MEMBERS OF THE Democratic National Committee will meet on Saturday to choose their new chair, replacing the disgraced interim chair Donna Brazile, who replaced the disgraced five-year chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Even though the outcome is extremely unlikely to change the (failed) fundamentals of the party, the race has become something of an impassioned proxy war replicating the 2016 primary fight: between the Clinton/Obama establishment wing (which largely backs Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who vehemently supported Clinton) and the insurgent Sanders wing (which backs Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to the U.S. Congress, who was an early Sanders supporter).
The New Republic's Clio Chang has a great, detailed analysis of the contest. She asks the key question about Perez's candidacy that has long hovered and yet has never been answered. As Chang correctly notes, supporters of Perez insist, not unreasonably, that he is materially indistinguishable from Ellison in terms of ideology (despite his support for TPP, seemingly grounded in loyalty to Obama). This, she argues, is "why the case for Tom Perez makes no sense": After all, "if Perez is like Ellison -- in both his politics and ideology -- why bother fielding him in the first place?"
The timeline here is critical. Ellison announced his candidacy on November 15, armed with endorsements that spanned the range of the party: Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Raul Grijalva, and various unions on the left, along with establishment stalwarts such as Chuck Schumer, Amy Klobuchar, and Harry Reid. He looked to be the clear frontrunner.
But as Ellison's momentum built, the Obama White House worked to recruit Perez to run against Ellison. They succeeded, and Perez announced his candidacy on December 15 -- a full month after Ellison announced. Why did the White House work to recruit someone to sink Ellison? If Perez and Ellison are so ideologically indistinguishable, why was it so important to the Obama circle -- and the Clinton circle -- to find someone capable of preventing Ellison's election? What's the rationale? None has ever been provided.