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The Assassination of Keith Ellison by the Neoliberal Coward Tom Perez

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It seems clear that Keith Ellison and Tom Perez made a deal in advance to immediately make the runner-up the #2 at the DNC. Given their ideological similarities and the fact they apparently work together well, this makes the gap between the actual stakes of the outcome of the DNC race and the apocalyptic morality play being written as an alternative set of facts about it even greater. But the fantasy universe in which Perez and Ellison represent massively different visions of the party they will somehow impose on it through some unspecified mechanism is going strong:

In fairness, unlike some formulations, this seems to leave open the possibility that some liberals can also be on the left and favor policies that advance the interests of the working class. But even confined to mainstream liberals within the Democratic Party, this analysis is absolutely bonkers. Mainstream liberalism “does not include poor people of any kind” and their vehicle for purging any voices for the poor out of the party was..the most effective and left-wing Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins? The most important legislative achievement of the last Democratic Congress and president was a massive expansion of the public health care program for the poor. Was the Medicaid expansion race-not-class because it wasn’t constructed to exclude many people of color, like the Real Working Class Liberalism of the New Deal? What was the objective of Medicaid expansion, if “center-liberalism” has abandoned the interests of the poor entirely?

Needless to say, the Medicaid expansion is not the whole story of the Obama administration, and there are many ways in which its economic policies were inadequate. The most recent Democratic platform was the most attuned to class interests of any in decades, but there remains plenty of room for critique. This, however, isn’t Rensin’s argument. His argument is that the interests of the poor have been entirely abandoned by the Democratic Party, and his central evidence for this theory is the selection of one left-liberal with a strong record on class issues over another for a position that does little-to-nothing to set the ideological direction of the party. OK.

And the analysis becomes even more incoherent when you consider that Ellison had plenty of support from “center-liberalism.” The Manichean alternative history of the DNC race not only ludicrously casts Tom Perez as a Thatcherite, it also apparently casts Chuck Schumer as a left-not-liberal class warrior. It’s incomprehensible on any level.

People for whom it’s never not 1996 notwithstanding, the Democratic Party is clearly moving to the left, as it should be. What the priorities of this coalition should be when it gets the chance to govern and how to get it in a position to govern remain pressing questions with plenty of room for disputation. But the DNC race will barely merit a footnote when this history is written, and distorting the players to try to transform it into a desperate Last Battle for the Very Soul of the Democratic Party is deeply strange.

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