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Who’s afraid of Keith Ellison?

Politico’s Glenn Thrush has a great interview with Keith Ellison, the black Muslim Minnesota congressman who is still the favorite to be the next DNC chair despite growing opposition. Ellison’s impatience, for instance, at his critics’ persistent use of decades-old, now irrelevant material is particularly refreshing:

“Everything is fair game and it’s interesting. … [But] I’m 53 years old,” Ellison said... adding that his fondness for the Nation of Islam movement began when he was a student and lapsed soon after. “I have four kids. My youngest child is 20. Some of the things they want to hit me for, I was younger than her when I wrote them. And so, come on. At some point, we all are human beings who have evolved over the course of 25 years, and yet we want to freeze each other in time.”

This is exactly what makes Ellison such an attractive candidate for the DNC—and why he’s one who can build bridges with people who aren’t exactly like him. He’s reasonable, self-effacing, and makes appeals to a common humanity. But, even though Ellison is widely respected in the party—he’s been endorsed by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Chuck Schumer—some establishment Democrats are still wary of his candidacy. Why?

In some cases, there’s a fear about empowering the so-called Bernie wing of the party. But mostly, you hear quotes like this: “We like Keith,” one “longtime Obama political ally” tells Thrush, who he spoke to in November. “But is he really the guy we need right now when we are trying to get all of those disaffected white working-class people to rally around our message of economic equality?” If Trump said something like this, you’d call it a dog whistle. It’s almost baffling that, given anonymity, this longtime Obama political ally didn’t just come out and say that what gives them pause about Ellison is who he is—that white working-class people won’t like a black Muslim in charge of the DNC. But if anyone should be wary of claims like this it’s Obama’s allies, who have had to deal with identity-based attacks like this for the past decade.