There has been very little, besides opposition to Donald Trump, for the Democratic Party to rally around since Hillary Clinton lost the election. But, for the most part, the Democrats did come together to support Keith Ellison for DNC chair—he enjoys the support of Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren.
Ellison has seemed like a lock since he was identified as the best person to take over an institution that many rightfully blame for the losses in 2016. It both tilted the playing field toward Hillary Clinton, neglected the party’s grassroots base and state and local-level candidates, and built what many believe to be a faulty infrastructure that cost elections up and down the ballot. But one wing of the party is standing against Ellison’s nomination: the Obama wing.
According to a New York Times report published late Tuesday, Obamaworld is concerned that Ellison’s duties as a congressman will interfere with his ability to run the DNC, and that his past comments about Louis Farrakhan, along with his left-ish position on Israel, will be used as a wedge by the GOP. The Obama White House has reportedly pushed Joe Biden, Tom Perez, and Jennifer Granholm to enter the fray.
There are strong and good arguments that the DNC should be a full-time job, especially given that the Democrats have lost nearly 1,000 seats at the state level and face an unprecedented uphill climb to rebuild the party. But that is not the meat of the argument—Obama supported Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a sitting congressman, for DNC chair. Instead, they are clearly worried about handing the keys over to what is now being referred to as the “Sanders wing” of the party.
These fears strike me as being overblown for a host of reasons, the biggest of which being that this is not a zero-sum game and there is every reason someone from the “Sanders wing” should be in charge of the DNC, given that wing’s expertise at the grassroots level. But most importantly, Obama and his team simply have no leg to stand on. Democratic operatives who work at the state and level felt abandoned by the White House and for good reason—even though they were hemorrhaging seats, Obama paid little attention to their plight throughout his two terms in office. There are signs that will change with Obama and Eric Holder’s new redistricting effort but right now the Obama White House doesn’t have the right to claim ownership over the party at the state and local level after letting it rot for eight years.