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McKibben writes: "President Needy's poll numbers have begun to tumble. But only a crazy person could keep up this plate-spinning pace for long. Since he clearly will, those fighting Trump need to find a fortress to call home - a place to find shelter in and from which to sally forth. One of those fortresses may be the Democratic party, depending on how this weekend's vote for a new DNC chairman comes out."

Anti-Trump protest. (photo: Drew Angerer/Getty)
Anti-Trump protest. (photo: Drew Angerer/Getty)

Is the Democratic Party With the Resistance? This Weekend Might Tell

By Bill McKibben, Guardian UK

23 February 17


The DNC votes on who will become the new chairman in a few days. If Keith Ellison wins, the party might just be able to win back its lost credibility

he resistance is doing as well as anyone could realistically hope. Deprived by the elections of any institutional power, we’ve marched in record numbers with courage and wit. That’s helped journalists to find their footing, and President Needy’s poll numbers have begun to tumble. But only a crazy person could keep up this plate-spinning pace for long. Since he clearly will, those fighting Trump need to find a fortress to call home – a place to find shelter in and from which to sally forth.

One of those fortresses may be the Democratic party, depending on how this weekend’s vote for a new DNC chairman comes out.

There are a number of candidates, but two appear to be in the lead: former labor secretary Tom Perez, and Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison. Both, by all accounts, are good guys, and not greatly divided by ideology. But they clearly represent the two wings of the party.

Perez is from the ruling wing, the institutional party. He is closely identified with Barack Obama, who he worked for, and Hillary Clinton, who he supported. Ellison is from the movement wing. He is closely identified with Bernie Sanders. Indeed, he was one of the few members of Congress who actively supported his insurgent candidacy.

The choice is actually about the best way to unite the opposition to Trump, at least for the purposes of winning elections.

We don’t need the Democratic party to tell us what to think – we have vibrant and engaged movements out there that are reshaping public opinion every day, in the airports and on Facebook. Black Lives Matter leads our movement intellectually in a way that the Democratic party never will. But we may need the Democratic party for the fairly limited purpose of winning elections and hence consolidating power. What would best serve that utilitarian need?

The answer, I think, is pretty clear.

Ellison – and by extension the movements he represents – offers the party the items it lacks and needs. Credibility, for one. You could (and this is the argument of Perez and his establishment team) begin in the middle, with as unthreatening and centrist a party as possible, and then reach out to the various movements and try to bring them on board. But I doubt that will work.

The deep-seated anger at the elites, who have compromised serious principle time and time again, is simply too strong. If the polls are to be believed, most Americans don’t trust any of Washington’s power centers, the DNC included. No one looks at Steny Hoyer and thinks, “What barricade can I die on?” The last chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, was the embodiment of this kind of non-principled power-based thinking, and she did tremendous damage.

And if that’s true of Americans in general, it’s doubly true of young people. In fact, more than doubly: the single most remarkable statistics of the 2016 election season were the four- and five- and six-to-one margins by which Sanders won young voters.

That he was able to overcome that inherent distrust means he may be able to do the party a great service, and deliver it a generation of voters who are not otherwise inclined to affiliate with institutions of any sort. Ellison is the bridge to that world, and it would be political malpractice to draw it up. But he’s also the bridge to the world of movements, which supply the passion and spirit and creativity that the DNC requires at least as badly as it needs credibility.

A typical Ellison supporter is someone like Jane Kleeb, the whirlwind Nebraska organizer who spearheaded much of the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline, and is now assembling a coalition of farmers, ranchers and other unlikely activists across the midwest to fight fossil fuel infrastructure and demand renewable energy.

Kleeb’s just been elected chair of Nebraska’s Democratic party, giving it a transfusion of organizing energy that had been lacking; if you want to compete in the heartland, she’s the kind of person you need.

These folks are serious about winning elections – Ellison himself has been a remarkably successful campaigner in his Minnesota base, expanding his margins year after year and lending effective support to the rest of the ticket. And they know how to raise money, one of the key jobs of a party: Sanders’ 27-bucks-at-a-time model is clearly the future of political fundraising, a welcome change from simply finding plutocrats or shaking down Wall Street.

Ellison is in a very real way the safe choice. If the institutionalists are put in charge, then much of the DNC’s energy in the years to come will be spent trying to deal with people who distrust institutions. But with Sanders’ implicit backing, Ellison can short-circuit that conversation and simply get to work.

Few people will accuse the black Muslim Berniecrat of being an apparatchik. And since he’s simultaneously a modest midwestern track-and-field coach, he’ll be able to get a message across to the broad middle.

I don’t know whether that will be enough to save the Democratic party. We’re in an era of rapid deinstitutionalization – our political parties may just become hollow shells that cannot compete against insurgent candidates like Sanders (who was an independent most of his career).

But there are, unfortunately, strong forces in the constitution that favor a two-party system. So even if parties are not as important as protest, it’s still worth seeing if they can serve a useful role going forward. Keith Ellison is the best chance of finding out. your social media marketing partner


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+14 # mashiguo 2017-02-23 10:15
"But there are, unfortunately, strong forces in the constitution that favor a two-party system"

I call BS on that one.

For Ellison to fix the party he will have to show more strength and endurance than Sisyphus.
+40 # grandlakeguy 2017-02-23 11:12
If the Democratic leadership insists on following the path of being the Republican-lite party tomorrow is the moment for millions of members to drop their affiliation and become independents.

It iOS also the moment to establish the Progressive Party1
+2 # farmgoddess 2017-02-25 10:48
Yes!!! Why are so many clinging to the dims?? They have betrayed working, tax-paying Americans at every turn! They are only slightly less offensive than the repugs, and that is a pretty low bar!
+31 # danireland46 2017-02-23 11:43
I agree completely with Mc Kibben. Ellison and Sanders are the true voice of the old DFL. Perez, Obama's pick, and HRC supporter is a neo-liberal, establishment apparatchik, is NOT the person we need - ELLISON IS!
+16 # Robbee 2017-02-23 11:50
KE asks us to refrain from contacting DNC members

MM says instead we should sign the petition endorsing KE - Let the DNC know that THIS SATURDAY, February 25th, the Democratic National Committee MUST elect reform and progressive candidate, Congressman Keith Ellison, as the new DNC chair. Keith is a former community organizer, the first Muslim elected to Congress, and a key backer of Bernie Sanders. He not only has Bernie's support --and mine--but he's also backed by Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Gloria Steinem, John Lewis and many others. Sign his petition of support at Let the DNC know how you feel.
+4 # Moxa 2017-02-23 13:08
IF Ellison wins it COULD mean a turn toward more progressive priorities in the party. More likely it will be a bit of window dressing to give the impression of change. In the same way the party wants Bernie to front for it because of his great popularity. But he was chastised when he complained that a large number of Democratic senators voted against his bill to permit people from getting drugs from Canada at greatly reduced prices. The Dems just don't want to give up their lifeline: corporate money. Until there is a firm commitment to dropping that, the party can never be progressive, never for the people.

Please visit , which is an organization which hopes to persuade Bernie Sanders to start a new party. This is the most propitious time for this with so many people disgusted with the 2 corporate parties, and at a point when Bernie is at the height of his popularity. There is far more consensus in this country than the mainstream media is admitting. People want universal health care and free college tuition. They want to get big money out of elections and much more. This is also a good time because we have just completed an election cycle and there's time to get things moving before the next one.

Please also check out this great interview:
+6 # Scott Galindez 2017-02-23 15:02

They don't want a massive email or phone campaign but if you know your DNC members from your State, let them know how you feel. I was already in contact with our new State chair in Iowa so i sent my articles to him,
+6 # Skippydelic 2017-02-23 15:57
After the HORRENDOUS results of last year's election, will the DNC see the writing on the wall?

Sadly, I'm not certain that the Democratic Party CAN do the right thing...
+1 # farmgoddess 2017-02-25 10:45
Yes, unfortunately I don't think the dims have gotten or will get the message. Everything they've done since the election demonstrates that in spades.

The dims abandoned the working public years ago, which is why I abandoned them years ago.

It's well past time for a new party that actually represents the interests of citizens - which is NOT happening with either of the two corporate duopoly parties.
+3 # Inspired Citizen 2017-02-23 18:15
Keith Ellison wants the U.S. militarily involved with Syria. Sam Ronan wants the U.S. out of the Middle East. Ronan wants to eliminate superdelegates.

Sorry, the revolutionary's choice is Ronan.

0 # seanaheem 2017-02-26 20:07
DNC fail, #DemExit engaged.

Where's the New Party at? I hope EVERYONE is invited to this one.
0 # Charles3000 2017-02-27 11:07
There is a clear but never discussed difference between the Repug/Clinton/D im party and progressives and that is how the federal government is funded to pay bills. The Clintons are supporters of the peterson Foundation that preaches the evil of a big govt debt and the need for austerity in govt spending. Progressives know deep down and some analytically that the need for austerity or balanced budgets is a sham designed to benefit the wealthy and corporate power. They would have you believe the govt must obtain money by taxing or borrowing in order to spend. The hidden fact is there is a third source of funds at the federal level and that source is seninorage. It is used now but very sparingly and has, in the past, been used in much greater measure. Seigniorage,a potential major source of funds for progressive programs, is the difference between the cost to create/produce an item of money and the face value of the money item. Computer click money has essentially 100% seigniorage and the Fed used it to spend 26T$ to bail out banks after the '08 crash. Prior to 1970 the govt printed and spent US Notes without borrowing nor taxing. It has been done, it is still being done with dimes and quarters and could be done for all the progressive programs described by Sanders, free pre K through 16 years including 4 years of college, health care for all, etc. So when an austerity minded pol asks"Where will the money come from", yell seigniorage!
0 # Charles3000 2017-02-27 11:26
Note: when seigniorage is used to fund programs then taxes must be used to remove/destroy excess funds that accumulate in the economy to prevent inflation. That is the real function of taxes; removal of excess funds from the economy to prevent inflation, not to fund govt operations.

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