As a longtime Democratic Party member and activist, I write to insist that the Democratic National Committee elect U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (5th District, Minn.) to lead our party at the national level as chairperson of the Democratic National Committee.
Rep. Ellison is a master at voter turnout, transforming his congressional district in Minnesota from the lowest voter turnout district in his state into the consistently highest turnout district in his state. Making a focus on voter turnout and grassroots engagement secondary to raising funds into the party’s coffers is detrimental to our effort and poses an existential risk to the Democratic Party itself.
If the DNC and its chair cannot commit to the very low bar of rejecting funds that come directly from government lobbyists, the rejection of which Ellison is committed to implement, then the DNC loses significant credibility with at least half of the voters registered in our own party plus a vast majority of independents.
Hillary Clinton out-raised Donald Trump 2-to-1 in the 2016 presidential election and yet still lost the election along with the Democratic Party failing to capture a majority of seats in the U.S. Senate.
Right here, in our own state of Connecticut, as a field organizer for Sen. Blumenthal’s 2010 campaign, I saw Linda McMahon’s campaign outspend ours 5-to-1. Due in large part to our superior field organizing effort, McMahon failed to capture Connecticut’s open Senate seat then and, with just as much money, failed again two years later to win Connecticut’s open Senate seat in a race against Sen. Chris Murphy. To note, Connecticut is a state in which our congressional delegation has, in the recent past, consisted of non-Democratic Party representatives.
Rep. Ellison understands that out-raising and certainly outspending one’s opponent regardless of one’s funding sources is not the end-all, be-all in successful electoral efforts – a proven truth which the Democratic Party must acknowledge. When the DNC raises electoral campaign funds from a source whose interests they claim to be ostensibly in opposition to, then the Democratic Party loses significant credibility with the voters that our field operation may have otherwise been able to engage persuasively.
As Ellison witnessed firsthand, the Bernie Sanders campaign fundraising effort proved that if the Democratic Party sincerely puts its trust in the American people to fund and empower our effort, then, by harnessing the democratizing force of the internet, we can much more efficiently raise funds than can an electoral organization attempting to raise its funds from traditional means and sources. Furthermore, with the financial backing of small individual donors, our party’s candidates will be empowered to run authentic campaigns without generating inherent conflicts of interest.
In addition to his demonstrated grassroots organizing acumen, Keith Ellison has the foresight that the Democratic Party needs in its leadership – foresight which is informed by his enlightened understanding of what the American people are thinking and the immense pain we are feeling.
Ellison understood the very legitimate threat posed by Republican Donald J. Trump’s candidacy far earlier than most, and understands the reasons for Trump’s electoral victory better than most do today. In public comments broadcast nationwide Ellison’s grasp of our country’s mentality regarding the 2016 election cycle was evident as far back as July 2015!
As chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, Keith Ellison will bring the reformational change to the DNC and ultimately to the Democratic Party that our party’s members demand and our nation’s voters deserve. With Ellison as chairperson of the DNC, the position will no longer serve as the failed model of Fundraiser in Chief, but instead, as Organizer in Chief harnessing the grassroots zeal which is now in full bloom across our country.
Nicholas Gauthier is a Democratic Party Justice of the Peace from New Haven.