democratic Party's Last Opportunity To Make A Unifying Concession To Progressives." "The DNC chair race is the Democratic Party's last opportunity to make a unifying concession to progressives, who were cheated and disenfranchised during the Democratic primaries by former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz." (Michael Sainato, "There's No Saving The Democratic Party If Tom Perez Wins DNC Chair," The Observer , 2/16/17)

  • In The Power Vacuum That Has Been Created With The DNC Chair Remaining Empty, New Left-Wing Groups Have Emerged That "Could Further Undercut The DNC." "Sensing the power vacuum, a bumper crop of new groups has sprung up since the election to organize liberals. They could further undercut the DNC at a time when official parties have already been losing their former monopoly status on partisan activity to super PACs and other groups that can collect bigger donations with fewer strings attached." (Alex Seitz-Wald, "Democrats Are Eager To See The End Of The Race For DNC Chair," NBC News , 2/19/17)

THE COMPETITION BETWEEN PEREZ AND ELLISON HAS CREATED A "PROXY BATTLE" BETWEEN THE FAR LEFT AND THE ESTABLISHMENT WINGS OF THE PARTY REMINISCENT OF THE DEBATES THAT OCCURRED DURING THEIR PRIMARY

"[Perez's] Entry Into The Race Turned It Into A Proxy Battle" Between The Left Wing Of The Party And The Obama Legacy. "His entry into the race turned it into a proxy battle, with Ellison representing the left-leaning Sanders-Warren wing of the Party and Perez serving as an avatar of Obama-like technocracy." (Vinson Cunningham, "Will Keith Ellison Move The Democrats Left?," The New Yorker , 2/27/17)

Perez Represents The Democrat Establishment That Created The Chaos The Party Is Currently Embroiled In, And Is Closely Aligned With The Obama And Clinton Legacies

"The Democratic Establishment Has Rallied Behind Perez's Candidacy." "The Democratic establishment has rallied behind Perez's candidacy. Former Vice President Joe Biden, former Attorney General Eric Holder and several other establishment figures have formally endorsed Perez, while several others have attacked Sanders for endorsing Ellison. 'It is very concerning that Bernie Sanders is so intent on taking over a party that he's not even a member of that he'd insult the beloved vice president-and really the president-about a failed status quo approach,' said Texas Democratic chairman Gilberto Hinojosa in an interview." (Michael Sainato, "There's No Saving The Democratic Party If Tom Perez Wins DNC Chair," The Observer , 2/16/17)

  • "Perez Represents The Finance-Friendly Status Quo That Has Relegated Democrats To Minority Status." (Matt Stoller, "DNC Chair Candidate Tom Perez's Bank-Friendly Record Could Kneecap The Democratic Party," The Intercept , 2/22/17)
  • "If Tom Perez Were To Win, The Message That Would Send to Grassroots, To Labor Unions… [Is] That Their Voices, Their Muscle, Their Enthusiasm And Turnout Don't Matter." "'If Tom Perez were to win, the message that would send to the grassroots, to labor unions that endorsed Ellison before Tom Perez joined the race, [is] that their voices, their muscle, their enthusiasm and turnout doesn't matter,' Lawson added." (Daniel Marans, "Keith Ellison Supporters Warn Of Fallout If He Loses DNC Chair Race," The Huffington Post , 2/21/17)

"Perez Is From The Ruling Wing, The Institutional Party" And Is Closely Identified With Obama And Clinton. "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." (Bill McKibben, "Is The Democratic Party With The Resistance? This Weekend Might Tell," The Guardian , 2/21/17)

