posted at 9:01 pm on December 20, 2016 by John Sexton
Keith Ellison continues making the rounds in the media, trying to make his case that he’s what the party needs after the unexpected loss last month. But as Politico reports today, his campaign for the DNC chair has not been going smoothly:
The Minnesota congressman — a powerful speaker and canny political organizer — was on the cusp of an easy victory in the race for DNC chairman until the past few weeks, when his decades-old writings on the Nation of Islam leader (he called him a “role model for Black Youth” in a 1995 student editorial) resurfaced and ignited.
Soon after, reporters unearthed 2010 comments about how Israel, “a country of seven million,” dominates U.S. policy in the Mideast — prompting a denunciation from the head of the Anti-Defamation League and Democratic mega-donor Haim Saban, casting his coronation into sudden and serious doubt.
“Everything is fair game and it’s interesting. … [But] I’m 53 years old,” Ellison said during this week’s episode of POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast — adding that his fondness for the Nation of Islam movement began when he was a student and lapsed soon after. “I have four kids. My youngest child is 20. Some of the things they want to hit me for, I was younger than her when I wrote them. And so, come on. At some point, we all are human beings who have evolved over the course of 25 years, and yet we want to freeze each other in time.”
But as Scott Johnson points out at PowerLine, Ellison’s claim is not true. This timeline shows that Ellison wrote his first articles in support of the Nation of Islam in 1989 when he was in law school. Since Ellison was born in 1963, he would have been 26-years-old at the time, not younger than his youngest child.
And Ellison’s connection with Farrakhan’s NOI continued until at least 1998 when he first ran for office. Again, the timeline inclues a newspaper article published that year which reads in part:
Anticipating possible criticism for his NOI affiliation, Ellison-Muhammad says he is aware that not everyone appreciates what the nation does and feels there is a propaganda war being launched against its leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan.
The piece quotes Ellison saying he rejects “anti-Jewish attitudes from whatever source.” Nevertheless, he was still defending Farrakhan as a victim of propaganda when he was 34 or 35 years old.
The controversy, and the apparent weakness of Ellison’s bid, had led Labor Secretary Tom Perez to enter the race for the position. One unnamed supporter of Perez tells Politico, “We like Keith, but is he really the guy we need right now when we are trying to get all of those disaffected white working-class people to rally around our message of economic equality?”
Choosing Ellison would be the political equivalent of giving those white, working-class voters the finger. Clearly there are quite a few Democrats who like that idea. It’s probably an emotionally satisfying idea after the disappointing loss. But it’s also a bad move for a party looking to win back some of those voters. Selecting Ellison as chairman of the DNC would be a sign the party is writing off the voters that just defeated them.