Progressives vs. Old School Dems. Perhaps the reasons are regional. Perhaps the reasons are personal. Perhaps it’s just that Rep. Keith Ellison, 53, isn’t a Clyburn protege. Whatever the reasons are, Rep. Jim Clyburn, 76, is working against a fellow CBC member from becoming the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in favor of a former staffer of his: Jamie Harrison. Harrison is currently the Chair of the Democratic Party in South Carolina.
Yesterday, Ellison won the support of American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and AFSME President Lee Saunders.
The battle between Ellison and Harrison is a battle between the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and the old school wing of the party. After the stunning loss of the White House and the failure to take the Senate and gain more seats in the House, Democrats are doing some deep thinking about what to do next as Donald Trump prepares to take power by choosing a number of millionaires and billionaires with no government experience to run the country.
The stated reason: Ellison is a siting member of Congress. Clyburn and several others would like to see a full time Chair of the DNC Chair. What explains Clyburn’s silence for the last six years as part-time member of Congress and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz presided over historic losses in the House is anyone’s guess. Wasserman Schultz serving as DNC Chair was President Obama’s idea — not one of his best.
On November 14, Clyburn sent out the following e-mail to House Democrats:
Like most of you, if not all, we have spent a significant amount of time reflecting upon last Tuesday’s disappointing results. And as we suspect is the case with many of you,our reflections have been peppered with a significant amount of anger. During our quiet, lonely introspection, we shared and discussed the Aristotle quote which follows:
“Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — this is not easy.
We feel very strongly that the way forward for us is not going to be easy. We need to ask ourselves some questions. How many Democratic Governors do we have? How many state Legislatures do we control? How many county commissions and city councils are Democratic? Our party’s infrastructure has been decimated and our brand denigrated. We must rebuild and rebrand, and we must start now.
The Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) primary goal is to win the presidency. Winning the presidency in 2020 is possible. But it will require, in our not-so-humble opinion, a 24/7 bottom-to-top rebuilding effort. We believe, however, that our task might be less difficult if we were to get back to basics and start adhering to our Party’s rules. In that light, we submit to you a portion of Article Five, Section 4 of the National Democratic Party’s Charter and By-Laws:
“The National Chairperson shall serve full time and shall receive such compensation as may be determined by agreement between the Chairperson and the Democratic National Committee. . . .”
Our 50-State strategy was very successful. We sincerely believe it was a serious mistake to step away from it. The 50-State strategy was the creation of Governor Howard Dean – who like many before him, and as our rules require – was a full–time Chairman. Full time Chairs are unimpeded by any other political considerations or obligations. They are free to travel to every “nook and cranny” required to fulfill our party’s pursuit of everybody’s vote. We have occasionally had co-Chairs. But when we did, one of them was full time.
Our heads have been bloodied but are unbowed. Our Party is resilient, and we are committed. But we sincerely believe that the time and energy needed at this particular juncture cry out for an experienced, energetic full-time Chair.