The Democrats pick a new leader for the DNC

It took a couple of rounds of voting but the membership of the Democratic National Committee finally put things to rest this afternoon. They have rid themselves of the temporary leadership of Donna Brazile and will replace her with Tom Perez. The former Labor Secretary came up only a single vote short on the first try, leading Keith Ellison by 13.5 votes. Despite some energetic please from other candidates, Perez was able to close the deal. (Washington Post)

Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected as the first Latino chair of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, defeating Rep. Keith Ellison at a contentious party meeting in Atlanta.

“With hard work and a hell of a lot of organizing, we will turn this party around,” Perez said before he had locked up enough votes to win 235 to 200 votes on a second ballot.

As Perez’s victory was announced, nine Ellison supporters chanted “power of the people, not big money,” then stormed out of the room.

Unhappy Democrats do have one blessing to count at least. They won’t be losing Alan Dershowitz, who yesterday threatened to leave the party if Keith Ellison were named as the new chair. The close nature of the vote and the strong feelings running rampant among party regulars seem to indicate a Democratic Party which is still fully in disarray and unsure of the direction they will be charting next.

In this vote we saw what can only be interpreted as the old guard establishment of the Democrats carrying the day and beating back a challenge from their most liberal activists who wish to push the party further to the left. But given the razor thin margin, I would not expect Ellison supporters to go quietly into that good night. You can expect to see them whipping up the base and probably still pitching talk of primary challenges to members who are insufficiently “tough on Trump” and don’t follow the trail blazed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

As I’ve said before, I really didn’t have a horse in that race. But I did find it disappointing in a way that Keith Ellison didn’t manage to win. He would’ve been such an interesting and fascinating opponent as the Republicans and Democrats square off going into the midterm elections. What with his history of dalliances with the Nation of Islam and his background in anti-Semitic tirades, he would’ve made an ideal sparring partner. Tom Perez on the other hand comes from the old guard and will probably be a much more cautious (and well-funded) opponent.

Before we close out this chapter, it’s worth taking a moment to salute the end of what turned out to be a truly disastrous era for the Democratic Party. Debbie Wasserman Schultz produced little in the way of results and was frequently lampooned and for her “interesting” appearances on cable news. But for all that, her heart was certainly in the right place and she did seem to be at least attempting to deliver victory. Things got even worse under Donna Brazile. She didn’t really seem to do much of anything while she held the position of interim chair but it must’ve been a terrible embarrassment to the party. This was the same woman who was exposed as having engaged in cheating during their own primary and yet she somehow wound up at the helm for months on end.

To the very last she kept insisting that she was really the victim in all of this. (Business Insider)

In an interview with Business Insider at the DNC winter meeting on Friday, the chair reflected on the effects of the release of hacked emails from the committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman that were published by WikiLeaks last year. She said that included “constant harassment” and “physical threats, harmful threats.” And she said the experience changed her personally.

“It was a campaign that I’ve never experienced before, and I have seven presidential campaigns under my belt. When I assumed the chair role, I assumed, ‘Well, this will only take a couple months out of my life, and I’ll go back to being Donna.’ But it transformed me,” Brazile said.

The Democrats absolutely have their hands full in 2018. It’s not that I’m actually wishing them any luck, but at least they can keep it interesting for all of us who are watching. So congratulations to Tom Perez. You got one heck of a job cut out for yourself, sir.

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