Keith Ellison on his job as congressman: 'All there is to do is to vote no'

Keith Ellison argued Friday at a gathering of Democrats that he could take over as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and keep his job in congress because, “All there is to do is to vote ‘no’.”

The Friday gathering in Denver was viewed as a try out for the various contenders for the DNC post being vacated by interim chairwoman Donna Brazile. Appearing by video, Howard Dean made a surprise announcement that he would no longer be seeking the DNC chairmanship. That was good news for Ellison who is considered the leading contender for the job. However, one thing Howard Dean did not retract Friday even as he took himself out of the race was that whoever took over must approach the DNC as a full-time job. In other words, the party should not select Ellison who already has a full-time job as a congressman.

Ellison appeared at the same event a couple hours later and made his own surprise announcement. The NY Times reports Ellison said, “I’m in the process of deciding this issue of whether I can perform both roles.” But even as he expressed his willingness to consider stepping down from his seat in Congress, Ellison also tried to downplay the time his job in Congress would take saying, “All there is to do is to vote ‘no’.”

Democrats have spent years pointing to a comment Mitch McConnell made about insuring President Obama would remain a one-term president. McConnell actually made that comment in late 2010 as the 2012 election was heating up, but it has mistakenly been pointed to, including by Obama himself, as proof that Republicans never gave Obama a chance. This comment by Keith Ellison ought to get the same level of attention coming as it does before President-elect Trump has even been sworn into office.

When Ellison tried to suggest to the audience of Democrats that previous DNC leaders had held both jobs at once he was mocked. From the NY Times:

After Mr. Ellison pointed out that other elected officials, most recently Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, had held the post while serving in office, [Jaime] Harrison responded with barely veiled mockery.

“‘Debbie did it,’” Mr. Harrison said to scattered laughs and groans. “I’ll leave that up to you guys to make that determination.”

“No, she didn’t!” Bob Mulholland, a California committee member, shouted from the back of the room.

Ouch! If you had any lingering doubts why Democrats don’t want a part-time DNC chair, this exchange makes it pretty clear what their reasoning is.

Having Dean drop out of the race was good news for Ellison, but this week the congressman also faced some tough headwinds over his past statements about Israel. The Anti-Defamation League announced Thursday that newly uncovered comments Ellison had made about Israel in 2010 were “disqualifying.” Ellison wrote an open letter to the ADL in response claiming he’d been taken out of context but the damage was already done.

Ellison is also still contending with his past as a compatriot and defender of Louis Farrakhan. On that front, Ellison wrote an apology of sorts for the Washington Post Thursday.

In my effort to pursue justice for the African American community, I neglected to scrutinize the words of those such as Khalid Muhammad and Farrakhan who mixed a message of African American empowerment with scapegoating of other communities. These men organize by sowing hatred and division, including anti-Semitism, homophobia and a chauvinistic model of manhood. I disavowed them long ago, condemned their views and apologized.

It’s amazingly easy for Democrats who have cozied up to some of the most extreme voices on the left to distance themselves when they feel ready to do so.