The Ellison succession

Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party is undergoing an internal struggle that threatens to take us even further into madness and indecency. I try to draw attention to what is happening here in the brief Weekly Standard article “The anti-Israel candidate” (my title: “The Ellison succession”). I am grateful to Standard editors Richard Starr and Kelly Jane Torrance for helping me place the story before the Standard’s readers.

Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison put the wheels in motion when he announced that he would step down from his seat in Congress at the end of this term. Ellison is contesting the DFL nomination for Minnesota Attorney General against the endorsed DFL candidate, Matt Pelikan. Pelikan himself snagged the endorsement at the DFL state convention when incumbent Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson failed to secure it on the first ballot. Swanson then announced that she would move on to contest the gubernatorial nomination against the party’s endorsed candidate Erin Murphy. All is to be sorted out in an August 14 primary.

As I suggest in the Standard article, Ellison is a disgraceful candidate for Attorney General. His support for cop killers such as Joanne Chesimard — the first woman on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists — ought to be disqualifying.

Omar now seeks to fill Ellison shoes in Congress in just about every respect, but she is even worse than Ellison. She is a frank Israel hater who has yet to trim her sails with any tactful or respectable formulation formulation of her hatred. Here is the conclusion of my article:

The Fifth District includes thousands of Jewish voters. Many of them are party stalwarts and community leaders. In 2006, after winning the party endorsement and proceeding to a contested primary, Ellison felt compelled to answer the concerns of Jewish voters about his past association with the Nation of Islam in a public letter addressed to the Jewish Community Relations Council. Each of the letter’s basic assertions of fact was false—see my “Louis Farrakhan’s First Congressman” (The Weekly Standard, October 9, 2006)—but Ellison paid the community the courtesy of making up a plausible story to allay its concerns. It was more than enough for him to come away with the endorsement of Minneapolis’s (very liberal) American Jewish World.

Omar may have to address a similar issue of her own. During Israel’s hostilities with Hamas in 2014, Omar tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” In a May 31 tweet this year, she referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime.” This raises a question for prominent Minnesota Democrats as much as for the district’s Israel-supporting Jews. I wrote Governor Mark Dayton, who has endorsed Omar, senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, DFL chairman Ken Martin, and others to ask whether someone who calls Israel a racist state is an acceptable DFL candidate for congressional office. Only Smith responded—sort of: “Senator Smith is not taking a position in the 5th Congressional District primary race, but believes voters in the district have several great candidates to choose from.” We’ll learn months before the November election whether it’s again time for Ilhan.

Limitations of space prevented me from going into more details, but this should be enough for anyone with eyes to see.

Party endorsements in Minnesota have been accorded deference if not sacrosanct treatment by the activists who make them in convention assembled. Reflecting this attitude, the rules adopted before the delegates got down to business prohibited unendorsed candidates from addressing the special Fifth District endorsing convention that I attended this past Sunday.

Ellison was on hand to greet the delegates and press the flesh with other activists in attendance. They had endorsed Ellison over the designated successor of 14-term incumbent Martin Sabo in 2006. Ellison is their guy. Now waging a campaign against the endorsed candidate for Minnesota Attorney General, however, he should have been barred from speaking. The convention managers came up with an ingenious workaround. They invited Ellison to speak before the convention adopted its rules; Pelikan addressed the convention after. Pelikan did his best to make it clear that he is just as far out there as Ellison.

This is an exceedingly strange year in the politics of Minnesota’s DFL. I grew up admiring such DFL pillars as Hubert Humphrey, Orville Freeman, Walter Mondale (age 90) and Don Fraser (age 94). As politicians these were men of steel and decency. What a long, strange trip it’s been from them to Keith Ellison and Ilhan Omar.


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