The trouble with Keith Ellison

Weekly Standard online editor Michael Warren invited me to draw on my experience writing about Keith Ellison over the past 10 years to speak up about him for Standard readers now that he has emerged as a leading contender to chair the national Democratic Party. Using a few links, I condense much of what I have to say in “The trouble with Keith Ellison.” Here is a chunk of it:

I’m doubtful that Ellison is the man to lead the Democrats out of the political wilderness in which they find themselves at the moment. His district is heavily Democratic. Republicans are able to recruit candidates to oppose Ellison, but the exercise is a formality. In the 2016 election, Ellison was off 12,000 votes from the support he received in 2012. This time around the candidate of Legal Marijuana Now drew 30,000 votes and otherwise appears to have subtracted from support Ellison might have received. It’s that kind of congressional district.

Ellison embodies the identity politics on which the Democrats have staked so much of their success. As a black Muslim in a one-party town with a left-wing newspaper (Minneapolis’s Star Tribune), it has served him well. Ellison has been insulated from the kind of media scrutiny that his checkered past would have received elsewhere.

Although there are practical political grounds for doubting that Ellison is the man to lead the Democrats back to power, that is an issue for Democrats. The case against Ellison that should concern all Americans is moral. To borrow a term, he is a bad hombre.

When I speak about Ellison in the Twin Cities, I give a talk titled “The Secret History of Keith Ellison.” The title is facetious. Ellison’s history only became “secret” when he ran for Congress in 2006 and bet his campaign on three lies about his involvement with the Nation of Islam. I recounted and recalled Ellison’s “secret history” in the WEEKLY STANDARD articles “Louis Farrakhan’s First Congressman” and “The Ellison Elision.”

Yet Ellison’s history as an active member and local leader of the Nation of Islam remains a deep secret to Ellison’s constituents in his district. He blatantly lied about it when he was running in the 2006 DFL primary. He suppressed it in his 2014 memoir, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee. Indeed, in his memoir he presented himself as a critic of Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

Speaking of Farrakhan, Ellison writes in his memoir: “He could only wax eloquent while scapegoating other groups.” Ellison writes of the Nation of Islam itself: “In the NOI, if you’re not angry in opposition to some group of people (whites, Jews, so-called ‘sellout’ blacks), you don’t have religion.”

He should know. He was speaking from his own personal experience in the cult.

I am grateful to the Standard for the opportunity to let it all hang out in this piece. Please check out the whole thing here.

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