Since the surprise loss in last November’s election, Democrats had been pondering who should head the Party. The top contenders for the Chair of the Democratic Party were Tom Perez, a former head of the Justice Dept.’s Civil Rights Division and Secretary of Labor under President Obama, and Rep. Keith Ellison of MN. The background of the two leading contenders makes you think that the Party has decided to become more radical.
If one can imply the leaning of the Party by the people that it chooses to lead it, then we should be concerned. Congressman Ellison’s political activism is especially troubling. He had a long association with the radical and anti-Semitic Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan. Ellison once wrote in an op-ed that ,“Minister Farrakhan is a role model for black youth,” and some years ago spent eighteen months organizing for them. Over the course of a decade or so, he wrote extensively in defense of Farrakhan and other radical leaders against accusations of anti-Semitism in columns and statements to the press. When he decided to run for Congress, Ellison distanced himself from the Nation of Islam and has said he now rejects their anti-Semitism.
In another instance in 1990, the (then) President of the Univ. of Minnesota expressed disappointment that a student group had invited Stokley Carmichael, a former Black Panther, to speak on campus after Carmichael had said that Zionists had collaborated with the Nazis in killing Jews. Ellison, who attended law school at Minnesota, wrote in the student newspaper and attacked the University President’s comments saying that he had criticized the former Black Panther’s statement “without offering any factual refutation of it”.
Secretary Perez also has a few questionable issues that have been raised during his time as a Congressman and during his time in the Obama Administration. The most controversial of which was during his time heading the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
After the 2008 election, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation against the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation after reports and pictures surfaced of NBP Party members standing outside a polling place in the Philadelphia area. In the pictures NBP Party members can be seen with a billy club wearing what was described as paramilitary-type uniforms and reports said they were shouting racial slurs, including phrases such as “white devil” and “you’re about to be ruled by the black man, cracker .” In January 2009, a civil lawsuit was filed against four defendants. The lawsuit was later dropped, though at least one person resigned from the Voting Rights Section in protest and another member of DOJ management publicly questioned the decision. Those raising concerns about equal protection under the law said that several top DOJ officials had questioned the validity of investigating any non-white charge regarding voter intimidation. There were also complaints that after the case was dismissed, instructions were given that no more cases against racial minorities like the Black Panther case would be brought by the Voting Section. Perez, though not directly involved in the case, later removed the head of the Voting Section who had been critical of the decision and refused to allow him to testify before the Civil Rights Commission about the matter.
The election to head the Party resulted last week in Perez defeating Ellison. After being elected, Perez asked Ellison to serve as Deputy Chair and has also since defended Ellison and his record. The fact that the choice was between two candidates of those backgrounds is concerning and that Ellison—a radical liberal with a past of defending and even promoting racist, anti-Semitic causes—was not only a leading contender to head the Party but was asked to serve even when he lost the election is a sign that his past does not appear to be an issue for Party leadership. There isn’t much doubt any more that the Party has decided that racial politics are still pre-eminent in their approach, and it’s increasingly hard to dismiss a notion that radicalism is now in control of the Party apparatus.