It wasn’t long ago when, on this page, I was highly critical of a statement attributed to Keith Ellison. This was something Ellison allegedly said several years ago, and yet it still bothered me because it sounded not only anti-Israel but deeply insensitive to the history of the Jewish people. As a proud Jewish Zionist, I felt compelled to confront the statement and not sugar coat it.
Coming as he does from the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, Keith Ellison’s attitude toward Israel/Palestine scares me. I hear him say that he is pro “two state solution,” but then again, J Street calls itself pro “two state solution.” And yet J Street is addicted to criticizing Israel infinitely more often than it criticizes the Palestinians; that makes it insufficiently “pro Israel” for my sensibilities. I am very willing to criticize Israel publicly, but if you’re truly “pro peace,” you’ve got to criticize both sides for their failures. Any organization that picks and chooses in as skewed a manner as J Street does not speak for me. And I suspect that when it comes to the level of his support for Israel -- and his commitment to Zionism -- Keith probably doesn't speak for me either.
So, it is with some legitimate concern ... that I nonetheless must announce my support for Keith Ellison for the Chair of the Democratic Party. If I truly saw him as a rank anti-Semite, I would not make this endorsement, but I don’t see him that way. Nor do I see him as someone who would try to abandon Israel as a strong American ally. Like Bernie, I see him as insufficiently pro-Israel. But also like Bernie, I believe that he wants to take the Democratic Party in a general direction that it needs to head. I see Keith Ellison as an activist who is capable of inspiring activists – a person whose devotion to the underprivileged is lifelong and uncompromising.
For decades, dating back to William Jefferson Clinton, the Democratic Party has lost its soul. I don’t know what it stands for any more, except for the right of a politician to call herself a progressive and charge public universities $250,000-$275,000 for a one-hour speech (or $65,000 for their daughter to give a 10 minute speech). That’s not a progressive; that’s an opportunist. Besides, we need the party to be led by men and women who at least slightly resemble the people they want to lead.
The folks who support Keith Ellison’s opponent want to talk about how the Democrats did just fine in 2016, winning the popular vote by 3 million people. Well, that’s one way of putting it. Another way of putting it is that they’ve been drubbed in the House, the Senate, and the State Houses, and they couldn’t even defeat a Presidential candidate with unparalleled disapproval ratings. The folks who support Keith Ellison’s opponent were largely the same Einsteins who re-elected Nancy Pelosi as the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. Seriously? Didn’t she serve as a leader of an ever-shrinking party? So you re-elect her? You would think that the Democrats’ establishment wing would get the message – it’s time for a real change. You would think that the Democrats’ establishment wing would realize that the Berniecrats are the ones with all the grass-roots energy, and we might as well give them a chance to see if they can bottle that energy and turn it into a powerful, election-changing movement.
But I suspect you’d be wrong. My expectation is that by the end of the day, Keith Ellison will have lost. The Democrats will once again rebuke the activist wing of the party. And my fellow Harvard Law School alumns will be celebrating in their Chevy Chase homes with the Chablis of their choice, relishing in the fact that one of our own – Mr. Tom Perez – will be stepping up to lead the Democratic Party. Surely, he will be the toast of the DC and New York law firms during the next several weeks, and the cash registers will go ka-ching, ka-ching. For that is where you can find the heart and soul of Hillary’s and Nancy’s Democratic Party. It’s a party led by a group of highly-affluent elites who somehow think they can sound authentic speaking up for the masses.
Please. Limousine liberals couldn’t fool the people of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. Bernie would have had a better shot; he, at least, comes across as a man of the people. So does Keith. He has my support, notwithstanding our disagreements. And I say this without any animosity or disrespect for Tom Perez or the other candidates running. I just want Bernie and Keith to get their shot at running the show.