Tom Perez and Keith Ellison launched their Democrats Live show on March 8th with an hour long talk about their vision for the Democratic Party - speaking about their shared values, and how it was necessary to put those values into action, about “building a Democratic party that works in every single state, every single territory...and around the globe where we have [U.S.] Democrats.” They spoke often of unity and reminded their commitment to work together to build a better America.
This message of unity echoed the message our DNC members brought home from Atlanta following the DNC elections last week.
The Democrats Abroad DNC members who took part in the elections had lots to say about how everything went in Atlanta and where they too see the Party going from here. The atmosphere at the election in Atlanta, they all agreed, was electric. “There was a strong feeling of camaraderie,” said Adrianne George, the Global Volunteer Coordinator of Democrats Abroad. “The energy unleashed by the candidates for all positions was contagious.”
DNC Member Connie Borde emphasized the “total accessibility” of the candidates. “All the candidates were out there for us to meet and talk to … and [they] were available all day long, speaking in various caucus meetings, or just gabbing in the hallways with people.”
Even before they met the candidates in person, however, Democrats Abroad DNC members had already met almost every candidate on individual video conference calls.
“Our DNC members put in hundreds of hours over the last couple of months, meeting with candidates on WebEx, attending or listening to candidate forums, reading literature, reading emails from DA members, weighing the pros and cons. The whole team was so diligent, trying to consider all relevant factors,” said Katie Solon, the International Chair of Democrats Abroad.
DA DNC member Martha McDevitt-Pugh added that it wasn’t just a matter of choosing between two candidates for Chair, either. “There were many great candidates for chair … while the result was 200-235 with two candidates getting the most support, as DA DNC members we met with and considered all Chair candidates. We considered the team that would lead the DNC forward. Not just the guy on top,” she said.
The choice between Tom Perez and Keith Ellison was, for Ms. George, a choice between “awesome and awesome.” Although much of the media coverage in the run-up to the election painted it as a contest between an establishment candidate and a progressive candidate, those who actually did the research — and the voting — heartily disagree with that classification.
“I think this is a false narrative,” said Ms. Solon. “There’s so much overlap, so much that they agree upon. They really share the same progressive values, principles, and purpose.”
“The election between Congressman and now Deputy Chair Keith Ellison and then former Secretary of Labor and now Chair Tom Perez was a choice between two excellent candidates. There was no wrong choice. Both are excellent human beings and real and proven progressives,” said DNC member Orlando Vidal.
Unity was a theme running through all of the Democrats Abroad DNC members’ comments, and it also played out at the election, when Perez, as soon as he took the microphone after his election, moved that the DNC appoint Ellison as Deputy Chair.
“All DNC Members in the room voted unanimously in favor of it, and it was the longest and loudest roar of the weekend,” said Ms. Solon.
Given the challenges facing the Democratic Party and the U.S. at the moment, nothing could possibly be more important than attacking the country’s problems with a unified front — something that both candidates and numerous other party leaders emphasized going into and coming out of Atlanta.
Going beyond expected changes for Democrats living overseas, the whole party will see changes in its focus and in its strategy for winning elections. “The top-down system never works in democracies,” said Ms. Borde. So, instead, the party will be turning to a more grassroots-focused strategy.
“I expect to see a much greater decentralization of the party, with a lot more effort put into local efforts to organize and get out the vote with less reliance on consultants and beltway-written TV ads. The state parties have gritted their teeth for many years, but the most effective way we can fix our parties is by knocking on doors and getting people directly involved,” said Mr. Eastwood.
“The atmosphere in Atlanta was one of brothers and sisters, fellow citizens and Democrats, believing in the same things, standing together in defense of our country’s values; truly united,” said Mr. Vidal. “If we can carry that through and deliver on that promise, I have no doubt we will retake the House and the Senate next year, and the White House in four, and elect Democrats up and down all ballots in the states.”
If Perez and Ellison’s in-depth discussions from this week are any indication, they - and we - are on our way to delivering on that promise indeed. Be sure to check out the Democrats Live show above for more details on what they discussed.