In 2015, when Donald Trump’s presidency was punchline and not reality, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) warned a panel on ABC’s This Week that Trump could very well be president.
“All I want to say is that anybody ... who’s terrified of the possibility of President Trump better vote, better get active, better get involved, because this man has some momentum, and we better be ready for the fact that he might be leading the Republican ticket,” Ellison told his fellow panelists, who included the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and political pundit Ana Navarro.
As Business Insider reported, the group broke into laughter at Ellison’s suggestion. As we all know, Ellison would be proved correct.
Now the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee has a bold new prediction: The political left will take back Congress in 2018.
In a new interview published by The Atlantic on Monday, Ellison unpacks last week’s Democratic election victories and gives his take on the Democrats’ chances at the ballot next year.
Ellison told the outlet that he was encouraged by Democrats’ gains in Virginia, calling it a sign of “good things to come.” He also told interviewer Clare Foran that the Democrats needed to adopt an agenda that addressed economic concerns in order for them to win the seats necessary to take back the House and Senate:
Ellison: There is more income and wealth inequality in this country than since the Great Depression. What some folks would label or call progressive is just responding to the economic realities of literally millions of Americans. Sixty-three percent of Americans don’t know what they’d do if they had an unexpected $500 bill. So is it progressive to say they should be able to handle that bill? I don’t know, call it whatever you want, I call it responsive government.
Foran: Well, regardless of labels, do you think more Democrats are getting the message that they need to address those kinds of concerns?
Ellison: Yes. My opinion is that any Democrat who is not responsive to the economic challenges of working Americans will not be able to win.
The Minnesota representative also spoke at length about the Alabama special-election race and his thoughts on candidate Roy Moore—although the conversation took place before news broke of Moore’s alleged abuse of a 14-year-old girl:
Foran: How are you feeling about the Alabama special election race? Do you think Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, has a shot? Could he win even in a deeply red state?
Ellison: Alabama is a blue state in the making. It’s full of folks who want a better life, who want higher pay. I think Roy Moore is, he’s a perfect villain, he’s a gun-toting racist, law-violating theocratic person. And Doug Jones is a civil-rights hero. If we don’t win, it means only one thing, we have not gone to the grassroots and mobilized the people enough.
Finally, Ellison highlighted the differences between the DNC in 2016 versus 2017. The DNC has been embroiled in controversy over its management and allegations that the party rigged the primaries in favor of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ellison didn’t address Clinton specifically but, rather, the DNC’s outreach strategy:
In the 2016 presidential election, I’d say 90 percent of the money was spent in about 15 battleground states. We bought into this highly minimalist campaign strategy, which essentially said we’re only going to target the number of votes we need to win, and we’re going to use TV and data analytics to do it. We’re completely reversing that model, and saying first of all we’re not in it just to win the election. We’re in it to win community. If we make people feel that we’ve got their back, and their party is there for them, the election becomes the easy part.
If you look at the mission statement of the DNC prior to now, it would say our goal is to elect the president. Now our goal has changed. Our goal is to elect Democrats from dog-catcher to president and everywhere in between, and our primary tool is grassroots engagement.
Read more at The Atlantic.