While much of the country is focused on President Donald Trump and his disastrous decisions, those looking to disrupt his administration and to elect fellow Democrats in the mid-terms would do well to turn their attention to Baltimore this weekend, where 10 candidates for the top job in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will defend their visions for the party's future.
Specifically, they should listen to Keith Ellison, a progressive candidate for DNC chair who represents a break from the establishment politics that may have cost Democrats the election.
The DNC has come under fire recently because of hacked and leaked emails and because its previous chair resigned in disgrace, leading many to lose faith in the institution. But it has an important role in shaping the direction of the Democratic party that can't be ignored. The DNC assists in the election of Democrats across the country, coordinating messaging and strategy. It sets the rules for presidential primaries and oversees the party's conventions. In this sense, the next head of the DNC will have a front seat in reshaping the entire party.
Keith Ellison, a Democratic Congressman from Minnesota and front runner in the DNC chair race, has impressive credentials. He is an avowed progressive, championing worker rights, a minimum wage increase, Wall Street reform, immigration reform, and LGBT rights during his decade in Congress. He knows the issues of rural and working class communities who feel left behind by politicians in D.C., and will work to serve them. And as the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, Mr. Ellison has a personal understanding of the effect of today's attacks on minorities.
It is widely held that Democrats lost the presidency — and the opportunity to control the Senate — because of apathy. Many voters feel that the party is run by out-of-touch career politicians who think little of what a working-class family in Baltimore goes through. We need leaders who have fresh ideas, and who can inspire. Most of all, we need someone who can stand up to Donald Trump's odious agenda and position the party to take control of Congress in two years and the White House in four years. Mr. Ellison can be that leader.
Unfortunately, we regular Democrats will not be able to vote on Feb. 24th for the DNC's new chair, because of an antiquated election system that allows only the 447 members of the DNC, typically local party chairs, to cast a vote. But our federally elected representatives do have a role, and must make their voices heard by endorsing Keith Ellison. Baltimore's own Elijah Cummings has endorsed Mr. Ellison, no doubt familiar with his hard work from their time together in the House of Representatives. So have progressive leaders who have stood up to Mr. Trump's agenda thus far: Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer.
But Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen has yet to endorse a candidate. Mr. Ellison is up against Tom Perez, favored by many establishment Democrats including Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Steny Hoyer, but plagued by the same ideas that lost us the last election. In this new era of Trump politics, silence is not an option among strong leaders. An Ellison endorsement from Senator Van Hollen, the state's newest senator, would let residents know that Maryland is ready to reject the status quo that lost us the election, and support a renewed progressive agenda for the Democratic Party.
The next four years will be tough. The fight to resist Donald Trump's agenda, and to elect progressive Democrats in the mid-term election, has already started and is growing rapidly. To be effective, we need to combine the unprecedented energy and outrage from the base with inspiration, fresh ideas and leadership from the top. Democrats in Maryland recognize that Keith Ellison is the right person to lead our party through the Trump administration and on to victory in 2018 and beyond.
Vinnie Bevivino is a member of Indivisible Maryland, a local group founded to resist the Trump agenda. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.