Over the weekend, former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez won the top leadership position in the Democratic National Committee over early favorite Rep. Keith Ellison after a closely fought race that pushed Jewish issues to the forefront. In particular, it focused attention on Ellison’s relationship to Jews and Israel, with the American Jewish Congress “denouncing” Ellison’s candidacy in a letter sent to potential voters just days before the Saturday election.
Over on Vox, Jeff Stein has an interesting assessment of the affair, and it’s one of those articles whose headline floats a premise which the actual article seems to quickly and rigorously debunk.
“Keith Ellison’s supporters say Israel attacks helped sink his DNC bid,” the headline reads, but what follows seems to be a list of people denying that Ellison’s Israel views had anything to do with their votes.
For instance, Stein writes that one Missouri Democrat, Brian Wahby, was “taken aback by even the suggestion that DNC members went with Perez because they disapproved of Ellison’s record on either American Jews or Israel.” In fact, Wahby says that nobody at all talked to him about Israel, an odd state of affairs given how prominent Israel has been to discussion of Ellison’s bid. (DNC Chair elections are usually not the stuff of front page headlines, so if a paper finds a controversy, they run with it.)
Later, Stein writes that not a single DNC delegate who voted for Perez over Ellison would admit to Vox that they “let attacks on Ellison’s record on Israel sway their vote.” Granted, a few delegates said they received concerned letters from constituents about Ellison’s Israel comments but then said they didn’t make their decision based on those letters. Some say they had spoken to other delegates that said they had worries about Ellison’s Israel record, which is a little like starting a sentence with “So my friend has this problem…”
All this is extremely odd when you consider that no voters are citing what was covered by the press as one of, if not the, major issue of Ellison’s candidacy. Meanwhile, Alan Dershowitz went on record declaring that he’d leave the Democratic Party if Ellison was chosen to lead it.
We’re faced with three imperfect answers. Maybe every delegate–but very few Jewish organizations–was completely convinced by Ellison having renounced his previously held views. Maybe some weren’t convinced and voted against him because of the attack but were afraid to say so in public for fear of backlash from Ellison’s vocal supporters in the party.
Or maybe their are simply few voters like Dershowitz still left in the party. Jews voted even more overwhelmingly for Democrats in 2016 than they did in 2012, but with Israel’s government cooperating more and more openly with the Republicans every passing year, it makes sense that those Jews who list Israel as their primary concern have already left for the GOP.