Keith Ellison: The Democrats’ new leader?
The defeated Democrats are now waging a civil war over “the soul of their party,” said David Graham in The Atlantic.com. The first battle in that war: choosing a new party chairman. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, an African-American who’s one of just two Muslims in the House, appeared to be the early favorite. A fiery progressive from the Bernie Sanders wing, Ellison drew endorsements from such powerful Democrats as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sanders. But now a backlash may derail Ellison’s candidacy. Some Democrats think it would be a mistake for the party to react to defeat by moving to the left and making Ellison the party’s leader. But Ellison’s “biggest impediment might be his past.” He once defended—but now disavows—Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, “an open anti-Semite.” Last week, Jewish leaders escalated their opposition to Ellison after digging up a 2010 speech in which he questioned why the U.S. so strongly supports Israel. “A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million,” Ellison said. “Does that make sense?”
One can criticize Israel’s influence on U.S. foreign policy without being an anti-Semite, said Eric Levitz in NYMag.com. Ellison last week reiterated his support for Israel, and he has maintained “warm relations with the Jewish community” throughout his political career. He also wins elections in a predominantly white district, and gives Democrats a bridge between liberal identity politics and the lunch-pail economic issues that were so crucial in this election. Ellison can energize Sanders’ army of young supporters, who are the future of the party.
So a party that “just lost its white, workingclass, blue-collar base” to Donald Trump wants a far-left Muslim to run the DNC, said Alan Dershowitz in FoxNews.com. “It is hard to imagine a worse candidate.” Ellison won’t lure back white voters in Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania who lost their jobs to globalization and free trade, “and he certainly won’t help among Jewish voters.” Indeed, Ellison “would be a disaster” for relations between Jews and the Democrats, said Jonathan Tobin in CommentaryMagazine.com. He has even called Israel’s efforts to defend itself against Hamas missile attacks “morally wrong.” Clearly “pro-Israel Democrats must either stop Ellison or quit pretending that their party is still a bastion of support for the Jewish state.”