After rounds of voting, last-minute endorsements from prominent Democrats, and a lot of sometimes divisive debate about the future of the Democratic Party, the tally is in, and Tom Perez is the new chair of the party.
Largely expected to be a race essentially between two candidates — former Secretary of Labor under Obama Tom Perez and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison — many viewed this selection as pivotal in determining the direction the party will be headed as they look toward the midterm elections of 2018 and the eventual rise of a nominee to duke it out with an incumbent Trump in 4 years, should he survive the threat of impeachment over his many offenses for that long.
Among the topics of debate during the lengthy process were corporate money, the candidates’ religion, and the elephant in the room: the differences of opinion within the party itself. On these splits, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Bernice King, spoke directly, saying:
If we don’t learn to live together as brothers and sisters — yes, together — we’re going to perish as fools.
If this process has seemed contentious, it’s because of the rarity with which the election of a new chair brings about the potential for enormous change. Many have seen the party as becoming stagnant or even too moderate, a position that Jason Kander, the former Secretary of State from Missouri weighed in on himself:
I came within 3 points of turning the Senate seat blue, and I did not do it by pretending to be a moderate Republican or hugging the middle.
Tom Perez, considered the favorite among many, for his part vowed to “get Democrats winning again,” alluding to the many seats Democrats have lost across the nation over the last few years, as well as governorships, and culminating his speech with a rallying cry:
I know we will cross the finish line together. A united Democratic Party is not only our best hope, it is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.
Keith Ellison, taking the stage amidst supporters chanting his name, echoed the same sentiment, though he struck a tone more reminiscent of his most prominent supporter, Bernie Sanders:
We’re in this mess because we lost not one election, but a thousand elections. And we’re going to get out of it when we win elections.
How would Ellison raise money to do so?
We would rather have a million donations of ten dollars than 10 donations of $100,000.
In the end, Ellison’s firebrand rhetoric and even a late endorsement from former DNC Chair Howard Dean were not enough to win him the position. In response to the protests from Ellison’s supporters, Perez immediately named him deputy chair, which drew cheers and hopefully a promise of combined vision.