The boss of the nation’s largest labor union threw his support behind the nation’s highest ranking Muslim politician Keith Ellison to be the next head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
“He is a proven leader who will focus on year-round grassroots organizing to deliver for working families across America. Under his leadership, the Democratic Party will embody the values that our members stand for every day,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday about the Minnesota Democrat.
Having the support of the millions in forced union dues provided by Trumka is a huge boost to Ellison’s campaign. It may be enough to overcome Ellison’s record of anti-Israel demagoguery.
Last week, the Anti-Defamation League said it opposed him, citing comments in past speeches critical of Israel. In a 2010 speech, Ellison, who is Muslim, said, “The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people.” The ADL called the comments “both deeply disturbing and disqualifying.”
Ellison is seen as a proxy for forces loyal to Vermont Socialist Bernie Sanders. Along with the AFL-CIO labor bosses endorsement, Ellison garnered the backing of Democracy for America.
The liberal activist group Democracy for America on Tuesday endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison for Democratic National Committee chairman.
The organization is affiliated with former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who recently dropped his bid for his old job, and its endorsement of the Minnesota congressman could prove significant. In 2005, when Dean ran for and won the post, Democracy for America threw its weight behind Dean, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.
Ellison is opposed by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez who jumped into the race this week.
Perez is considered President Obama’s stalking horse in the race but some believe Obama doesn’t care enough about the DNC chair to make a fight of it.
But one Democratic insider and DNC veteran cautioned against viewing Perez as Obama’s candidate in the race. The president never took much of an interest in the DNC, preferring to run his campaigns and outside activism through his own grassroots organization, Organizing for America.
Obama’s sudden interest in the DNC would be new.
“If he really cared he would have installed someone other than Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz [D-Fla.] and he would have had a pick for chair to back sooner,” this Democratic operative said, on condition of anonymity because he did not want to publicly criticize Obama.
An Ellison victory would make him a high profile political figure and signify a sharp left turn to future Democratic Party politics.