The DNC Needs a Moderate Leader, Not a Minnesota Ultra-Liberal, If the Party Hopes to Recapture Clinton Defectors

Keith Ellison wants to lead the DNC. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Keith Ellison (Dem) of Minnesota

The Democratic party is hurting, there can be no doubt. Perhaps, ironically, this paradigm can be demonstrated quite clearly by glancing at the Presidential returns in Minnesota, a state Clinton carried this year, albeit ever so closely.

Donald Trump, now the president-elect, came closer to winning the state on Tuesday than any candidate since 1984, with 44.94 percent of the vote to 46.43 percent for Hillary Clinton.
A Republican hasn’t carried the state since Ronald Reagan did in 1972. But Trump performed better than Reagan in some ways: He won 78 of the state’s 87 counties. Reagan won 67 counties. Minnesotans, in large numbers, rejected the liberal policies Clinton advocated for.

A large segment of the rest of the nation was not so kind to Clinton. So what can the Democrats do? Some politicians think they have the solution: Have Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a leading member of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, head the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress and the first black member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation. He co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus and is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Ellison already has the support of Senators Charles Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.


One of Ellison’s primary political skills is getting out the vote. He is very hands-on, going to local barber shops, cafes, and civic events to preach the power of voting en masse– for Democrats, of course. These personal and frequent contacts work well for him on the local Congressional level– he received around 70 percent of the vote in his last election. This asset, however, may have limited national currency.
The voters the Democrats hope to bring back into their fold or attract initially, are not necessarily receptive to many of the liberal views Ellison subscribes to– as Trump has clearly proven, the voters the Democrats need to draw are more tuned into populist themes consisting of a few specific issues seemingly lacking in Ellison’s repertoire.
Some Midwestern states commonly referred to as the Rust Belt, and the Interior West, have usually been safe harbors for the Democrats– not this year. Clinton bartered her soul to the far left-leaning faction of her party to appease Sanders and Warren backers. Accordingly, Clinton stressed gun-control, pro-immigration agendas, modest military proposals, feminists issues and other programs championed by leftists.
 Scores of these Midwestern and similarly situated voters were not concerned with such matters. Ellison would appear to be even further to the left of Clinton and even less attractive to these voters. 

We cautioned Clinton to pay only lip service to people like Elizabeth Warren and devote more attention to the average moderate voter. We now extend that same advice to the DNC. Ellison may be an OK guy, but his politics are way too liberal to draw the “average” blue collar factory, truck driving, construction working kind of voter that fled the Democrats to vote for Trump.
And even if an ultra liberal could reunite members of the Sanders block with Clinton’s former base, and motivate those voters who stayed home, the numbers will be inadequate to overcome the “average” voters who flocked to Trump. The DNC needs a moderate to lead the party, not an ultra liberal. *
Others in the running include former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who previously headed the DNC from 2005-09.

* Ellison did not endear himself with moderates and Independents when he said “I couldn’t have been prouder of him” when referring to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s comment “Would this have happened if those passengers were white? Gov. Dayton made the remark in response to a black passenger in a car who was shot and killed by a white police officer.

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