Judging from some comments in previous threads, there has been a lot of angst and eagerness about the possibility that Congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim, would be chosen as chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Doubtless to the disappointment of some on the Left and many on the Right, it was not to be. Tom Perez, President Obama’s secretary of labor, was elected to head the party organization at a DNC meeting Saturday.
Ellison’s past support for the racist Lewis Farrakhan, which he has renounced, and some of his positions on Israel/Palestine (probably more naive than anti-Israel), made him a problematic candidate for the job. Republicans would have been happy to use him as a means of distracting voters from other issues where Democrats have widespread support.
However in terms of the political direction the party will take, the selection of Perez over Ellison is utterly insignificant.
The DNC chair is basically responsible for raising money and assisting state and local party organizations. Both Ellison and Perez emphasized the importance of focusing on non-presidential elections (especially state and local), building the party in places where it has been weak or non-existent and developing a message that appeals to working people across regional, racial and ethnic lines. Perez deserves to be judged on his success in helping to accomplish those things.
Update: At The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza observes that the Republican party is one of the “losers” from Perez’s election:
Republicans had been open about their hopes that Ellison would win the chair’s race, believing his strongly liberal record and past controversies would give them a useful punching bag for years to come. Perez, while still quite liberal, is not the lightning rod that Ellison would have been. The search continues …