In Washington, Democrats are grappling with what it means to be a minority party in the age of Donald Trump. In the rest of the country, populist followers of senator Bernie Sanders are mounting a sustained effort to answer the question from the bottom up.
In California, supporters of the 2016 presidential contender packed the obscure party meetings that chose delegates to the state Democratic convention, with Sanders backers grabbing more than half the slots available.
In Washington state, they swept to power at the Democratic state central committee, ousting a party chairman and installing one of their own in his place. Sanders acolytes have seized control of state parties in Hawaii and Nebraska and won posts throughout the party structure from coast to coast.
Those gains come from an under-the-radar blitz in a debate over the future of the party following its bruising 2016 losses. While Democrats nationwide have put the focus on President Donald Trump, the Sanders wing of the party has engaged in an intramural fight to remake the party in a more populist, liberal mould.
“It is absolutely imperative that we see a major transformation of the Democratic Party,” Mr Sanders said in an interview last week. The party has “to do what has to be done in this country, to bring new energy, new blood.”
Progressives are organizing a final push to get Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) elected as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ahead of a candidates’ debate in Atlanta on Wednesday night and the vote on Saturday.
Ellison has the support of 105 out of 240 DNC members, The Hill reports, putting him ahead of former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who has the next-highest amount at 57. The Hill’s Ben Kamisar and Owen Eagan note that it’s most likely that the vote will head to multiple rounds, taking “as many ballots as needed for a candidate to cobble together a majority,” eliminating the lowest-scoring candidates one by one.
The leading candidates’ face-off exemplifies the insurgent-versus-establishment battle that has taken over the DNC since the 2016 election, as much of the party’s old guard supports Perez over Ellison, while the latter has widespread progressive backing.
Ellison, who is also beloved among younger activists, has picked up the endorsements of a slew of Democratic lawmakers, from Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois to Rep. John Lewis of Georgia to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, as well as Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Perez is endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
According to political journalist Bob Dreyfuss. “First, if Perez beats Ellison, a big chunk of Democrats on the left, including those who backed Sanders in 2016, are going to feel like the party is ignoring them,” he wrote this week.