Home National Politics Virginia Civil Rights Legend, Bernie Backer Dr. Fergie Reid Endorses Howard Dean...

Virginia Civil Rights Legend, Bernie Backer Dr. Fergie Reid Endorses Howard Dean for DNC Chair


In March 2017, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will meet to elect a new Chair, replacing interim Chair Donna Brazile. Already, candidates are announcing and people are endorsing. For instance, this morning, Politico reported, “Soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is backing Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison to be the next head of the Democratic National Committee, a big boost for the Minnesota Democrat as the party searches for a new leader.” Ellison has also been endorsed by by liberal icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren and by Bernie Sanders, leading to speculation that Ellison has the job all but locked up.

Now, I have no idea if Ellison really does have the job locked up, but personally I’d like to see all the candidates — and hear what they have to say about fixing a party that desperately needs fixing — before deciding who I’ll support. For instance, former DNC Chair (2005-2009) Howard Dean has also announced for the position, and if I recall correctly, that was a very successful time for Democrats, who took back Congress and the White House and built a “50-state strategy,” which was basically shut down by Dean’s successor, Tim Kaine.

With regard to this DNC Chair issue, this morning I received a call from William Ferguson Reid:

William Ferguson “Fergie” Reid (born 1925) is a Virginia physician and civil rights activist. In 1968,[1] he was the first African-American elected to the Virginia Assembly since the days of Reconstruction. The 90 for 90 campaign[2] organized by Chesterfield County, Virginia Democrats in 2015 to encourage broader voter participation, especially in gerrymandered precincts, was organized in honor of his 90th birthday.[3]

….Reid co-founded the Richmond Crusade for Voters in 1956. He hoped to register and mobilize black voters during Massive Resistance. He was a de facto member of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Harry F. Byrd Sr. and his Democratic political machine in Virginia largely controlled statewide politics

Why is Reid – a big Sanders supporter in 2016, by the way – endorsing Dean for DNC Chair? In our conversation, he made a few key points.

  • He likes Keith Ellison, but he believes what we need right now is more the skillset that Howard Dean brings.
  • He believes we need a chair who sets out five-year goals, such as winning back Congress, electing people who support the party platform.
  • Whether the DNC Chair is Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz or Rep. Keith Ellison, he believes “they are puppets, they are elected officials, so they are going to go along with the flow…[Sen. Chuck] Schumer is going to be his boss…we need an independent person to build this party,” and Howard Dean is “definitely” independent.
  • He thinks that right now, the “inmates are running the asylum,” and that has to change. Also need people who understand grassroots politics, running candidates everywhere, etc.
  • He disagrees with Bernie Sanders on this one, says that Sanders is an insider as well so not surprising he’s supporting a fellow insider, and instead what we need now is an outsider to develop the Democratic Party in all the areas of the country where we are weak. “There’s no reason to put all our efforts in Northern Virginia, when they are organized and know how to get the vote out….need to run people at the local, lowest level.”
  • He says it doesn’t matter if the chair is an African American or other minority – “doesn’t matter to me.”
  • He believes we need a full-time chair, and Dean could do that – “you need a full time person there who can get down at the base of the pyramid” (at the grassroots level).
  • He believes that Democrats are in deep trouble now, “they’re not interested in building a ‘farm team,’ they don’t support people at the lower level.”

Thanks for the great food for thought from someone with such an amazing history as a progressive activist – Ferguson Reid!

P.S. Personally, I’m not sure where I stand on who should lead the party going forward, or how much it really matters in the end, as I tend to see the party as mostly dysfunctional and ineffective anyway. Still, all else being equal, we certainly should get the most competent person possible to try and turn things.

  • Elaine Owens

    I know Howard Dean and the job he did when he was chair of the DNC. There is no doubt that he gave energy and enthusiasm to the party and contributed to the massive victories of Democrats in 2008. Had he been chair during this election, I firmly believe he would have sensed the problems in the “rust belt,” problems that elected Trump. At the very least, the fact that the DNC would have had organizers in all 50 states would have enabled better information to get back to the Clinton campaign. Howard Dean for chair of the DNC!

  • I’m with Robert Reich on this:

    Plan A: All current members of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic state central committees should resign, and Democrats should elect people who are committed to creating a New Democratic Party that will

    (1) organize and mobilize millions of people into an activist army to peacefully resist Donald Trump’s takeover of America,

    (2) provide this activist army with daily explanations of what is occurring in Trump’s administration, along with tasks that individuals and groups can do to stop or mitigate their harmful effects,

    (3) protect vulnerable populations from harassment and exclusion, including undocumented young people, recent immigrants, people of color, and women,

    (4) recruit a new generation of progressive candidates to run at the local, state, and national levels in 2018 and beyond, including someone to take on Trump in 2020, and

    (5) do everything possible to advance the progressive agenda at state and local levels — getting big money out of politics, reversing widening inequality, expanding health care, reversing climate change, ending the militarization of our police and the mass incarceration of our people, and stopping interminable and open-ended warfare.

    Plan B: Create a new organization outside the Democratic Party to do (1) through (5) above.

    Which plan do you prefer? Or do you have a Plan C? And how do you suggest we get started?