Highly regarded Labor Secretary Tom Perez announced yesterday his candidacy for Chair of the
Democratic National Committee. Perez is thought to have been encouraged in his bid by the Obama-Clinton forces in the Democratic Party who are unhappy with Keith Ellison, the other major candidate for the DNC post. The stage is now set for a contest between the centrist and progressive wings of the DP.
Perez is considered a friend by much of the labor movement, including the AFL- CIO which has endorsed Keith Ellison. The major fault found with Perez by the unions is his advocacy of the TransPacific Pact as an emissary of the Obama administration, and some labor leaders are said to be annoyed that he delayed his announcement until after they had committed to Ellison. The process, they say, has been going on for months, and Perez should have indicated his interest earlier.
In the opinion of progressives, the election of Perez would pose several problems in the rebuilding of the DP from its catastrophic defeat in November. First, it would mean that the rebuilding process would be in the hands of those who have had undisputed control of the party machinery for the last eight years and who led the DP to disaster. Their inability and even unwillingness to confront the Republicans over working class issues is seen as helping cause significant defections from the Democrats in November. The likelihood that they would change course is considered remote, but without changing course, the party is likely to face the same electoral defeats that it did in 2010, 2014 and 2016, defeats that have left the three branches of the Federal government in conservative control.
A Perez leadership of the party might well infuriate the Sanders-Warren wing that is solidly behind Ellison. Certainly the activists who came into the party through the Sanders campaign are unlikely to continue as foot soldiers in a DP dominated by the same old same old Obama- Clinton supporters. More probable is a continuation of the battle for control of the party extending for years.
For social democrats, the key question is, who will be more likely to take the DP in the direction it needs to go to become a social democratic/progressive party, a party that will be responsive to the needs of the people? It’s probably fair to say that Perez is the status quo candidate and that Keith Ellison is the agent of change. It was in the belief for the necessity of change that SDUSA endorsed Keith Ellison this week.