When Congressman Keith Ellison first suggested that Trump could become the next Republican presidential nominee, he was mocked, scorned, and ridiculed. Pundits simply did not believe that such an event could ever happen. Now, Trump has risen to power to become the presidential elect of U.S and he is unapologetically appointing white nationalists and Islamophobes to some of the highest governmental positions in the land. Clearly, Keith Ellison possessed a political foresight which is deficient among many political commentators. It is with the same breath of excellent political foresight that Keith Ellison has announced his bid to become the next chairman of the DNC.
Recently, Senator Bernie Sanders has endorsed Keith Ellison bid for DNC Congressman expressing his believe that he could revitalize the democratic police and re-establish its commitment to the working class. This is very imperative as Bernie Sanders attributes Trump victory due to corporate Democrats who were two-faced to the working class. Indeed, the electorate was not at all enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as they were for Bernie Sanders. A recent study revealed that that if “Did not Vote” had been a candidate in the 2016 US presidential election, that candidate would have won the U.S election by a landslide.
This demonstrated that there is immense skepticism that describes the relationship that many have with politics. Many doubt the power and ability of politicians to tangibly and materially improve the conditions of oppressed people. This particular nihilism towards the politicians is found within many African-American communities. Dead prez, a duo of black poets, expressed, “Isn’t nobody in the hood got no hope in this … system and that’s why we don’t vote.” Similarly, Nas expressed that, “the black vote means nothing, who you gonna elect, Satan or Satan? In the hood nothing is changing.” In the end, the Clinton machine was no match for Trump’s political campaign which energized voters based upon the barefaced bigotry that exist among White Americans.
Discussing this political skepticism in the context of African-American Muslims, Keith Ellison writes:
A lot of African-American Muslims sought Islam out as a refuge from what they believe was an intolerant society they were living in. It was a refuge and this caused people people to disengage and not participant [in politics] and say this society is racist and not for us. I was never part of this strain but the roots of that are there.
This political nihilism also exist in segments outside of the African-American Muslim community. In a New York Times editorial titled Many in Milwaukee Neighborhood Didn’t Vote — and Don’t Regret It by Sabrina Tavernise wrote that out of four African-American barbers who voted for Barack Obama in the previous election, only two them decided to vote this time around. In a protest vote, one voted for Senator Bernie Sanders and the other voted for himself. Jahn Toney expressed the view that no president including Barack Obama had worked to improve the lives of black people. Another individual, Justin Babar said he blamed Bill Clinton’s crime bill for incarcerating him many years ago and refused to vote for her.
In order to have a future, DNC will have to seriously commit itself to addressing this nihilism among many of the electorates, otherwise, oppressed people will rightfully continue to see the democratic party as Malcolm X viewed it,– nothing more than a charade and manipulative party that offers token promises which are never fulfilled to black people. People will continue not to vote because they see voting as not being meaningful and do not believe that politicians genuinely care for improving their community.
Keith Ellison with a sincere and proven commitment to social justice, if selected as the DNC chairman, he is in a great position to change this dynamic. What makes Keith Ellison unique is that he is the first African-American Muslim elected to congress. Discussing his conversion to Islam, Keith Ellison states”I was interested in social justice, social change. When I got on campus, I find that people who were working on those things like the anti-apartheid struggle ..some of them were muslim. I went to the Mosque one day and I liked what I heard.” Since then, Keith Ellison brings with him a message of social justice to his political career having supported 15 dollar minimum wage, environmental protection law , and he has frequently spoken against against police brutality.
The Islamophobic smear campaign against Keith Ellison!
Keith Ellison’s bid is not without controversy. In order to inhibit his selection for DNC chairman, a vicious smear campaign against Keith Ellison has erupted. Fox News published an editorial titled, “Who is Keith Ellison? Left-wing congressman with past ties to Nation of Islam wants DNC job.” Weekly Standard has published a now recirculating column titled,”Louis Farrakhan First Congressman,” which reads:
Ellison first emerged as a candidate for public office in 1998, when he ran for the DFL nomination for state representative as “Keith Ellison-Muhammad.” In a contemporaneous article on his candidacy in the Insight News, Ellison is reported still defending Louis Farrakhan. Ellison says now that he broke with the Nation of Islam when “it became clear to me that their message of empowerment intertwined with more negative messages.”
These criticism hark back to when Keith Ellison was a young law student who wrote that,”“Farrakhan is a role model for Black youth” and “a sincere, tireless, and uncompromising advocate of the black community and other oppressed people around the world.” Keith Ellison expressed that he wrote articles during the eighties in which the black community was in a very oppressive state and he was captivated by a movement telling black people to pick themselves up, demanding justice, and fairness.In light of this,Keith Ellison wrote,”The White community, however, must come to the realization that there are too many Black people who have been cleaned-up, taught and up-lifted by Minister Farrakhan for us to let anyone gratuitously insult him anymore. ” When asked did he regret writing such articles, Keith Ellison expressed that he has grown and matured in his views:
“For the time I was in that was where I was, as I got a little older, into my professional I came into new realizations. I don’t have any regrets I will say that people develop, people grow, people evolve, who I was at 18, 19, 20 is not who I was at 40 and 41. I think it’s a little ridiculous that people don’t change.”
In contrast to Keith Ellison whose controversy stems from a law school paper, Trump is 70 years old and has actively conducted an entire political campaign that is revitalizing white nationalism.In fact, this entire smear campaign against Keith Ellison in an era of Trump demonstrates the grotesque racial double standards that emerge in America. During his presidential campaign, Trump had re-tweeted from neo-Nazi affiliated twitter accounts false crime statistics about black males and threatened to bring back anti-black social policies such as stop and frisk. Furthermore, Donald Trump is appointing Steve Bannon who has open white nationalist affiliations to be an adviser. For his national security adviser, Trump has appointed Michael Flynn an individual who has referred to Islam as “cancer” and has asserted that fear of Muslims is rational.
For his attorney general, Trump has selected Jeff Sessions who referred to the NAACP as “Un-American” for “forcing civil rights down the throats of people”, and called a black lawyer a “boy” and scolded the lawyer to watch how he talked around white people. In fact, the man that Trump has chosen for his attorney general was previously rejected for a position of federal judgeship after confessing to making passed anti-black statements. Trump is actively emboldening racists with vast political power while Republicans are concerning themselves with Keith Ellison’s law school papers.
The DNC Needs Keith Ellison
Unlike many liberal-democrats who have peddling the line of being “open-minded” of a Trump administration, Keith Ellison has already spoken out,””My thing is, yeah, we gave him a chance already. And he put in Bannon, he put in [ret. Lt. Gen. Michael] Flynn, and he put in Jeff Session. To me, he’s already made it pretty clear where he’s going with this thing.”” In a Trump era, the need for politicians with a sincere commitment to racial and economic justice will be increasingly important. Otherwise, Trump will obvious seek to continue to perpetrate racial bigotries against minorities unchallenged. We need politicians who are able to aggressively challenge the racist policies that a Trump presidency will definitely bring about and Keith Ellison can be such a politician. The DNC needs the political foresight and social justice message of Keith Ellison.