If there was any doubt that the election of Donald Trump presented the Democratic Party with an existential crisis, the dire state of the liberal political party is evident by a report that Tom Perez, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has requested the resignation of all DNC staffers. The request may signal that Perez intends to move the Democrats away from the influence of the Clintons and their ties to Wall Street.
NBC News reports that Leah Daughtry, an advisor to outgoing DNC chair and Clinton ally Donna Brazile, asked that all staffers submit a resignation letter dated April 15 after the selection of Perez in February. Perez will have the option of accepting or rejecting the resignations and asking some staffers to stay on under his administration.
The DNC insisted that there was nothing unusual about the request. “This is longstanding precedent at the DNC and has happened during multiple Chair transitions,” said spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa. “The process was started before the election of the new Chair. From the beginning, Tom has been adamant that we structure the DNC for future campaigns.”
Perez previously assembled a committee of 30 Democrats to aid in selecting and interviewing new staff at the DNC per NBC. The committee includes Democrats from a variety of backgrounds including Bernie Sanders supporter Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Black Lives Matters activist Deray McKesson, immigration activist Astrid Silva, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), former South Carolina Gov. and DNC Chair Don Fowler, and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Perez, who served as the Secretary of Labor under Barack Obama, bested Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) for the DNC chairmanship in February. Ellison had the backing of Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) while Perez, who was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden, was seen as a candidate of the Democratic establishment.
Clues to the new direction of the Democratic Party can be seen in Perez’s promise to not accept money from lobbyists and his realization that the Democrats are out of touch with rural voters in traditional Democrat strongholds. “One of the reasons we lost in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania is we’re not speaking to rural voters,” he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in February.
The new DNC chair has two difficult tasks ahead. First, he must bring the varied factions of the party together after the bitter primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. There is some evidence that enough Democrat voters disillusioned with Clintonian corruption voted third party to make a difference in swing states.
Second, the Democrats must repair the damage that the Obama Administration did to their appeal to working class voters. Kevin Drum of Mother Jones pointed out that Clinton lost 14 points among white working class voters and eight points among Hispanic working class voters compared with 2012.
“This strongly suggests that the working class was primarily motivated by economic concerns and only secondarily by racial issues,” Drum writes.
The economic stagnation in Rust Belt states, many of which are led by Democrats, arguably pushed many blue-collar voters toward Donald Trump. After eight years of Barack Obama’s various wars on business and coal, the Democrats have much to do to regain their footing in some states that were deep blue in the near past.
Perez’s task is made all the more difficult by the fact that state and local Democrats took heavy losses in the Obama era. Republican wave elections ended the careers of many promising Democrats in 2010 and 2014. In all, Democrats lost more than 1,000 seats under President Obama according to Fox News.
Given these challenges, it is unsurprising that Perez might want to start with a clean slate as he rebuilds the DNC from scratch. “What we’re trying to do is culture change,” he told NBC News. “We’re repairing a plane at 20,000 feet. You can’t land the plane, shut it down, and close it until further notice.”