- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2017

A group pushing Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to launch a new party wants Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota to sign onto the effort.

Following a CNN debate between the candidates running to lead the Democratic National Committee, the Draft Bernie for a People’s Party said the forum underscored how Mr. Ellison is wasting his time trying remake the Democratic Party.

“We invite Keith Ellison to join Bernie Sanders in founding a new people’s party, where we can genuinely express our progressivism without the constraints of the Democratic Party’s billionaire donors,” the group said.

“Due to the way the Democratic Party is organized, whomever is elected chair will have to report to the superdelegates and billionaires,” they said.

Mr. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, is backing Mr. Ellison’s quest for the top post at the DNC, which many progressives believe “rigged” the 2016 primary process in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Ellison and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez are viewed as the top contenders in the race — though South Carolina Democratic Chair Jaime Harrison and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Peter Buttigieg maintain they have paths to victory in the multi-ballot vote, which is set for Saturday in Atlanta.

In a statement, the Draft Bernie folks said the field of contenders in the debate missed the chance to connect with working class voters and failed to make a clean break from “the political and economic establishment that has impoverished our country.”

“It’s not about finding an honest enough person to make party chair, it’s about an institutional structure that forces even well-intentioned people to capitulate to the ruling orthodoxy,” they said.

They pointed out that most of the contenders have refused to rally behind bans against large contributions from deep-pocketed donors, super PACs, and lobbyists.

“The retreats with billionaires and backroom deals that have characterized the DNC chair’s race harken back to the days of Tammany Hall and are a far cry from the proud political revolution that Sen. Sanders ignited last year,” the group said.

Mr. Sanders, meanwhile, has said that “right now” he is working to steer the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction.

He has refused to rule out running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and has yet to shoot down those calling on him to launch a new party.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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