- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota said Tuesday a “new spirit” has emerged in the Democratic Party as he reached out to progressive activists that have risen up against President Trump and are working to advance policies that lift up the working class.

A favorite of grassroots activists and deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Ellison headlined the final day of the “Rise Up: From Protest to Power” convention that attracted over a thousand activists from across the country that are interested in translating their protests into real electoral power.

Speaking at a town-hall style event focused on protecting Obamacare and pushing toward universal health care, Mr. Ellison said the stakes are too high for people to stay on the sidelines and urged attendees to inspire others to get more involved and engaged in politics.

“I’m telling you everything you believe in is on the line right now, and you need to be that leadership group that goes out across this country… and organize, organize, organize, everybody,” the Minnesota Democrat said. “I’m telling right now, the Democratic Party, there is a new spirit y’all,” the Minnesota Democrat said. “It is not the same old thing. It is not the same old thing.”

“We want to support what you are doing,” he said. “We want you to lead the way.”

Earlier in the day a dozen activists from the People’s Action sponsored conference were arrested outside the White House after protesting President Trump’s proposed budget, which they said sliced programs that benefit working class people to help cover the cost of a border wall.

“Trump’s budget is such a severe attack on poor people, working people, women, and communities of color that we had to show that we are prepared to put our bodies on the line to stop it,” said Isaiah Poole, spokesman for People’s Action. “It’s just that serious.”

Concerned that both parties have become too beholden to Wall Street and corporate interests, progressive groups have been aggressively organizing following the 2016 election in hopes of expanding their political power.

“I think in the first 100 days [of the Trump administration] we have lit a wildfire, and a lot of people who haven’t been active are active now,” said LeeAnn Hall, co-director of People’s Action. “There are just moments in time when you are organizing where people seem to wake up, where people might have voted or not voted or stayed home, but they didn’t think this was going to happen.”

Ms. Hall, a veteran organizer, said the “resistance” movement is different than some of the previous uprisings she has seen in the past because it seems that people are more committed to building electoral power and running for office in order to protect and advance the interests of their communities.

“I think that quality of really wanting to build up electoral power is a deeper commitment than what we have seen in some of these other flash moments,” she said.

Progressives, though, are divided over their allegiance to the Democratic Party.

Despite Mr. Ellison’s recent pleas, some activists continue to call on Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent and Ellison ally who energized many of these votes during the 2016 presidential primary, to create a new People’s Party founded on a progressive vision.

Others, though, say the Democratic Party is the best vehicle for change.

“I think they are getting on our side,” said Edward D. Weberman of Michigan, who had shared at the town hall meeting Tuesday how the Affordable Care Act saved the life of his son after he was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Quite honestly I think the people have spoken now and hopefully the direction will now come from their constituents… The future of the Democratic Party is the voice of the grassroots.”

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