Although it’s hard to do, let’s put aside for the moment Keith Ellison’s unfortunate past in terms of both anti-Semitic comments and actions.
Indeed, let’s also put aside his previous affiliation with the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan.
Rather, let’s take him at his word that he’s apologetic about and truly disavows these earlier comments, actions, and affiliations.
The question remains: why in the world would the Democratic Party choose Keith Ellison to be the Chair of the Democratic National Committee at this particular time?
Put another way: why, after this election, would the Democrats choose a person who is as far to the left as is Keith Ellison to be their titular leader? In a recent ADA rating, which appears representative of where he is on the political spectrum, Ellison was 100%.
The Democrats have lost ground politically by every measure over the past eight years. The White House and both Houses of Congress are now firmly in Republican hands. And in the upcoming 2018 Senate elections it is the Democrats who are at greatest risk of further losses in seats currently held by Democrats in purple or even near-red states.
More state legislative chambers than ever are Republican-dominated, and virtually half the states now have both Republican governors and legislatures.
In this recent presidential election, states, traditionally won by Democrats, such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, went Republican. And toss-up states, also in the Midwest, including Iowa and Ohio, voted with Trump.
A deeper dive into voting patterns in these states shows that many working class voters, who voted for President Obama in the past two elections, voted for Trump this time. The gap between union voters for the Democratic and the Republican candidates narrowed from 20% at the peak of Obama’s power to only 8% in this election, the same gap that existed when Reagan did so well with “Reagan Democrats.”
It’s instructive to look back in recent political history to see how Democrats have responded in the past to a loss of power when their base shrunk in such fashion.
In the wake of Richard Nixon’s rise to power, Bob Strauss and other centrists in the party came to positions of leadership and helped enable Jimmy Carter to re-claim middle ground and take power back in 1976.
In the wake of Ronald Reagan’s dominance of the political scene, the Democratic Leadership Council grew quickly and powerfully and set the stage for one of its centrist leaders, Bill Clinton, to take the presidency back in 1992.
Though President Obama certainly turned out to be no centrist, he initially ran a consensus-type campaign to bring America back together. One could argue that the loss of Democratic power during his terms may have been due to his serving in a manner that was out of sync with the manner and stance that had made him popular in the first place.
Some Democrats argue that the party ought to move further left to excite that part of its base. That’s exactly what the “wings” always argue, and the argument almost never turns out to work, for either party.
What works typically for Democrats when they lose is to recognize why a group of regular voters in the middle who often vote Democratic choose to vote Republican. These voters are constantly up for grabs, and they typically make all the difference in races that are determined “within the forty yard lines.” The winning path is to go after them with leaders and policies likely to attract them back, all in the middle.
These voters, generally speaking, leaned toward Carter, fled to Reagan, came back to Clinton, went to George W. Bush, sided with Obama, and recently decided to give Trump a try.
One would think that Trump has a better chance of keeping them if the Democrats choose to rally around the views and policies of a leader so far out to the left as Keith Ellison.
Of course, I’m an independent, so I have no role in this matter. So, chalk this blog up to my “just sayin’.”