US Mus­lim law­maker, San­ders ally vies to lead Dems

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Keith El­li­son, a US Mus­lim law­maker and a sup­porter of Bernie San­ders, on Mon­day for­mally an­nounced his bid to lead the bat­tered Demo­cratic Party, vow­ing to take it in a more lib­eral di­rec­tion. “I am proud to an­nounce my can­di­dacy for Chair of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, and if given the op­por­tu­nity to serve, I will work tire­lessly to make the Demo­cratic Party an or­ga­ni­za­tion that brings us to­gether and ad­vances an agenda that im­proves peo­ple’s lives,” El­li­son, 53, said in a state­ment.

El­li­son, a mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives who hails from Min­nesota, be­came the first Mus­lim elected to the US Congress in 2006. He was one of the first sup­port­ers of San­ders, in Oc­to­ber 2015, in the Ver­mont se­na­tor’s ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful bid against Hil­lary Clin­ton in the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial pri­maries. Clin­ton’s loss in the Novem­ber 8 elec­tion to Repub­li­can ty­coon Don­ald Trump has left the party reel­ing.

San­ders, a self-de­scribed demo­cratic so­cial­ist, was among the first to an­nounce his sup­port for El­li­son to lead the DNC. A num­ber of other party heavy­weights also back him, in­clud­ing the next Demo­cratic leader in the Se­nate, Chuck Schumer of New York.”The Demo­cratic Party needs to look it­self in the mir­ror and work tire­lessly to be­come once again the party that work­ing peo­ple know will work for their in­ter­ests,” San­ders wrote in launch­ing a pe­ti­tion drive to sup­port El­li­son’s bid last week.

A party in cri­sis

As Demo­cratic Pres­i­dent Barack Obama winds up his eight years in of­fice, his party is in cri­sis. In ad­di­tion to los­ing the White House in last week’s elec­tion, the Democrats were un­able to re­take con­trol of ei­ther the Se­nate or the House from the Repub­li­cans and lost a num­ber of state races. In the bat­tle to re­build the party of for­mer pres­i­dents John F Kennedy and Bill Clin­ton, El­li­son said, the fo­cus needs to be pop­ulist and an­chored at the grass­roots level. “We should have to make the vot­ers first. Not the donors first,” El­li­son said in an ABC tele­vi­sion in­ter­view Sun­day.

“I love the donors and we thank them but it has to be that-the guys in the bar­ber shop, the lady at the diner, the folks who are wor­ried about whether that plant is go­ing to close .... They’ve got to be a laser beam fo­cus on ev­ery­thing we do,” he said. “That’s how we come back.”El­li­son would be the first Mus­lim and the third African Amer­i­can, according to the Huff­in­g­ton Post, to head the DNC. He notably faces a ri­val in Howard Dean, for­mer party head from 2005 to 2009 and a pres­i­den­tial con­tender in the 2004 pri­maries. The DNC is cur­rently led by in­terim chair Donna Brazile fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz, who stepped down in July un­der fierce crit­i­cism of her pro-Clin­ton bias dur­ing the pri­maries. — AFP

Rep. Keith El­li­son

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