Alan Dershowitz: Why I Will Leave the Democratic Party If Ellison Is Elected its Chairman
Tomorrow the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will have to choose the direction of the Democratic Party, as well as its likely composition. It will be among the most important choices the DNC has ever had to make. There has been a powerful push from the hard-left of the Democratic Party, led by senator Bernie Sanders, to elect Keith Ellison chairman. If he is elected, I will quit the party after 60 years of loyal association and voting. I will become an independent, continuing to vote for the best candidates, most of whom, I assume, will still be Democrats. But I will not contribute to the DNC or support it as an institution. My loyalty to my country and my principles and my heritage exceeds any loyalty to my party. I will urge other like-minded people – centrist liberals – to follow my lead and quit the Democratic Party if Ellison is elected Chairman. We will not be leaving the Democratic Party we have long supported. The Democratic Party will be leaving us!
Let me explain the reasons for this difficult decision on my part. Ellison has a long history of sordid association with anti-Semitism. He worked closely with and supported one of a handful of the most notorious and public anti-Semites in our country: The Reverend Louis Farrakhan. And he worked with Farrakhan at the very time this anti-Semite was publicly describing Judaism as a “gutter religion” and insisting that the Jews were a primary force in the African slave trade. Ellison has publicly stated that he was unaware of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. That is not a credible statement. Everyone was aware of Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. Farrakhan did not try to hide it. Indeed he proclaimed it on every occasion. Ellison is either lying or he willfully blinded himself to what was obvious to everyone else. Neither of these qualities makes him suitable to be the next Chairman of the DNC.
Moreover, Ellison himself has made anti-Semitic statements. A prominent lawyer, with significant credibility, told me that while he was a law student, Ellison approached her and said he could not respect her, because she was a Jew and because she was a woman who should not be at a law school. This woman immediately disclosed that anti-Semitic and anti-feminist statement to her husband and friends, and I believe she is telling the truth.
Ellison’s anti-Semitism is confirmed by his support for another anti-Semite, Stokely Carmichael. When there were protests about Carmichael’s speaking at the University of Minnesota, Ellison responded that “Political Zionism is off-limits no matter what dubious circumstances Israel was founded under; no matter what the Zionists do to the Palestinians; and no matter what wicked regimes Israel allies itself with — like South Africa. This position is untenable.” At a fundraiser for his reelection in 2010, hosted by Esam Omeish who had told Palestinians that “Jihad way is the way to liberate your land,” he complained that Jews had too much influence in American politics.
With regard to Israel, Ellison was one of only a small number of Congress people who recently voted against funding the Iron Dome, a missile system used by Israel to protect its civilians against rocket attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah. His voting record with regard to the nation state of the Jewish people is among the very worst in Congress.
Ellison is now on an apology tour, but his apologies and renunciations of his past association with anti-Semitism have been tactical and timed to his political aspirations. He first claimed to realize that Farrakhan was an anti-Semite when he ran for office seeking Jewish support. His claim to be a supporter of Israel was timed to coincide with his run for the chairmanship of DNC. I do not trust him. I do not believe him. And neither should any centrist liberal supporters of Israel and opponents of anti-Semitism.
The DNC has a momentous choice this weekend. It can move the party in the direction of Jeremy Corbyn’s labor party in England, in the hope of attracting Jill Stein Green Party voters and millennial’s who stayed home. In doing so they would be giving up on any attempt to recapture the working class and rust-belt voters in the mid-western states that turned the Electoral College over to Donald Trump. Jeremy Corbyn today could not get elected dog catcher in Great Britain. I do not want to see the Democratic Party relegated to permanent minority status as a hard-left fringe. Remember what happened when the Democrats moved left by nominating George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis – all good men. The total combined electoral votes for these candidates would not have won a single election. There is no reason to think the country has moved so far to the left since those days that the Democrats can win by pushing even further in the direction of the hard left. The self-destructive election of Keith Ellison will be hard to undo for many years.
So tomorrow, the democrats must choose between electing Ellison or keeping centrist liberals, who support Israel, like me and many others in their party. I hope they choose wisely. But if they do not, I have made my choice.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School, and author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law and Electile Dysfunction: A Guide for the Unaroused Voter. This article was previously published by The Hill.