Once the Democratic party announced the election of its new chairman, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, President Donald Trump offered his congratulations via Twitter. Trump wrote: “Congratulations to Thomas Perez, who has just been named Chairman of the DNC. I could not be happier for him, or for the Republican Party!” In response, Perez said that Trump should not get too comfortable, while promising that the resultant Democratic party will be his “worst nightmare.”

On ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Perez about Trump’s congratulations. Referring to the Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who he defeated in the DNC race, Perez answered, “You know, Congressman [Keith] Ellison and I are united.” He added, “And our Democratic unity is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.” Later in the day, Trump took to Twitter again to write that Perez’ victory was “totally rigged. Bernie [Sanders’] guy, like Bernie himself never had a chance. Clinton demanded Perez!”

Echoing those sentiments was John Fund in National Review, the flagship publication of conservatism that has, however, been critical of Trump. “The election of a new chair of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday was clearly an inside-baseball affair,” wrote Fund. ”Only 17 percent of Democratic voters had even heard it was happening, according to a new Morning Consult poll.” Fund points out that Perez was strongly pushed, not only by Barack Obama, but also Joseph Biden.

Fund quotes Christian Adams, a lawyer who once worked for at the Department of Justice who is now at the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation, who said, “After nearly a decade as a powerful federal bureaucrat, Tom Perez will finally be able to be out in the open about using the law to help Democrats.” Adams said that while at the Justice Department, Perez used the law to win elections for the Democrats, adding, “Now he can finally be honest about his agenda.” Perez ran the Civil Rights Division at the DOJ from 2009 to 2013. Adams noted that a federal district court judge concluded in 2012 that the DOJ’s own documents in the New Black Panther Party case of voter intimidation “appeared to contradict” Perez’ sworn testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The New Black Panthers were accused in early 2009 of intimidating voters in Philadelphia by threatening voters with bludgeons and yelling racist epithets at both blacks and white voters.

Perez won a narrow victory by two rounds, and advocacy groups do not appear to have bought into him yet. He and Ellison put on a front of unity in the aftermath of the election, however. When a group of Ellison’s supporter broke into chants and jeers of “Party for the people, not big money!” at the Atlantic hotel ballroom where the results of the election were announced, Perez announced that Ellison will serve as co-chairman. Because he is an elected official, Ellison would have had to resign his seat in the House of Representatives in order to serve as chairman. As co-chairman, he thus remains in Congress and simultaneously of great influence on the party structure.

Spokespersons for the National Nurses United and MoveOn.org were somewhat hesitant in their acceptance of Perez, who remains one of the most leftist representatives of his party. The head of Democracy for America, Jim Dean, called Perez’ victory “incredibly disappointing.”

Perez and Ellison bring different skills to the table. Perez has managerial chops, having served as the head of one of the most influential departments in the federal government. He has held only one elective position in his political life. Ellison, on the other hand, has served in the Minnesota state legislature and in the US Congress, while he also has considerable experience in grassroots organizing.

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, also relies on a huge national constituency among Muslims all over the country, and he is favored by numerous Muslim and progressive groups. He expressed support for Perez, telling his constituents to trust his previous adversary because “the very fate of our nation” is at risk. On CNN, Perez was dismissive at suggestions that he and Ellison represent distinct factions. He said, “Congressman Ellison and I got a good kick out of that – Donald Trump up again in the morning tweeting about us.” He added, “Our unity as a party is our greatest strength and it’s his worst nightmare.”



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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