CNN Panel: Even With Perez As DNC Chair, 'It's A Wilderness Moment For Democrats'

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Feb 27, 2017 1:05 PM
CNN Panel: Even With Perez As DNC Chair, 'It's A Wilderness Moment For Democrats'

On Sunday, CNN’s Inside Politics touched upon the results of the chairmanship’s race at the Democratic National Committee’s Winter Meeting, where former Labor Secretary Tom Perez edged out Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) to take the reins of the national party. Perez was seen as the establishment pick, though Ellison was quickly made deputy chair.

Host John King asked the panel how much does this matter. Yes, Democrats won two national elections in a row, but the party has been gutted, losing over 1,000 congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislature spots over the past eight years. Republicans are now the dominant players, controlling 69/99 state legislatures, two-thirds of the governorships, Congress, and the presidency.

The Hill’s Reid Wilson said that this is a party in transition, but added that Ellison, who was backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), probably had a better shot at winning if the Sanders crowd started focusing on local party structures sooner. He said that he went to Sacramento to some local Democratic Party caucuses in January, where he said the people were shocked at the turnout—and they were all Sanders supporters. Wilson added that the Sanders camp plans on taking over local party committees to hopefully get some—for lack of a better term—anti-establishment members on the national committee in the future, bettering their chances when the next chairmanship race begins. He did note that this is going to be a long road. At the same time, this is California. When is Democratic turnout not high in the one of the most (if not THE most) liberal state in the country?

Yet, what about this progressive energy we’re seeing at GOP and some Democratic town halls? Apparently, some of Dianne Feinstein’s constituents are not happy that she’s not holding regular town halls, nor are they pleased with her calling President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch “impressive.” Again, this is California—and they’re not the majority of the country. Still, the progressive left’s concerted effort to protest GOP town halls is getting some of these lawmakers hesitant to even hold them (a huge mistake. Yet, the issue is whether this progressive energy is worth anything. It may give Democrats some hope they may have a Tea Party movement of their own (they don’t) on the horizon, but what about the larger economic message, which Margaret Talev of Bloomberg Politics noted is a problem for the party post-Obama.

To retake Congress and eventually the White House, Democrats need to harness the energy of the progressive wing of their base, but also have a compelling economic message that could siphon off the working class support Donald Trump received in the 2016 election. Again, we’re back to their white working class conundrum because voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin etc., don’t care about transgender bathrooms, political correctness, cultural appropriation, and other nonsensical issues that have overtaken the Democratic Party agenda. She did add that maybe Perez, being a former labor secretary, might be the better person to articulate that message come election season. Yet, she noted if they can’t sell a job agenda to middle America, they could be facing more rough years ahead.

CNN’s Jeff Zeleny aptly noted “it’s a wilderness moment for Democrats,” with King noting that the party needs to find better candidates. The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip added that when you don’t control the White House, Congress should be your biggest area of concentration and Democrats always face a midterm turnout problem. We’ll see if Trump can motivate more progressive turnout, but I’m not holding my breath.