Van Jones has this right … for the wrong reasons. The former White House adviser tells Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union that the leadership of the Democratic Party will pass from the hands of the Clintons, which seems obvious enough. But Jones believes that the reason for this was that Hillary was not progressive enough, especially in her choice of running mate, and that’s why she lost the election.
So who does Jones think will lead the Democratic Party out of the wilderness? Keith Ellison (via The Hill):
I think that a Keith Ellison is very important because he is somebody who represents the progressive wing of the party. One thing that happened, when Hillary Clinton had a chance to make a VP pick, she didn’t pick someone from the progressive wing, which made it much harder to heal those wounds with the Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren wing. Keith Ellison represents that wing very, very well. You also, I think, have to remember that Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are going to be there on the Senate floor every day. That’s going to be an important part.
You have to understand, I think, that the — the Clinton days are over. This idea that were going to be this moderate party that’s going to move in this direction, that’s going to throw blacks under the bus for criminal justice reform and — or for — for prison expansion, that’s going to throw workers under the bus for NAFTA, those days are over.
You can’t run and hide. You’ve got to be an authentic person from the beginning. You’re going to be judged based on your authentic commitment to the actual base of this party. And if you don’t do that, you can’t win.
Former two-term governor Brian Schweitzer begs to differ — at least on tone:
Well, wait a minute. … You win elections because values unite people. Issues divide. And so when you talk about things, talk about how it affects somebody’s family. Talk about lessons you’ve learned from your grandparents.
It’s the same issues, but it’s values the way you frame it. And too much of the time, the Democratic candidate acts like he’s — or she’s — the smartest person in the room. You’re damn right, I want them to be the smartest person in the room, but I don’t want them talking like they’re the smartest person in the room.
Schweitzer almost gets it, but falls just a bit short. The Democratic Party has increasingly relied on a strategy of dividing people into categories and playing them off of each other. Barack Obama managed to finesse that by emphasizing unity even while pushing class-warfare politics, but Jones’ solution to the crisis in the party is to double down on the latter. It’s as if the decline in the party at all levels over the last eight years while progressives like Obama and Nancy Pelosi were in charge had never happened.
Voters have tired of that kind of ideological warfare. It’s no big mystery why voters in both parties looked for options outside of the established ideological lanes. The difference between the two parties was that the Clintons locked out all of the other practical options, and only Bernie Sanders was left with the opening. Voters wanted someone who could get past the gridlock and work to being back jobs and prosperity rather than a culturally acceptable stagnation that’s prettied up by diversity virtue-signaling.
The Clintons are done, of course, so Jones is correct about that, but that’s mostly because even Democrats aren’t dumb enough to give them a third chance to run the party into the ground. They need leadership that’s focused on the real issues facing American families across the country, not just in the coastal enclaves and academic ivory towers. Nominating Keith Ellison as the man who can make those connections might just be the most unintentionally humorous proposition of the cycle. If Democrats don’t figure this out soon, the Clintons won’t be the only ones done.