How Democrats Plan to Make a Comeback

November 11th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

The Democratic party is having an identity crisis. And as it scrambles to diagnosis the results of Tuesday's election, a prospective leader has emerged: Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a black, Muslim congressman who is being endorsed by progressives to head the Democratic National Committee.


The DNC has taken heat over its failure to identify and satisfy an apparent appetite for progressive policies and candidates among the party's base. During the presidential campaign, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (then-DNC chair) was criticized for allegedly favoring former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton's campaign over that of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; on Thursday, a DNC staffer blasted her replacement, interim DNC chair Donna Brazile, for backing "a flawed candidate" at the expense of a younger generation.

Could Ellison bring change to the Democratic party?

Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — two of the party's most progressive and popular voices — seem to think so. New Jersey Sen. Chuck Schumer, who represents a more establishment wing of the party, also gave Ellison his nod.

Though Ellison has declined to comment on whether he'll run for DNC chair, he told progressive groups on Thursday that he will make an announcement on Monday, The Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook reported.

Here's Salon's take on Ellison:

"The 53-year-old Democrat has been in Congress since 2007, representing Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, which encompasses greater-Minneapolis. He is African-American and Muslim — two demographies Trump’s campaign threatened to marginalize in 2016. He is pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and a champion of human rights. He was the second congressman to endorse Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary, and endorsed Hillary Clinton in the general election."

Despite his recent endorsements, however, Ellison would face a fight if he choose to throw his hat in the ring. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean announced his plans to run for DNC chair on Thursday and told MSNBC that while he considers Ellison "a very good guy," he doesn't think it's possible to "do this job and sit in a political office at the same time."

"We have to rebuild from what has been a tragedy not only for the Democratic Party, but perhaps for the country," Dean said.

Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor for the New York Times, questioned if Ellison would be able to reach out to white voters in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, all places where Clinton lost on Tuesday. 

However, Dan O'Sullivan, who writes for the socialist magazine Jacobin, pointed out that Ellison himself could also be be described as a Rust Belt populist, despite not necessarily fitting the demographic profile: