The DNC Is Sorry

Thomas Breen photosYes, the Democratic National Committee put “a thumb on the scale” to make sure Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in 2016. But it’ll do better next time.

So Keith Ellison — the DNC’s deputy leader — promised a church full of local Democrats Saturday.

Ellison, a Minnesota U.S. Congressman and prominent Sanders supporter who was elected DNC deputy chair in February 2017,  held a community forum on Saturday afternoon at First and Summerfield United Methodist Church at the corner of College Street and Elm Street. The forum was organized by the Connecticut Democratic Party.

Over 300 people from New Haven and throughout southern Connecticut showed up to learn about the DNC’s revised strategies and mission, and to voice their concerns about how to make the Democratic Party strong at the local, state and national levels.

State Democratic Party chair Nick Balletto and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp took the podium first, talking about how Democrats had flipped 22 Connecticut municipalities from Republican to Democrat in 2017 municipal elections. They also warned that President Trump and the Republican-majority Congress are intent on making deep cuts to the social safety net, and that Democrats must rally together to resist such an assault.

“We are a sanctuary city,” Harp said. “You are in a sanctuary church. But each and every one of us knows that democracy as we know it is under attack. Each and every one of us knows that what we have to do is resist, that we are going to have to fight to get our country back.”

When Ellison took the stage, he spent less time criticizing anti-democratic tendencies among Republican politicians, and more time reflecting on the ways that the DNC had failed its constituents in years past, and how that needed to change going forward.

Ellison had run for chair of the DNC after the 2016 election, the standard-bearer for Bernie Sanders supporters who felt the party needs to become more progressive and democratic. He came in second, and has since united with the victor, Thomas Perez, to seek to unify party factions.

“We’re here to talk about not just how to win an election,” Ellison said, “but how to really win the argument for working people all across the country. You cannot build a sustainable economy and society unless you win the argument that we ought to have health care for everybody, that college has to be affordable, that you’ve got to be able to drink clean water and breathe clean air, that you’ve got to be able to use science to deal with problems like climate change, and that you should have unions and a voice on jobs.”

Ellison said that the DNC failed in recent years at doing community organizing and grassroots engagement. Those failures, he said, have cost the party thousands of seats in local, state and federal offices throughout the country.

He said that the DNC has changed its mission and its model. No longer will it focus only on reelecting Democratic presidents, reaching out to its supporters every four years with the hope of keeping the White House blue.

Instead, the DNC will invest its money and resources into local elections and community organizing, Ellison said. He said that working people throughout the country need to recognize in the Democratic Party a party that represents their values and best interests.

“My prayer for the Democratic Party is that people out there looking for a good job that pays well feel that we know them,” he said. “That somebody who’s on a union drive so that they can have a voice on the job, that they feel like we know them. That some African-American mom who’s worried that her son is going to get treated with less than fairness and respect by law enforcement, that she knows that we care about her.”

Thumb on the Scale?

The majority of the hour-and-a-half event saw audience members lining up to ask questions about the new workings of the DNC, and Ellison responding in kind.

“Do you believe that the DNC had its thumb on the scale in 2016?” asked New Havener Bruce Oren. He said the party needs to have “fair and honest primaries” if it truly wishes to win back disenchanted members of the party, particularly those who supported Sanders’s Democratic presidential primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.

“Do I believe that there was a thumb on the scale in the primaries?” Ellison said. “It’s kind of undeniable.” He cited the deal that the DNC made with the Clinton campaign in August 2015 that gave that campaign influence over party finances, strategy, and staffing decisions.

“Having acknowledged that fact,” he said, “what do we do now?”


He said that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had agreed to setting up a unity commission last year. He said that on Dec. 5, 2017 that commission made public a slate of proposed reforms, including cutting the total number of superdelegates to conventions by over 60 percent, pushing state parties to have more open primaries, and requiring that no officer of the DNC endorse a presidential candidate before the primary is over.

“If you have trust issues,” Ellison said, “there’s reason for you to give us a shot.”

Another member of the audience said that the Democratic Party always asks people of color for their vote, but rarely includes them in positions of leadership.

“Yes, the party’s been a little stupid, but we’re waking up,” said Ellison, who is African-American. He said that the DNC invested $1.5 million in Virginia statehouse elections in 2017 and invested $600,000 in the Alabama U.S. Senate race between Doug Jones and Roy Moore. He said that that most of that money went to communities of color in Virginia and Alabama, so that locals, as opposed to D.C. interlopers, were talking to their neighbors about why they supported the respective local Democratic candidates.

Audience members were not only concerned about Democratic Party failings. They had also showed up to express their fear and frustrations about Donald Trump.

Cate Saxton from West Haven told Ellison that she grew up in a conservative household; her father ran, unsuccessfully, for U.S. Senate as a Republican. She said that Trump’s party is “not my daddy’s Republican Party,” that she feels galvanized to show up to protest the current administration’s hostility towards immigrants, women and people of color.

“When he said the ‘shithole country’ thing, I felt like he was talking about me. When he said ban the Muslims, I felt like he was talking about me,” said Ellison, who is Muslim. “We have got to be the party this unwaveringly for civil rights for all people.”

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posted by: SparkJames on January 13, 2018  10:14pm

“If you have trust issues,” Ellison said, “there’s reason for you to give us a shot.”

Many of us have been saying that since the year 2000. Now we’re REALLY done with you.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 13, 2018  11:33pm

State Democratic Party chair Nick Balletto and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp took the podium first, talking about how Democrats had flipped 22 Connecticut municipalities from Republican to Democrat in 2017 municipal elections. They also warned that President Trump and the Republican-majority Congress are intent on making deep cuts to the social safety net, and that Democrats must rally together to resist such an assault.

There is only one party in the United States: the Property party… and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.If you pledge certain allegiance to any of the two political parties, you seriously need to open your eyes.

Gore Vidal

posted by: itsjustmemanright on January 14, 2018  11:01am

BERNIE WOULD HAVE WON . Progressive or BUST 2020

Proof of a rigged 2016 democratic primary:

WaPo reporting of Clinton campaign laundering $84 Million from donations to the DNC to the HFV to skirt the $2700 individual limit.:

If The Democratic Establishment Were A Husband:

posted by: JCFremont on January 14, 2018  5:41pm

An apology no one really asked for did they? Maybe some radio talkers, but really didn’t think it was going to get one. Hey if someone other than The first woman had been the candidate the press might have dug into it but it was basically ignored or been brushed off.

posted by: wendy1 on January 15, 2018  9:02am

No better than the s***hole Republicans and all third parties are so far suppressed by Big Money.  When I vote, I do write-ins.  Congress is irrelevant so people like me have hunkered down and focused on local problems.  Our politicians are multimillionaires, 1% ‘ers, who dont care about YOU.  Your “choices” have been bought and sold to you.  Buyer beware.

I expect civil unrest if not war and soon.  Babyboomers have to go.

Read EVICTED by Desmond.
Read The Divided by Taibbi
Read The Mandibles by Shriver
Read anything by James Howard Kunstler or Dmitri Orlov. or Tom Paine.

posted by: OhHum on January 15, 2018  10:55am

Would you suggest getting rid of Baby Boomers in favor of Millennials.

HA, ha, ha. ha, ha, ha!!!,.............. Thanks you made my day.

posted by: wendy1 on January 15, 2018  1:03pm

Keep laughing OhHum.  I hope you dont have children.

Yes milennials have more of a stake in the future—-whether it’s to save what’s left of what BB’s have raped, robbed, and polluted, or to put an end to the BB vampires once and for all.

posted by: Noteworthy on January 15, 2018  2:38pm

Ellison is Full of It Notes:

1. The Democrat Party will never not have its finger on the scales of elections - they fix more elections than the Kremlin.

2. One need only to follow the money in the national election to see how that happens.

3. Moreover - saying that he’s sorry when the Democrat Town Committee in New Haven is nortorously corrupt and slanted in favor of its chosen few - making it nearly impossible to unseat an incumbent - is laughable. His petition of forgiveness is falling on ears that don’t matter.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on January 15, 2018  5:30pm

I attended this meeting. It was very interesting and a number of very important issues were addressed, especially about expanding and unifying the Democratic party.
I found out about the meeting on Facebook, but I wondered how much of a concerted effort the organizers made to reach out to the Black and Hispanic communities of New Haven.
This Democrat party forum with Representative and Democrat National Committee deputy chair Keith Ellison was as about as diverse as a Republican National Committee Convention! New Haven, with its large minority population, may be, as Mayor Harp stated, “the most Democratic city in the state,“but the audience did not reflect the diversity of New Haven.
A questioner did raise the issue of the decades-long faithful support of the Black and Hispanic communities for the Democratic party, and how those communities frequently feel their issues and concerns are not given top priority by party leaders and elected officials in light of their strong party support. Blacks and Hispanics often feel their interests are neglected by the party, that their vote is taken for granted.
This appeared to have been a forum conducted by leaders of the Connecticut State Democratic party organization. Did anyone reach out to the churches, mosques, social and fraternal organizations, the unions, the NAACP and other groups in the Black and Hispanic communities to make them aware of this meeting? Was there any attempt to invite students from the New haven public schools who would have been inspired by the words of Congressman Ellison and encouraged to register and vote?
If this was an oversight of the state organization that is inexcusable. If they did promote this meeting throughout the region and minorities selected not to attend, no one from the state is to blame.
All the talk about party unity among Democrats is a meaningless sham unless a serious, concerted and sincere effort is made to invite and include ALL Democrats, urban as well as suburban!

posted by: GrimLynn on January 16, 2018  5:01pm

Editors: Who came up with the questions for the survey that accompanies the article? I ask because it strikes me that the proposed solutions seem designed to look like reform without delivering any fundamental change.

For example, appointing fewer supersdelegates ignores the fact that the objection to the superdelegate system is that it subverts the will of the primary voters. As such, eliminating superdelegates would be the only acceptable solution.

In 2016, the DNC tried to foist a widely despised candidate onto the November ballot with minimal voter input. But if the goal of the primary process is to select the candidate who has the best possible chance of winning a general election, open primaries are really a no-brainer. Therefore the idea of “promoting” open primaries (whatever that means) without mandating them, would do little or nothing to make the primary process more democratic and effective.

With regard to the third option, the DNC already “avoids” making pre-primary endorsements. However, in 2016, they only do so to promote the fiction that the party leadership had no preference. Which even they now admit that they do.

So again I ask who came up with the survey questions? And who decided to omit an explicit, “all of these together would not be enough to solve the problem” (as opposed to “none of the above”) option. The problem of a corrupt, out of touch, and undemocratic party that has been caught with its pants down requires much more fundamental (little-D) democratic reforms than those presented here.