Keith Ellison started his bid for DNC chair because he believed that passionate grassroots activism is the only way forward for the Democratic Party. A vision shared by many, including Bernie Sanders and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Politics makes for strange bedfellows and that right there proved the most establishment wing of the party agreed with Bernie Sanders wing of the party on some level, but ultimately it was not enough.


Tom Perez was elected DNC chair, but Keith Ellison was dubbed “Deputy Chair” and received 200 votes from party insiders in the process. It was close, but not quite enough to elect one of the most progressive members of congress to DNC chair. Still, electing Keith Ellison to head the DNC never would have been enough.


With Keith Ellison, or now, without him, for progressives to enact their agenda there has to be a groundswell of energy from the grassroots directed at Democratic Party organizations all across the United States. Taking over institutions is easier than creating new ones, especially in an incredibly polarized country with various strains of very different regional politics. The Democratic Party in California is completely different than the Democratic Party in Oklahoma, but most importantly the Democratic Party exists in both places. Just waiting for progressives to show up and take it over.


It might only be a small portion of the base but there is a lively debate on whether or not the party is worth saving. Some declare the Democratic Party a dead institution, rotten to the core. Many of those people advocate leaving the party and joining an alternative such as the Green Party or the Democratic Socialists of America. While both those organizations are worthy causes to support and get involved with. Moving the political spectrum to the left and championing progressive ideals should be the clear way forward and in certain parts of the country devoting your time, money, and energy to a third party alternative may genuinely be the best way to force the Democratic Party to the left.


Let’s be clear, the Democratic Party is a behemoth that will not die easily.


Which is great because in many areas the Democratic Party is ripe for a take over. In cities and towns all across the United States there are Democrats meeting weekly and monthly in the same community centers with the same 5, 10, maybe 30 faces. With just a handful of friends those parties can be turned into smaller pieces of a much larger progressive party. Most importantly these parties exist from coast to coast, even in the most conservative communities.

Good luck getting an active Green Party chapter started in rural Wyoming. It’s hard enough to get people politically active, let alone invest their time in a long shot political party nobody in their community has even heard of.

In Southern California, in Maine, in rural Wyoming, in the deep south, every single county in the United States has representatives from the Democratic Party. Usually enough to host regular events, staff elections, successfully hold primary elections, and organize local campaigns. Starting a third party means co-opting these people or replacing them and people who support a third party option no doubt realize the gargantuan task ahead of them. Which is why they should use that energy convincing the Democratic Party to become more progressive. The problem with the embedded power structure in place today isn’t just that in many instances it exists to serve party over progress, but that the rank and file let it exist that way.


As impossible as it may seem, taking over the Democratic Party is the only way to enact positive change in a timely manner.


In the age of Donald Trump there is no time to waste. People can not afford even one election cycle with the left split, soul searching for different third party alternatives. People need those activists and that energy in their local Democratic Party, forcibly pushing the party to adopt more progressive stances. Progressives need to field candidates with similar values and primary candidates who do not appreciate the progressive energy driving the party. Keith Ellison could have been a good first step, but every single step of the journey that is reshaping the Democratic Party would need to happen with or without him.


Even if Keith Ellison was head of the DNC reshaping the party to represent the ideals he championed or those of like minded progressives like Bernie Sanders, would be a lot of work. Even if Keith Ellison was head of the DNC progressives would have to show they are a force to be reckoned with and not some fluke of history to be taken lightly. Progressives need to prove the energy they showed for Bernie Sanders can be harnessed and used to reshape the entire Democratic Party.


The party needs to be reshaped, in a real and substantial way that wins elections and proves to the average American that the Democrats are now and will forever be the party for the working class.


That is no easy task, but filling an institution with a new class of people with a progressive ideology certainly seems easier than building that institution from the ground up. Especially in rural communities where liberal has become a dirty word.


Progressives need to become the bedrock of the Democratic Party. They need to run for school boards, precinct chairs, county boards, state level positions, and every other office under the sun. Progressives need to become so involved they are directly responsible for electing the DNC chair. That is the only way to ensure there will not be another Debbie Wasserman-Schultz going forward. It’s the only way to restructure the party in a way that is appreciative of a progressive agenda Progressives need to quit hoping the party will bend to their will and just accept they don’t get it.


These are unprecedented times and instead of operating under the assumption that the Democratic Party wants to be a vessel for progressive change, there needs to be a hostile takeover. Without that hostile takeover, the Democratic Party will keep chugging along business as usual for who knows how long.


Whether Keith Ellison or Tom Perez heads the party, progressives need to be active and vocal. A hostile takeover of the Democratic Party doesn’t happen overnight, it isn’t easy, and it isn’t sexy. It’s showing up to local party meetings, it’s finding friends to go with you, and it’s engaging with the people there, making them believe in your progressive vision of the future. It’s also the best way forward. In fact, getting out there and proving to the people in your community that a progressive vision for America is the right one, is the only way forward. Whether it’s through the Democratic Socialists of America, the Green Party, or rebuilding the Democratic Party is up to an individual and how they choose to use their time.


That said, it seems like taking over the Democratic Party has the most bang for its buck and will touch the most lives in the shortest amount of time. And with the current political climate and such high stakes that seems to make it the best option going forward.


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