Democrats Courting Disaster with Ellison

The Democrats continue to court disaster by flirting with Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, in his quest to be national chairman.

Ellison’s appointment would be a sign that the Democrats learned nothing from the past year, and that they continue to embrace identity politics as a substitute for policy.

“Why not appoint as the new head of the party a radical left-­wing ideologue who has a long history of supporting an anti­American, anti-­white, anti-­Semitic Nation of Islam racist?”

It would also be a sign that the Democratic National Committee is actually growing more tone-deaf.

Ellison, a Muslim who often defended the Nation of Islam while in law school, has been on the defensive lately about his full-time job as congressman.

Meeting before a gathering of Democratic state chairmen on Friday, Ellison put forth quite a reason as to why he would be effective as both a chairman and a congressman.

“All there is to do is to vote ‘no,'” said Ellison, according to The New York Times, adding he would spend “every other moment” working for the party.

Vowing not to work very hard as congressman, and to engage in obstruction, is one of the reasons voters loathe Washington politicians. It’s a reason they decided to go with President-Elect Donald Trump this year.

Ellison’s remark raises questions about how Ellison’s Minnesota constituents would feel about an absentee congressman who is spending most of his time at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Ellison would need to fly all over the nation raising money.

Ellison's congressional job has become an issue — perhaps because of the DNC's former chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat.

Democrats had issues with Wasserman Schultz time and time again, but put off replacing her until it was too late.

Wasserman Schultz became chair in 2011, and started missing a lot of votes. But she helped President Obama win re-election in 2012, so Democrats kept her on.

Wasserman Schultz did not support Hillary Clinton in the primaries, but the DNC was later perceived as interfering in the primary between Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The links between Clinton and Wasserman Schultz were exposed in a WikiLeaks drop over the summer.

Wasserman Schultz resigned after the Democratic National Convention in July.

Now Democrats are considering Ellison, who meets a lot of the criteria that Democrats want.

They like the fact he is relatively young, at 53. He also made history in 2006 when he became the first Muslim elected to Congress.

Ellison supported Sanders for president. That support could attract young people to Ellison's leadership. It's perhaps why incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has thrown his support behind Ellison.

But Ellison's strengths are also his weaknesses.

Ellison, while being from the Midwest, is not likely to connect with key voters in the Midwest or South. Part of the reason is Ellison is a leftist who has ties to the Nation of Islam.

That has longtime liberals such as Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz apoplectic.

"Why not appoint as the new head of the party a radical left-­wing ideologue who has a long history of supporting an anti-­American, anti-­white, anti-­Semitic Nation of Islam racist?" Dershowitz asked on Fox News Opinion.

Dershowitz and others question why Ellison suggested Israel shapes and manipulates U.S. foreign policy. Ellison made the remark while in Congress in 2010, and it was caught on audiotape.

The Anti-Defamation League recently blasted the remark.

Ellison also suggested the event of Sept. 11, 2001, were used as an excuse to attack Muslims, much as the Reichstag fire in 1933 was used to crack down on German communists.

But it was Ellison's support of Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, that could cost Ellison the job.

"Long after Jesse Jackson disavowed Farrakhan in 1984 as 'reprehensible and morally indefensible' for describing Judaism as a 'gutter religion,' Ellison was defending Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam in 1995 as a role model for African-­Americans, calling him 'a tireless public servant of Black people, who constantly teaches self-­reliance and self-­examination to the Black community," Dershowitz wrote.

Democratic strategists have got to be asking themselves why they walked right into a highly visible bear trap. The Democrats just concluded a weeks-long attack on Trump's chief political adviser, Steve Bannon, for allegedly being anti-Semitic. The charges were dubious, and even more so compared to the company Ellison has kept.

Now if Democrats choose Ellison, they will be sending a clear signal the agenda remains: Sanders-style leftism, congressional obstructionism, Israel-bashing, identity politics, and a continued focus on city-living elites over rural and suburban Americans.

It's not a formula that will help Democrats win congressional majorities in 2018 or the White House in 2020. It's perhaps why Republicans are rooting for a chairman named Ellison.

Last Modified: December 5, 2016, 12:44 pm

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