There was never a single moment of the 2016 campaign when I thought Bernie Sanders would win. From the beginning, my support for the senator’s presidential campaign was about gaining more attention for the progressive economic agenda he championed, and moving the Democratic Party to the left. I knew this campaign was an act of going over the top and charging through No Man’s Land, and I never expected to make it to the other trench. I was just hoping we’d make it more than a few steps. My modest initial goal was for Sanders to have a greater effect on the party and on national politics than Dennis Kucinich.
Mission Accomplished! I am still in awe of how close Sanders campaign came to winning, and the influence he has achieved is miles beyond anything I thought possible. The best example of this is the contest for DNC Chair. It has come down to Sanders’ preferred candidate, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Representative Keith Ellison; and the administration’s choice, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.
Perez is generally considered to be the best progressive in the Obama cabinet. Prior to a term at the Department of Labor, where he promulgated aggressive rules protecting the rights of workers to organize and to receive fair pay, he ran Eric Holder’s Civil Rights Division, where he was a champion of voting rights. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what the centrist establishment choice looks like in 2016.
In any other year, the establishment’s choice would be a corporate Democrat from the Blue Dog or Third Way wings of the party, while someone to Perez’s right would be the liberal alternative. This year, the leading contender is a left-populist African-American Muslim who heads the CPC. His opponent is literally the most progressive figure in the most progressive administration in decades. For the Sanders coalition, losing the race for DNC Chair would give us a better outcome than winning would have given us in any previous year.
If you had told me in 2014 that these would be the candidates, I would have said you were out of your mind. I certainly hope Ellison becomes the next DNC Chair, because it is important that the next leadership be as independent as possible from the disgraced outgoing party leadership, but in the bigger picture, that would be just the final 10% of the objective. That the contest has come down to Ellison vs. Perez means we’ve already gotten the first 90%. Factional jockeying aside, Tom Perez represents almost everything the Sanders wing could want from an ideological perspective*
Thank you, Bernie Sanders, for everything you have achieved.
*No, I do not believe Perez actually supported the TPP, any more than I believe Clinton actually opposed it. He was an Obama cabinet member when he expressed his suppport; what else was he going to say?