The Democrats are still hopelessly in the dark about a path forward after the crushing defeat of 2016, but that way forward won’t include a group of veteran party officials—including the Democratic National Committee’s first transgender member and a number of people of color—who happen to represent the left wing of the party. All of them have just been ousted from their roles.
NBC News reported news of the purge on Thursday. It came when members saw DNC chair Tom Perez’s list of appointments to the group—along with his roster of 75 “at-large” members, who are hand-picked by the chair—ahead of the committee’s upcoming meeting in Las Vegas, its first since Perez assumed leadership.
Perez beat Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison for the position in a closely-fought contest that was seen as a proxy for the battle between the establishment and progressive wings of the party. He then named Ellison as his vice-chair as a gesture of party unity.
But observers told NBC that the latest moves feel like a clear attempt to shove members of the party’s progressive wing, including those who supported Senator Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary and Ellison over Tom Perez in the race for chair, to the margins.
Among the longtime party officials who were removed are Barbra Casbar Siperstein, the DNC’s first transgender member, who backed Ellison in the leadership race; Ray Buckley, the DNC’s first openly gay vice chair who supported Ellison after dropping out of the race himself; James Zogby, a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter and president of the Arab American Institute; and Alice Germond, an outspoke Ellison supporter who was the party’s longtime secretary until Debbie Wasserman Schultz booted her from the role in 2013.
Buckley said that although Perez can do what he wants, “it’s all just very disappointing. Germond said she hadn’t even gotten a call from Perez about the move, which she read as a snub over her backing Ellison.
“It is quite unusual for a former party officer who has been serving on the DNC for forever to just be left out in the cold without even a call from the chairman,” she said. “So I assumed it had something to do with myself support for Keith.”
In a statement NBC characterized as “terse,” Ellison spokeswoman Karthik Ganapathy said, “Keith suggested names for DNC at-large membership and committees. Some were selected and some were not. In the end, the selections are the prerogative of the chair.”
In a statement, DNC denied the shakeup had anything to do with 2016 or the contentious race for chair, and emphasized new additions like the DNC’s first Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient, Ellie Perez, and Marisa Richmond, a young, black, transgender activist, as efforts to champion “diversity” in its ranks.
“This year’s slate of at-large DNC member nominees reflects the unprecedented diversity of our party’s coalition,” DNC spokesperson Michael Tyler told NBC.
This is an interesting way of showing it.
UPDATE, 1:45 pm: The post has been updated to include Tyler’s full quote about “diversity” in the party’s ranks. The headline has also been updated for clarity.