Three Comments on Ellison’s defeat 

1) While obviously disappointing, the relatively close margin of Ellison’s loss for DNC chair indicates that a victory was in reach-just as much as Sanders’s primary win was. That means we need to learn lessons from it by asking the question what we (as a movement) could have done to have tipped the balance. Here it seems fairly clear that the grassroots outreach to/pressuring of the voting members of the DNC was insufficient. For example, I didn’t even know who I should call until the morning of the DNC vote and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. That there was not a sufficiently well organized national mobilization is an indication that we are not there yet as a movement-getting there, but not yet there. Constructive self-criticism is a crucial component of the process. 

2) These sorts of defeats invariably trigger a barrage of reflexive vendettas from those who claim that they are “done with the Democrats”. The obvious rejoinder from DNC hacks is the perennial Clint Eastwood one: “so what are you gonna do about it, punk?” “Exit” the party by registering as an independent? That only accomplishes disenfranchising yourself from closed state primaries, such as in New York. In fact, the NYDP was probably grateful for those who had done so in the past in that the difficulty with re-registering as Democrat significantly drove down Sanders vote totals insuring that their preferred candidate would win. Those doing so, and that includes me, willingly enlisted in the Dems voter suppression effort. Same with registering Green which accomplishes nothing since they have never staged a primary-one of many indications of their organizational structure which can only be described as beyond dysfunctional.

That said, if the hashtag “#demexit” means organizing locally and building up the infrastructure required to compete for and win local seats with independent third party candidates, then great-more power to you. I’ve done it myself and I’ll be glad to help. But my experience is that those fulminating most loudly are the least likely, the least able and ultimately the least interested in taking meaningful action along these or other (productive) lines. They’re blowing smoke and thinking with their slogans, not their brains-a common enough affliction on the “left” as previous postings have noted.

3) The predominant response among the most informed and rational leftists has been to note that by yet again insulting and humiliating the party’s newly ascendant grassroots base, the Perez win will  set the Democrats up for yet another round of “failures” in 2018 and beyond.  They are almost certainly right, though I’d suggest that their assessment is based on a misunderstanding of what success and failure means for party elites. It is crucial to keep in mind that winning elections is of secondary importance to them. That’s because their main goals are twofold.  First, to insure that neoliberal elements remain in control of the DP and, second, to prevent any significant independent, left third party from getting enough of a footing to offer serious competition to it. In these respects, they have succeeded brilliantly and will continue to do so until we have shown that we have a strategy for combatting them-something we have notably failed to come up with, as should be obvious to anyone with their eyes open.

This is, of course, a pretty cynical view which some will blanch at.  Unfortunately, if the past decades have anything to teach us is that when it comes to the Democratic Party, even the most cynical explanations are not cynical enough.

We’re best off assuming that as our starting point to direct our strategy in the future.

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