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Keith Ellison is the DNC Chair Feminists Need

Editor’s note: This post was co-authored by Barbara Sostaita and Mahroh Jahangiri.

Last night, eight candidates for Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) faced off in a national debate. The two frontrunners represent competing visions for the future of the Democratic Party: a continuation of failed establishment policies under Tom Perez or a truly feminist progressive push forward by Keith Ellison.

Ellison, a Democrat who has been representing Minnesota’s 5th District since 2007, was the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress—and the first Black representative elected to the House from Minnesota. The co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus represents a grassroots, populist left that Democrats ignored in 2016 and desperately need to listen to today. Beyond the fact that he has gained support from civil rights icon John Lewis, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and a broad coalition of progressive millennial leaders, including Linda Sarsour and Dante Barry, here are three more reasons why it’s clear to us that Ellison is the obvious feminist choice:

Ellison has shown an unwavering commitment to feminist issues:  he is pro-#BlackLivesMatter, pro-immigrant, pro-choice, and pro-queer. At last night’s debate, he defended sanctuary cities and spoke out against police militarization. He long opposed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that as Juliana notes, harmed countless women in the Global South. Ellison has thoughtfully connected his feminism to support for anti-poverty policy, recently publishing published an op-ed in Glamour on how Republican policies keep women poor. While Perez is certainly liberal and has worked as a civil rights attorney, he has supported the TPP (even when Hillary Clinton backed away from it), opposed indigenous liberation movements, and is a part-time progressive who is far too cozy with the status quo to be a force for change.  

Unlike other Democrats, Ellison is an organizer: His experience as a community organizer positions Ellison to lead a Democratic Party that’s in shambles in Trump’s amerikkka. Throughout the 2016 election, Ellison’s message was clear: Democrats need to shift their focus from cultivating (and bowing to) billionaire donors to grassroots organizing. Instead of ignoring and discounting Dreamers, Black Lives Matter, young labor organizers, and environmentalists, Ellison recognizes we are the future of the Party. Ellison has won state elections in landslide victories multiple times. Compare this to Perez, who has little experience in electoral politics and a pretty arrogant attitudes towards young organizers: just recently, he cracked a lazy joke as his response to this Black survivor’s legitimate concerns over the DNC’s refusal to resist Trump’s agenda.

Ellison knows how we got into this mess (and therefore, how to get us out): During last night’s debate, Ellison repeatedly noted that many of Trump’s agenda items—including reforming NAFTA, infrastructure development, an appeal to the middle class, the decay of manufacturing industries (particularly steel workers who, by the way, endorsed Ellison)—used to be Democrat’s agenda items. (FYI, these are all issues feminists should care deeply about; as Ellison notes in his piece in Glamour, women will be impacted the most by Trump’s anti-poor policies.) Ellison saw that the Democratic Party was a hot neoliberal mess before the election, warning that Trump might actually win (while others laughed).  Ellison came out in support of Sanders, recognizing the failure of Clinton/Obama camp’s continued strategy of blaming Republicans, while themselves isolating young people of color, Muslim communities, Black Lives Matter activists, immigrants, and human rights advocates. Rather than repeating their mistakes and picking an establishment candidate deeply aligned with the status quo that got us here, DNC voters should elect the man who is not afraid to call out our failures so that we may learn from them. This Saturday, they should pick Keith Ellison, who is best poised to stand for and unify workers, leftists, young people, and people of color.

Democrats cannot afford to continue to ignore us. 2018 depends on it. 2020 depends on it. The lives and livelihoods of everyone affected by Trump’s regime depends on it.  

Header image via Glamour

Durham, NC

Barbara is a PhD student at The University of North Carolina. She writes about immigration, migrant activism and organizing, transnational social movements, & intersectional feminism.

Barbara writes for Latinxs, immigrants, and brown girls. She is not here for white tears, white feminism, or white guilt.

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