Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) doesn’t mince words about why the Democrats lost the White House in 2016.
“They forgot Wisconsin was a state”, Ellison told activists gathered from all over the country at the Democracy Convention in Minneapolis. He noted that nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s travels during the general election campaign were to just 15 battleground states and that did not include Wisconsin which Trump won by a narrow margin.
Ellison says even in those battleground states, Democrats targeted just a few battleground counties. He says such a narrow data-driven approach is a mistake. “We don’t see politics as engaging community. We see politics as just doing as little as we can to win.”
As the Democratic party’s new deputy chair, Ellison has the bully pulpit and some pull to make changes.
Engaging the grass roots, Ellison says, is the key to victory. “If you’re looking for a direction, go to the people. They will tell you what they need. They will tell this economy sucks. They will tell you they can’t make a living in this thing. They will tell you ‘jobs, jobs, yeah no problem with the jobs. I got three of them. All paying $7.25 an hour.’”
“We need a government of, by and for the people and right now folks it’s not.”
Democrats need to address racism and income inequality says Ellison. “Human solidarity is the key. Acknowledging that this society has privileged some and disadvantaged others in order to divide both. And if we will confront that, we can fix that. But if we don’t confront that, we are, I believe, in very tough shape.”
Fascist threat of Trump
Ellison fears under Trump, America could be on the road to fascism. Hoping that Republican lose power in the 2018 midterms and that Trump loses in 2020 is not enough.
“Many societies that have representative democracies have gone straight out fascist”, said Ellison. “There is nothing stopping this society from doing the same thing unless the people who love this country and are standing up for the values of it are going to stand up right now.”
He says you shouldn’t dismiss the apparent disarray of the Trump administration as incompetence or disorganization. “What you see before your eyes is systematic destruction of every institution designed to stop a certain mentality from taking over everything.”
Trump, Ellison says, is taking America closer to fascism by trying to bring down the institutions that are the pillars of democracy such as the press. He say when Trump attacks the press what he’s doing is “attacking an institution that’s designed to put sunlight on government corruption and abuse.”
He says Trump is willing to attack Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and John McCain for representing the views of their constituents. Both voted against repealing Obamacare. He says the Senate is another institution Trump is willing to belittle and try to move aside.
“Every single institution that you see that is designed to create checks and balances and stop a dictator, an authoritarian from ruling simply by his whim is under attack.”
Ellison called for a massive voter education and voters rights movement in US. Photo ID laws do not protect voter integrity “they do one thing, the exclude people from voting.”
Ellison’s message to the activists: It’s urgent. The moment is now.