I supported Bernie Sanders in the primary. In fact, I had advocated for Bernie to run for president two years before he made the decision to run. When I saw Bernie speak in June of 2014, in a packed pub in Evanston, IL, more than a year before he was addressing thousands of supporters in packed stadiums, I was hoping that I was seeing the future president. Yes, I supported Bernie to the end, but I was also one of those people who agreed with Sarah Silverman’s assessment of the Bernie or Bust people at the DNC Convention that “they were being ridiculous”.
That being said, I am not a supporter of Keith Ellison for DNC Chair. No, this does not have to do with the fact that he supported Stephen Bittel. I questioned Ellison’s candidacy before the election. As for the DNC Chair position, I support Jaime Harrison, the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. Why? Well, let me have Steve Schale explain the reasoning:
This isn’t a race about who has the best ideology, or who supported who in the primary. it is about basic management.
You are hiring a CEO. Find someone who is realistic about the job, capable of putting together the resources, and laser focused on the things they can actually control, namely candidate recruitment and organizing. There is nothing symbolic about who holds the job — no regular voter actually casts a vote based on who sits in the party chair, or has any idea who chairs their state party.
And that is it in a nutshell. I don’t know if it is because of a lack of understanding about what a political party does, but during this recent battle for the FDP chair position, we continue to see progressives support certain candidates purely based on ideology. The one candidate that embodies this this most would be Dwight Bullard. Bullard, during his discussion with the Orange County DEC, failed to recognize the function of the FDP and instead talked about messaging. Messaging is not the job of the FDP chair (something explained later).
So far, only three candidates, Alan Clendenin, Leah Carius, and Lisa King, are talking about party structure and how to change it. Yes, each one is looking at different aspects of the party, but they are talking about the function of the party nonetheless. They are at least in the right time zone! And for Florida Democrats, it is important to have a chair that understands the totality of the position in which they seek.
Now some people might say “what about Howard Dean”? Well, Dean was different for two reasons. First, he was an executive and had to actually run a branch of government. Ellison and Bullard are (or was) just one vote in a legislative body, a position that does not require leadership skills. Second, Dean actually did have a plan, including a 50-state strategy. Both Ellison and Bullard have not come up with new plans, but instead are restating the old Howard Dean strategy (in the case of Bullard, a 67-county strategy). Therefore, the Dean case is different.
Still, I disagree with some of Steve Schale analysis. He states that the FDP is not a party that lines the pockets of consultants. Well, if you just look at the expenditures of the FDP, you can see that isn’t the case, with money usually going to the same consultants even after decades of failure. In fact, Alan Clendenin has been the most effective at pointing this out. Still, Schale’s overall message, that Democrats need to pick a manager, a CEO, not an ideologue , it absolutely spot on.
Overall, this comes down to the function of a political party. As many of us learned in our Introduction to American Government classes (or our Political Parties classes), the main goal of a political party is to get Democrats elected. It is not, as Steve Schale correctly points out, a policy-setting organization. To make it so would be disastrous, especially in a state like Florida. Senator Bill Montford and former representative Scott Randolph are two ends of the same stick. To start breaking off parts of the stick to promote an ideology would just leave the Florida Democrats with bits of a broken stick, which is basically useless. Therefore, messaging is not an essential function of the Florida Democratic Party. Elected officials and candidates are the real messengers of the party, and that message changes from district to district.
Putting in a politician, with no executive experience, to run a political party is like having a car salesman build a car. Yes, a car salesman is technically in the automobile industry, but selling a car and building a car are two completely different jobs. If state committee members pick someone solely based on ideology, then they are picking the car salesman. That is the wrong job for this position.