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The US Democratic Party has elected a new leader. Tom Perez, former labour secretary under President Obama will lead the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as Chair in its fundraising and organising activities, as the party starts to rebuild after a calamitous defeat in 2016. But Perez was chosen over Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison in an election that highlighted the divide between establishment centrists and the more left-wing grassroots base; many of whom supported Senator Bernie Sanders’ populist presidential campaign.
In an unusually closely-watched race, Perez was widely considered the establishment pick, and some have said represents a continuation of the strategies that handed Democrats defeat. Ellison, a black Muslim with strong organising roots, earned the endorsement of Bernie Sanders and other party leaders. He was seen as someone who would bring Sanders’ supporters into the fold, and unite the party.
At stake now is the future of the political party, and implementing a strategy for healing wounds after a long and divisive primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Sanders. That contest saw accusations that the primary was "rigged" internally against the latter. In the aftermath, many felt alienated from the party and unwilling to work within its traditional structure.
Democrats have lost nearly 1,000 seats in the last 8 years in state and local elections, putting the party in its weakest position since 1928. The dramatic loss of power at both the national and state levels has created a tug of war between those who are saying it’s time for a change, and Washington insiders who seem content to maintain the status quo.
The DNC race has been a flashpoint for the larger question of whether Democrats will fundamentally restructure. The Stream talks to Democrats about the future of their party, and explore if the leadership can tap into the wave of grassroots activism sweeping the country as it struggles to redefine itself.
In this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Samuel Ronan @Ronan4Progress
Former candidate for DNC chair
Nomiki Konst @NomikiKonst
Investigative Reporter, The Young Turks
Malcolm Kenyatta @malcolmkenyatta
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.