Vote for Perez?

by Brian MacLaine and Jason Frerichs

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In a tweet yesterday, the campaign of DNC Chair candidate Tom Perez announced that the 5-member Iowa Delegation would be supporting him in the vote for DNC Chair candidate.  This tweet has been the topic of heated discussion among various groups of Iowa Democrats.  Progressives generally see Perez as the establishment candidate and question why Obama recruited him to run against Keith Ellison.  Progressive members of the SCC feel especially frustrated due to conversations about DNC Chair candidates that played a role in how they voted on the state chair and vice chair races.

PVI reached out to several SCC members. Kate Reveux of the 2nd District issued the following statement,

“I am incredibly disappointed to learn of the method and lack of transparency by which the Iowa Delegation chose to make their decision for DNC chair. These actions do not signal promise of the bold action from the Iowa Democratic Party we need or the new direction we were promised.  I look forward to having a robust conversation with each DNC voting member to suggest adjustments going forward, as do a number of my peers on the State Central Committee.”

“The SCC should have been informed who they were voting for by our delegation,” Affirmative Action Chair Alex Anderson said, “not Perez’s twitter account.”

“Party-building 101: You try and accommodate the factions in your group,” SCC member Jonathan Green posted on his Twitter shortly after the announcement. “You don’t flip half of them off. And put out a release about it.”

“Unity my @$$.” Johnson County Supervisor, Mike Carberry, posted on his Facebook page shortly after finding out about the block vote. “I guess these folks have learned nothing from the last 3 election cycles where we have had out lunch money stolen from us. The Democratic Party needs new leadership and It won’t come from Tom Perez.”

The feeling of rejection is running deep for many Progressives outside of official offices, but have been working hard to grow and rebuild the Democrats since the defeat last November. Erin Madsen, one of the founders of the #DemEnter Iowa Chapter, voiced his own disappointment with the decision.

“Perez may be a good man, and possibly even good for the job, but his positioning by those greater than him ahead of a candidate who was raised by the people just proves to show that the bosses get what they want, and everybody down below had better shut up and fall in line,” Madsen stated. “If there is ever to be a just or honorable existence for the second-to-worst popular party in American politics, it will have to come from our hard work and toil at the grassroots. It sure as shit isn’t coming from the Party itself.”

A lot of Democrats would like to know what the rationale is behind this vote.  The tweet certainly does make it seem like the Iowa Delegation is voting as a block. Why did they decide to vote as a block?  As an active member of the state party, I find the idea of voting as a block in this manner to be the wrong decision.  A very large percentage of Iowa Democrats do not support Tom Perez, they support Keith Ellison.  To decide to vote as a block sends a message to those supporters that their concerns were not considered.

Our personal preference for Keith Ellison has nothing to do with a dislike for Tom Perez.  We don’t have any issues with him on a personal level.  We dislike his stance on the TPP.  When Perez was asked why he supported the TPP when all the labor unions were against it, he said, “I work for Barack Obama.  And we’ve made the Labor Department pretty darn good under Barack Obama.  And we’ve done a lot.  And when you’re on a team you always stick with the team.”  This response begs the question, what kind of leader are you if you can’t tell your leader that he’s pushing a bad idea?  You don’t get to claim to represent unions while supporting a piece of legislation that they largely oppose.

Tom Perez has the potential to cause an irreparable rift in the party and make the job of grassroots progressives that much harder.  He is the only chair candidate with that potential.  Does he care more about his personal ambition than he does the Democratic Party?  The optics of this and the messaging is very bad.  It tells people that we didn’t learn the lessons of 2016.  We have a historic opportunity for a legitimate people’s movement which isn’t going to end based on the outcome of the chair race.  People are going to keep showing up at the capital and town halls.  People are going to keep writing and reporting.  The chair, no matter who wins, will not be the leader of the people’s movement.  That movement will be led by us.  The Democratic Party needs to ask itself if it wants to help be the conduit to tap into unprecedented levels of engagements or does it want to keep its nose in the money trough and alienate activists.  We need to issue a challenge to ourselves.  If you don’t like how someone voted, run against them.  The feeling at last month’s election of IDP leadership was hopeful and happy. Progressives finally felt like they were accepted in their party and that they might finally be listened to. As a result, there was a rush of new membership in the party’s Progressive Caucus as well as a noticeable a return of old membership from the DemExit period.  Stay engaged and stay involved.  That’s how we win.

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About Jason Frerichs

Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus