Saturday, February 25, 2017

Chair and chair alike

I'm so old (as we say on the Twitter) I remember when the self-denominated progressive faction was looking on Labor Secretary Tom Perez as a kind of savior against those terrible corporate Democrats, maybe ten months ago—when somebody was talking him up as a vice presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton. Didn't work out, but that's another story. But Perez did have a very progressive reputation: "The most radical cabinet secretary since Henry Wallace headed agriculture," howled Breitbart before he'd even been confirmed. Bankers hated him for fighting racial discrimination in housing mortgages at the Department of Justice, and the representatives of capital (such as Sam Batman writing for The Hill) for his work at Labor:
Secretary Perez and his staff shattered records in 2016, for the output of major rules and for the magnitude of regulation last year. For instance, DOL imposed nearly $46 billion in regulatory costs in 2016, according to the American Action Forum’s [presumably deeply deceptive] RegRodeo tool.
In addition, the agency published more than 40 million paperwork burden hours on individuals and businesses. For perspective, it would take more than 20,000 employees working full-time, or 2,000 hours annually, to complete DOL’s regulatory imposition last year.
So it's been strange to watch in his contest against Rep. Keith Ellison for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee how he's been treated by some members of that same self-denominated progressive faction as a reactionary and a plutocrat, Matt Stoller at The Intercept actually denouncing him for his "bank-friendly record" (in winning a case against banks that had unlawfully foreclosed against veterans Perez only won a judgment of $123 million without putting anybody in jail, including Steven Mnuchin, now Donald Trump's treasury secretary, so I'm sure those veterans will never forgive him for merely getting them their money back), and others mysteriously claiming he might be under the malignant influence of the "centrist" or Liebermanian or plutocratist DLC, or Democratic Leadership Council—apparently unaware that that organization expired, unlamented, in 2011, and had very little influence for some time before that.

The funny part from my own personal point of view isn't that I didn't back him last summer (I didn't have anything against him other than not knowing whether or not he'd ever had any political experience—turns out he's won election to the Montgomery County Council in Maryland, in 2002). It's that I did back Keith Ellison for the VP nomination, of all people, though he wasn't running. There's even some evidence.

I really meant it, too. I've long liked Ellison, partly just because he's black and a Muslim and a really successful politician in white Minneapolis, which is a pretty remarkable combination, and he was always my favorite of the active congressional Berners (including Bernie himself); I just thought he was in better touch with reality and had a wider range of things he knew how to talk about. As a vice presidential candidate he'd have offered a way of inviting the Berners back into the fold who'd be an exceptionally good candidate in his own right.

When it comes to the DNC race, I had no such strong feelings; I was happy when Ellison seemed to be the front-runner and equally happy when Perez decided to challenge him, with the sense that whoever won would be great. But this badmouthing of Perez as if he were the incarnation of Count von Bismarck has not made me feel very good.

The DNC chair has nothing to do with policy formulation in any case. The job is mostly about money, secondarily about political strategy (Howard Dean really made this part of the job because he turned out to be so great at it, at least for that one season, but I'm afraid that his successors haven't done as well). If Obama didn't want a member of the Sanders insurgency to be at the executive top of the party of which Obama is still the titular head, I think he was entitled (he didn't lose the election). As symbols, the team of Perez as chair with Ellison as vice chair will be far better than just one of them with the other sent out in the cold. The two of them knew far better what they were up to than their supporters sometimes did. This is a pretty good outcome.

So stop kvetching about it. There are so many enemies out there, we don't need to make any new ones.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

No comments: