Understanding Keith Ellison

It’s weird watching Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison take his place on the national stage in opposition to Peter King’s hearing on homegrown Islamic extremism this week. Yesterday he played his role to the hilt in his testimony at the hearings, turning on the waterworks in the conclusion of his testimony. The Star Tribune was duly impressed. Today the Star Tribune reports that “Ellison could not fight back the tears.” I don’t think that particular struggle was too intense.
Islam has been the key to Ellison’s rise, and he means to milk it for all that it is worth as he seeks to climb the Democratic Party’s greasy pole. He is an ambitious man who has tried on and cast off a variety of routines on his way up.
I didn’t know anything about Ellison when he won the endorsement of the DFL (Democratic) Fifth District convention in May 2006. The endorsement kicked off a competitive four-way primary battle that Ellison won with a plurality of the vote in September 2006. Minneapolis and the Fifth District being one-party territory, Ellison’s primary win guaranteed Ellison’s election to Congress in November 2006.

After I first posted an item or two about Ellison the following month on Power Line, writing about him as carefully as I could, I started getting calls from prominent Democrats and other knowledgeable sources with first-hand knowledge of Ellison. They were unhappy at the thought that Keith Ellison might become the face of the Democratic Party in Minnesota’s largest city. With a competitive Democratic primary for the Fifth District endorsement, the information provided by these sources proved to be of interest to many Fifth District Democrats.
Given Ellison’s status as the first black congressional nominee in Minnesota and first Muslim congressional nominee in the United States, the constraints of political correctness paralyzed the Minneapolis Star Tribune when it came to Ellison. Indeed, it was frustration with the Star Tribune’s coverage of the race and noncoverage of Ellison’s past that provided the impetus for prominent local Democrats and others who approached me with information about Ellison.
They helped me kick off a series of Power Line posts on Ellison that I summarized in the October 2006 Weekly Standard article “Louis Farrakhan’s first Congressman” and the companion Power Line post “Keith Ellison for dummies.”
From the time of Ellison’s first article in the University of Minnesota Daily, published when he was a University of Minnesota Law School student in 1989 under the name Keith Hakim, through the time he first ran for public office ten years later under the name Keith Ellison-Muhammad, unsuccessfully seeking the Democratic endorsement for a state legislative seat, Ellison was a self-avowed advocate of the Nation of Islam. Ellison’s self-identification as a member and local leader of the Nation of Islam remained one of the deep secrets of his 2006 campaign, and remains so today.
Ellison abandoned his affiliation with the Nation of Islam some time after he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic endorsement for a state legislative seat as a self-identified member of the Nation of Islam running under the name Keith Ellison-Muhammad in 1998. Given the nonfeasance of the Star Tribune and the rest of the local media, we still don’t know when Ellison gave up the Nation of Islam. In 2002, as a Muslim, Ellison won the Democratic endorsement for the legislative seat minus the -Muhammad.
And we still don’t know much about Ellison’s Islamic beliefs. Which branch of Islam is it that comports with the Democratic Party’s articles of faith on abortion, gay rights, female equality, and all the rest? Some day an enterprising reporter might ask him, but I doubt it will be any time soon.

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