  • Obama Chose To Direct Supporters From His 2008 Campaign Toward Organizing For America, Which Focused On Presidential Initiatives, Instead Of Grassroots Efforts And Local Elections. "A President has wide latitude in selecting the leadership of his own party committee, and during the past eight years Obama's designated D.N.C. chairs-Tim Kaine, the recently defeated Vice-Presidential candidate, and then Wasserman-Schultz-have largely been figureheads, echoing the White House's message and cooperating with senatorial and congressional campaign committees to contest important elections. In that time, Democrats have lost more than nine hundred state and federal seats. After amassing a remarkable army of supporters and volunteers during his first run for the Presidency, Obama directed their energies toward Organizing for America, an operation focused primarily on Presidential initiatives. At the D.N.C. forums, that move has repeatedly been blamed for sapping the grass-roots energy that might have made the difference in local contests." (Vinson Cunningham, "Will Keith Ellison Move The Democrats Left?," The New Yorker , 2/27/17)
  • "In December, Aides To Then-President Obama, Dissatisfied With Ellison, Encouraged Then-Labor Secretary Perez To Run." "Then, in December, aides to then-President Obama, dissatisfied with Ellison, encouraged then-Labor Secretary Perez to run. His candidacy has since taken off - with the blessing of top figures from the Obama White House. Obama himself praised Perez in comments widely interpreted as an endorsement. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Attorney General Eric Holder threw their support behind Perez this month." (Daniel Marans, "Keith Ellison Supporters Warn Of Fallout If He Loses DNC Chair Race," The Huffington Post , 2/21/17)
  • Murshed Zaheed, Political Director Of Progressive Group Credo Action, Said That Obama And His Advisers Are Responsible For "The Total Degradation And Deterioration Of The Party" And Criticized Them "[Trotting] Out One Of Their Former Hands" In The DNC Chair Race Anyway. "'The total degradation and deterioration of the party - they are responsible for it,' Zaheed said of Obama and his advisers. 'For them to trot out one of their former hands is kind of unseemly, to be honest, and it is not helpful at this point.'" (Daniel Marans, "Keith Ellison Supporters Warn Of Fallout If He Loses DNC Chair Race," The Huffington Post , 2/21/17)

Ellison Would Pull The DNC To The Far Left If Elected, But His Supporters Have Warned Of Fallout If He Does Not Win Which Could Make Him The "Safe Choice" For Democrats Hoping To Avoid Further Conflict With The Vocal Progressive Segment Of Their Party

"Ellison Is In A Very Real Way The Safe Choice. If The Institutionalists Are Put In Charge, Then Much Of The DNC's Energy In The Years To Come Will Be Spent Trying To Deal With People Who Distrust Institutions." (Bill McKibben, "Is The Democratic Party With The Resistance? This Weekend Might Tell," The Guardian , 2/21/17)

  • However, "Perez Supporters Argue That Ellison Would Take The Party Too Far To The Left For Swing Voters That Democrats Need To Win Back." "Some Perez supporters argue that Ellison would take the party too far to the left for swing voters that Democrats need to win back." (Daniel Marans, "Keith Ellison Supporters Warn Of Fallout If He Loses DNC Chair Race," The Huffington Post , 2/21/17)
  • The New Yorker Headline: "Will Keith Ellison Move The Democrats Left?" (Vinson Cunningham, "Will Keith Ellison Move The Democrats Left?," The New Yorker , 2/27/17)
  • "Ellison Is From The Movement Wing" Of The Democrat Party. "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." (Bill McKibben, "Is The Democratic Party With The Resistance? This Weekend Might Tell," The Guardian , 2/21/17)

The Huffington Post Headline: "Keith Ellison Supporters Warn Of Fallout If He Loses DNC Chair Race." (Daniel Marans, "Keith Ellison Supporters Warn Of Fallout If He Loses DNC Chair Race," The Huffington Post , 2/21/17)

  • Ellison Has The Most Congressional Endorsements, "But That Won't Necessarily Translate Into Victory… Since Members Of Congress Don't Vote" In The DNC Chair Election. "Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison has racked up the most congressional endorsements. But that won't necessarily translate into victory on Feb. 25 since members of Congress don't vote." (Simone Pathe, "House Democrats Look Beyond DNC Chairman Race," Roll Call , 2/22/17)
  • Ellison Has Been Endorsed By Prominent Members Of The Left-Wing Of The Democrat Party, Including Sanders And Warren. "Ellison, the progressive Minnesota congressman, emerged as the early leader with the backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders's coalition as well as an impressive slate of elected official endorsements from across the party. Ellison's backers include Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer." (Ben Kamisar And Owen Eagan, "Ellison Holds Edge In DNC Race Survey," The Hill , 2/22/17)

