Only six weeks remain until the Democratic Party selects its party chairman – and yesterday Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, joined the race, making him the sixth candidate to run for the job.
Buttigieg is a former Naval officer and Rhodes Scholar who worked for Jill Long Thompson’s failed 2002 and 2008 Congressional campaigns. (Thompson was Bill Clinton’s nomination for Undersecretary of Agriculture). Buttigieg then worked for the Cohen Group (former Clinton Defense Secretary William Cohen’s strategic consulting outfit), followed by John Kerry’s failed campaign, followed by a job as consultant for McKinsey & Co., then himself was the losing candidate for State Treasurer of Indiana. Now he’s a mayor.
Buttigieg is liberal, gay, white, from the Rust Belt, and has good relations with his city’s unions – all of which would endear him to most Democratic voters – but he has also had a rocky relationship with the city’s Black community and not much experience either nationally or with successful political campaigns. Buttigieg participated in Obama’s Police Data Initiative and David Axelrod speaks highly of him, but few in Washington recognize his name. All in all, a nice enough guy, but not the strongest candidate for DNC chair.
Meanwhile, Tom Perez has been courting Centrist Democrats unhappy with Ellison’s progressive positions. Working with Clinton boutique strategist Bluelight Strategies, Florida Rep. Ted Deutsch, a point man and fundraiser for Hillary in Broward County, and political strategist Ann Lewis who served both Clintons, Perez has made some headway.
But this newest entry into the race reminds us of a couple of things. First, the Clintons may be back at home taking walks in the woods, but they clearly haven’t gone away. Second, the emergence of a progressive like Keith Ellison has Centrists scrambling to keep the party boat anchored in the mud – or at least themselves at the helm. Tom Perez may be their first choice, but Buttigieg seems to be the backup plan.
The election of the DNC chair should concern anyone who believes the Democratic Party needs to change in order to take back the country. It can finally live up to its name as the “party of the people” or it can make its official capital Chappaqua and remain what Robert Reich describes as a giant ingrown and entrenched fundraising machine.
I guess we’ll know in six weeks.