By Elinor Weiss
I ran as a proud Democrat for the 142nd State Assembly District seat in 1992, when Bill Clinton campaigned for president. The Democratic Party fit my worldview: it was centrist then. How times have changed.
I don’t recognize much of the Democratic Party anymore. Today, the fringe elements of the party are as troubling as the fringes of the Republican Party. Take Sen. Charles Schumer’s support for Keith Ellison as Democratic National Committee chairman.
Schumer says he is backing the Minnesota congressman because Bernie Sanders, who isn’t even a member of the party, likes him. Schumer feels Ellison is “a very good organizer.” But what would Ellison organize the Democratic Party for?
In an article he wrote, Ellison called for a black separatist country. For 10 years he was associated with the Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan, a racist who slanders white people and Jews. Ellison even defended organizations with ties to the terrorist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as defending convicted cop killer Assata Shakur.
In 2008, Ellison went on a trip sponsored by Saudi Arabia. As a sitting congressman, he met with a cleric who supported the killing of American soldiers and with a bank president who gave financial rewards to suicide bombers.
Congressman Ellison told the House Ethics Committee that the Muslim American Society (which even the United Arab Emirates labeled a terrorist organization), prepared his itinerary. The Muslim American Society’s website encourages Muslims to take up arms to help form Islamic governments worldwide.
I fear that Ellison, as the leader of the Democratic Party, would support candidates who deny the existence of radical Islam. Based on his history, he might support far left fringe candidates who blame America and not the terrorists for terrorism. That’s what Ellison did after 9/11 until he walked his words back after getting much criticism.
There’s more. Ellison has worked with organizations seeking Israel’s demise. He has made extremely disturbing statements about Israel. In 2014, he didn’t vote for additional funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system. Without Iron Dome, Israel would have been devastated by Gaza’s thousands of rocket attacks, with countless civilians blown to smithereens.
Schumer has said that he wasn’t worried about Ellison’s anti-Israel “stuff.” Why not? Why do statements from over 30 years ago, denied by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Trump’s pick for attorney general, bother Schumer but not Ellison’s far more recent and far more voluminous anti-American rhetoric and activities?
When Democratic Party leaders dismiss fringe behavior within their ranks, they not only do a disservice to their party. They hurt America, as well. It’s not too late for the Democratic Party to reclaim its soul and choose a leader who is moderate and centrist. Democrats like me are yearning to come home.
Elinor Weiss of East Amherst was a member of the Amherst Democratic Committee.