The Fight Between Perez And Ellison Has Served As Another Outlet For The Ongoing Battle Between The Left-Wing And Establishment Divisions Of The Democrat Party

"The Race For The Chair Has Often Echoed The Acrimony And Confusion Of The Presidential Primaries." (Vinson Cunningham, "Will Keith Ellison Move The Democrats Left?" The New Yorker , 2/27/17)

  • "The Democrats' Calamitous Defeat In Last Year's Elections… Deepened A Well Of Intra-Party Bitterness That Had Been Evident Long Before Election Day." "The Democrats' calamitous defeat in last year's elections-not only losing the Presidency but remaining in a rut in both chambers of Congress and ceding further ground to Republicans in state houses, governors' mansions, and mayors' offices around the country-deepened a well of intra-Party bitterness that had become evident long before Election Day." (Vinson Cunningham, "Will Keith Ellison Move The Democrats Left?," The New Yorker , 2/27/17)

"The Fight Over The Party Chairmanship Has All The Makings Of A Repeat Of The Bruising Democratic Party" In Which The Democrat Establishment Was Pitted Against The Left Wing Of The Party. "The fight over the party chairmanship has all the makings of a repeat of the bruising Democratic primary, where an establishment-backed Hillary Clinton squared off against Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign from the party's left flank." (Greg Bluestein, "Nation's Democrats Coming To Atlanta To Pick New Leader, Path Of Action," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , 2/20/17)

  • These Same Divisions Have Emerged As The "Progressive Wing" Of The Party Has Backed Ellison While Obama And Clinton Allies Support Perez. "This time, Sanders and other leaders in the party's progressive wing are backing U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison's bid for DNC chairman, while former U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has support from allies of Clinton's and former President Barack Obama's." (Greg Bluestein, "Nation's Democrats Coming To Atlanta To Pick New Leader, Path Of Action," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , 2/20/17)

"Resentment Toward Sanders And His Progressive Supporters Has Lingers Within The Democratic Party And Its Leadership Since The Democratic Primaries" As "The Party Has Resisted change." "This resentment toward Sanders and his progressive supporters has lingered within the Democratic Party and its leadership since the Democratic primaries. Clinton's election loss, which was a huge failure for the Democratic Party, highlighted the need for Democrats to enact meaningful reforms. Nevertheless, the party has resisted change. The Democratic Party's failure to reform has incited organizations on the left to emerge-including the Draft Bernie movement and Justice Democrats-in hopes of starting a new party to replace inept, office-holding Democrats with progressives." (Michael Sainato, "There's No Saving The Democratic Party If Tom Perez Wins DNC Chair," The Observer , 2/16/17)

  • The DNC "Is Regarded With Deep Distrust Among Liberals And Those Outside The Establishment," Particularly In The Wake Of The Contentious 2016 Democrat Primary. "The DNC, moreover, is regarded with deep distrust among liberals and those outside the party establishment, particularly after the primary race between Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, which sowed deep divisions between progressives and pragmatists." (Emily Cadei, "Does The Race For Democratic Party Leader Matter?" Newsweek , 2/21/17)

"The Awkward Confrontation Between The Democrats' Old Guard And A Rebellious Set Of Young Activists Is An Apt Metaphor For The Party's Current Conundrum As It Tries To Respond To The Populist Angst Rippling Through America." (Emily Cadei, "Does The Race For Democratic Party Leader Matter?," Newsweek , 2/21/17)

  • The DNC Chair Candidates Have Promised To Reconnect With Grassroots And Earn Back Trust, "But When Presented With The Opportunity To Do Just That In An Off-Script Moment… The Crowded Field Of Candidates Ducked." "The race for the next head of the Democratic Party has been filled with promises to reconnect with the grass roots and win back the trust of voters alienated from the party. But when presented with the opportunity to do just that in an off-script moment at their final public forum, the crowded field of candidates ducked." (Emily Cadei, "Does The Race For Democratic Party Leader Matter?," Newsweek , 2/21/17)

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