On Feb. 25, the Democratic National Committee chose former Labor Secretary Tom Perez to lead the party into the disarrayed, foggy wilderness of modern American politics.
As the Bernie Sanders-backed candidate Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) was denied the position, the bifurcation of the mainstay liberal party continues.
The DNC is in an impossible situation.
They are pitted against two raging participants, both with heads angry and fierce, who have vastly different visions of the party moving forward.
Questions surrounding how to combat the efforts of President Trump and how to regain what the Democratic party has lost in recent decades, most notably the populace squeezed between the liberal coasts, is stoking the inner frustrations.
Left-ward bound are the progressives, closely aligned with the ‘social justice warrior’ mindset who are diligent activists that have shaped a lot of the dialogue of the past election.
Their strategy is defined by identity politics, safe spaces and trigger warnings.
Their goals are post-national and rabidly unpatriotic.
They have come to dominate what hordes of Americans see as modern day liberalism.
There are hints of anarchic chaos in this camp as well.
When we watched the Berkeley anti-fascist protesters erupt into violence at the very thought of Milo opening his mouth, very few of us imagined the existence of a master plan.
There was no commanding officer directing deployments, only low-level infantry grasping at whatever could become a flaming projectile.
There is, coincidentally, a Trump-like element to their anti-Trump beliefs.
What unites them is the ultimate desire to just burn the whole thing to the ground.
This group aims to wholeheartedly refuse to work with President Trump on anything, as that would be shaking the metaphorical hand of a genocidal, Hitlerian ruler whose only wish is to inflict harm on non-white persons from any and all nations. This strategy won’t go over well in dispatched corners of Trump country.
The progressives on the left are fed up with the Democratic establishment just like the pro-Trump movement is fed up with the Republican establishment.
They did find some success when Sen. Bernie Sanders sounded the horn of economic populism, a core message used by both sides during the campaign cycle.
As he talked of the harmful trade deals and low wages, millions found him to be speaking their long-awaited mother tongue.
On the other hand, there is the establishment end of the party.
A moderate, less-rebellious brand of liberal politics with the expectation of some compromise with those on the other side.
Tom Perez falls squarely in this camp, as does Hillary Clinton and similar figureheads in Democratic politics.
If there was a section of the Democratic party that was to undergo a serious self-reflection as to why 2016 became the year for the GOP, it would be from this end.
That is a big if, but for disaffected areas that saw promise in Trump, a steadied working-class approach by level-headed Democrats would entice them more than Antifa protests or an extra dose of virtue signaling.
The establishment’s main problem is, well, the fact that they are the establishment.
The big money, shadowy donors, corporatist leanings, the hawkish Democrats who resemble neocons instead of war-weary liberals.
There is the perceived rigging of the 2016 nomination in favor of Clinton over Sanders and the inside baseball we all characterize as a symptom, or possibly the definition, of the Washington machine.
Ultimately, they lack the intoxicant of change – the most potent reason to overlook them in the ballot box.
Upholding the status quo doesn’t feed the hungry masses, it doesn’t put people in the seats, nor does it fire people up to ‘make history’, even if it is to elect the first female President of the United States.
This is why Perez and the DNC have a virtually impossible challenge to overcome.
They must choose one side over the other, and both are undoubtedly flawed.
The division won’t naturally melt away.
The progressives can unite the young, the energetic, and the squadrons of protestors at a Trump hotel or a dance-off outside of Vice President Mike Pence’s house.
However, they struggle to connect with ‘fly-over’ country.
The people who are concerned with overspending at Wal-Mart, not the amount of gender identities recognized in the legal code.
To people outside of major cities and college campuses, the progressives are consumed with trivial anger and idealistic revolutions the world has tried over and over again.
The establishment of the Democratic Party can show that they aren’t identical to the social justice warrior type.
If they, for example, promote a pro-business campaign that isn’t completely anti-gun, they could compete in some of these rural areas, places where American flags fly high but Main Street is all but abandoned.
But doing that will alienate the anti-capitalist, anti-establishment thread running through the party.
They would lose the progressives to the Jill Stein’s of the world, only to be inevitably shut out of the power structure again.
Choose the progressives, you lose those within the margin of persuasion.
Choose the moderates, and the hatred of the elites may sweep them further away from elected office.
Republicans have factions erupting as well, but with controlling so much power their movement isn’t in the same state as the left.
I’m not a Democrat so I don’t have skin in this game.
However, I can acknowledge that Tom Perez has very little room to work with.
He must walk on the edge of a razor blade.
Every move he makes will infuriate half of his party and embolden the rest.
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Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann/flickr (CC by-SA 2.0)
Cover Photo Credit: Kim Love/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)