BY DEVIN BAKER — STAFF WRITER
Tom Perez, the former labor secretary for President Obama, was elected as the newest Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman for the Democratic Party. Perez replaces interim chair Donna Brazile after a long, four-month race and an interesting final day of voting.
Given the hotly contested battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Presidential nomination for the 2016 Election, the new DNC Chairman would have to navigate representing a party clearly divided with its goals moving forward. One side is represented by the “establishment” and includes the faces of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, while the other side of the Democratic Party is represented by the “outsiders” and likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Associate Professor of Politics, Benjamin Knoll, had this to say regarding the election of Tom Perez as the new DNC Chairman:
“Even though national party chairs don’t set policy agendas, the DNC chair race was considered a ‘proxy’ battle for the future of the Democratic party. Perez loosely represented the ‘establishment’ Clinton/Obama wing of the party while Ellison represented the ‘outsider’ Sanders/Warren wing of the party. Both are important constituencies in the modern Democratic party.”
For Knoll, the win by Perez was not a surprise. In regards to why Perez may have been the victor over his opponent, Ellison, Professor Knoll said:
“Listening to interviews with Perez and Ellison surrogates, one thing stood out to me: the paradigm of elections and voting behavior of the Perez camp seemed to match up better with political science research. It seemed to me that they had a more solid understanding of why people vote the way they do and evidence-based strategies for winning elections. They also had a better grasp on the basic social psychology of political behavior that informs much of the discussions of identity politics in today’s political environment. In sum, both the Perez and Ellison wings of the Democratic Party deserve representation in the DNC apparatus, but in terms of strategy and elections the DNC made a good choice going with Perez.”
While Perez may have been the victor and may occupy the Committee Chair, Perez made a smart decision in naming his opponent, Ellison, to be his deputy chairman. This move, presumably, is a move in hopes to unify the party.
Ellison has also done his part to appeal to his supporters in the hopes to further unification of the party. After his loss to Perez and acceptance of the deputy chairman position, Ellison had this to say:
“If you came here supporting me, wearing a Keith T-shirt, or any T-shirt, I’m asking you to give everything you’ve got to support Chairman Perez. You love this country, you love all the people in it, you care about each and every one of them, urban, rural, suburban, all cultures, all faiths, everybody, and they are in need of your help. And if we waste even a moment going at it over who supported who, we are not going to be standing up for those people. We don’t have the luxury, folks, to walk out of this room divided.”
The results of the election for the DNC Chairman reflect a contested nomination for the Democratic Presidential candidates, but also a still much-divided party with different visions. While Perez made a smart move in making Ellison his deputy chairman, this may only be treating the symptoms instead of curing the problem. The Democratic Party is clearly divided and will have to continue to navigate unification in the future.