Why Was Tom Perez Willing to be the New Democrats’ DNC Stalking Horse?

By William K. Black
February 22, 2017     Bloomington, MN

Hillary Clinton did not lose the presidential race because she is stupid.  The New Democrats have dominated the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates for decades.  This means that they are extremely good at internal Democratic Party politics.  The New Democrats faced a major challenge after Hillary’s loss to the worst presidential candidate in our Nation’s history.  The loss discredited the New Democrats’ leaders, policies, institutions, and funders.  It proved the accuracy of Tom Frank’s efforts to warn the Party about the price it would pay for abandoning the Party’s traditional working class base.

Bernie Sanders posed a major challenge both to Hillary in the nomination contest and to the New Democrats’ domination of Party organs such as the Democratic National Committee (DNC).  Keith Ellison, one of the Nation’s rising stars among progressives, announced his candidacy to lead the DNC.  Ellison was among Bernie’s most effective surrogates.  Ellison gained the support of Senator Schumer and became the odds on favorite to become the next DNC head.  At that point, however, the New Democrats’ leaders showed their cleverness, the depths of their hostility to Bernie and progressives, and their ruthless determination to maintain their dominance of the Party.

The New Democrats faced a difficult tactical problem, however, in coming up with a workable plan to defeat Ellison.  The DNC had proven ineffective and been caught putting its thumb on the scale to try to ensure that Hillary beat Bernie.  The New Democrats lacked a strong candidate.  They could have supported Ellison, who is widely viewed as likely to be a highly effective DNC leader that will lead the revitalization of the Party.  Obama and the Clintons, however, are enraged at the prospect that a Bernie supporter would lead the DNC.  Their highest national political priority is defeating Ellison.  Do not fall for the “cool Obama” hype.  Obama is furious with Bernie and Ellison and has pulled out all the stops to try to prevent progressives’ from challenging his legacy as a New Democrat.  The Clintons share his rage.

Obama was clever in his tactics to defeat Ellison.  He recruited Thomas Perez, twice a senior official in the Obama administration, to run against Ellison.  This was an unconventional political choice for Maryland Democrats are eager for him to run for governor and take that seat back from the Republicans.  Ellison, by contrast, has said he would step down as a Congressman.  His seat (a few miles from where I write this piece) is a safe seat for the Democrats so the Party does not risk an election defeat if Ellison becomes DNC chair.  Perez is a clever tactic from the New Democrats’ perspective for several reasons.  First, Obama signaled that Perez is the New Democrats and Obama’s candidate.  Second, Perez is a Latino.  Third, Perez was Obama’s most effective enforcer against discriminatory lending and employment.  He is competent and was one of Obama’s liberal officials.  (Ellison is black and strongly progressive.)  The New Democrats understood that by running Perez they could split the progressive vote in the DNC election and split the vote of those who wished to encourage diversity.

There is no mystery about why Obama and the Clintons would select Perez as their candidate to seek to block Ellison’s election.  The mystery is why Perez agreed to allow the New Democrats to use him to try to defeat Ellison.

Perez’ willingness to allow Obama and the Clintons to seek revenge against Bernie because he had the audacity to contest Hillary’s nomination will, if successful, outrage progressives.  Progressives are the modern base of the Democratic Party.  They have very high voter turnout and likelihood of voting for Democratic candidates.  Progressives have these characteristics regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender.  The downside of this loyalty, of course, is that New Democrats have taken the position that because progressives will continue to vote for New Democrats, the Party should ignore progressives’ preferred policies and exclude them as candidates for the presidency and for leadership of Party organizations.

Progressives know how to defeat this tactic.  They are outraged enough to defeat it.  The question is whether they will exhibit the will to end the New Democrats’ perennial strategy of playing them.  Perez could do a great service for the Party and the Nation by endorsing Ellison and refusing to be the New Democrats’ surrogate.  No one, of course, expects that to happen.  The election is pivotal to whether the Democratic Party survives which will require a rebirth and return to first principles developed in the New Deal and the Civil Rights movement.


5 responses to “Why Was Tom Perez Willing to be the New Democrats’ DNC Stalking Horse?

  1. This is a very interesting article by one of my favorite economists (right up there with Michael Hudson).
    I have determined that the Democratic Party is no longer worth saving. I began trying to help move the Democratic Party to the left when Bill Clinton proved himself to be an opportunist and a liar aligned with Wall Street. I worked very hard for Howard Dean, and watched as the Democratic Party first tried to eviscerate him by flooding the primary with new democrats to water down his chances and ultimately knocked him out by engineering the Iowa Scream fraud. Then I watched as Dean was coopted into the new democrats, changed his stripes, and began working to bring his supporters into the fold. Obama was a fraud too, a very slick one who refused to reveal his thoughts on economics during his first campaign and kept his billionaire handler, Penny Pritzker, completely invisible and quietly made her his second Secretary of Commerce. His choice of Jack Lew as his first Secretary of Treasury is choice of Wall Streeter Tim Geithner as his first Secretary of Treasury was worthy of a hard right Republican, and his second term Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had been COO of Citigroup, a fitting replacement for Geithner. Obama was also a war hawk and a fitting replacement for GWB.
    And Hillary…she was the worst possible Democratic candidate in 2016. She presided over the magical demise of Sanders at the Convention, a feat that was blatantly a bold coup that has never been explained. Also, Elizabeth Warren’s unexplained shocking failure to endorse Sanders and her last minute endorsement of Hillary was a blatant exercise of the power of the new democrats. These two shameless and arrogant power plays cannot be excused and are huge red flags that convey the message that the Democratic Party cannot be reformed. A third Party is the only realistic hope IMO.

  2. madame de farge

    This email should be provided to each and every voter for the DNC chair….and their votes should ALL BE PUBLIC so we can see where they TRULY STAND… Bill, thank you so much for this article because I was smelling something, but the media sure did not clarify this at all…

  3. William Black calls them New Democrats but they are really what used to be called moderate republicans. I’m a progressive democrat. I didn’t vote for Obama or Hillary because I realize what they stand for. I also didn’t vote for the republican candidate In my opinion ,if the democrats don’t elect Ellison then you might find progressive democrats forming a new party. I would join a new party over staying in the present democrat party, and I believe most progressive democrats would do the same.

  4. John Zelnicker

    YES! Return to the principles developed in the New Deal and the Civil Rights Movement. I’d like to add the anti-war movement, too, but your statement, Prof. Black, is the most important key to the future success of the Democratic Party. Going back to those principles means going back to supporting the needs of the working class without regard to differentiating identities. Only by providing a program of concrete, material benefits that meet the needs of the working class can the Democrats begin to win back political offices. E.g., Medicare-for-All, Post Office Bank, Job Guarantee.

  5. I my name is Monte McKenzie , you never met me, I’ve known about you since the savings and loan mess .
    Have you ever written anything that supports Ellen Browns “state Bank solution” ???
    I keep writing to my “sorry” state legislature nuts to promote adoption of that here in WV .
    One recient reply ask if any “noted Banking official or economist ” supported the concept?
    ? do or don’t ?