Perez As New Democratic Party Chair Spurs ‘DemExit’ Threats

Discussion of abandoning the Democratic party has begun to resurface, but still doesn't seem to have much sway

Tom Perez — REUTERS
Feb 26, 2017 at 10:14 AM ET

Progressive Democrats are reviving the call to “DemExit,” or abandon the Democratic party, following the contentious election of Tom Perez to lead the Democratic National Committee on Saturday.

In response, social media has erupted in petitions to join and form third parties, as well as somber declarations of the death of the Democratic party under the hashtag #DemExit. Taking its name from the Brexit movement in the UK, disillusioned Democrats first proposed the idea of defecting from the party after allegations surfaced last summer suggesting that the Democratic primary elections were rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton.

In subreddits, Facebook groups, Twitter accounts, and in progressive and pro-Sanders social media pages, many mourned the election of Perez, who served as President Obama’s Secretary of Labor and was widely seen as the establishment candidate.

“It’s imperative Tom understands that the same-old, same-old isn’t working and that we must bring in working and young people in a new way,” tweeted Bernie Sanders, who backed Perez’s opponent Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, on Saturday.

While progressive Democrats may be angry, however, it seems that the #DemExit campaign reflects internal party divisions rather than any substantial changes in leadership. Most of those who would abandon the party over have either already left or have decided to remain in what they say is a effort to affect positive change.

Since June of last year, 1.16 million tweets have been posted under the hashtag #DemExit, according to a Vocativ analysis. The first and sharpest was on July 27, a day after the DNC officially nominated Clinton for President, when 91,218 tweets included the hashtag. The next was on November 7, a day before the general election, when 30,552 posts were published. The third was on February 25, with 16,627 tweets.

In the face of a fractured party, Tom Perez’s decision to nominate Keith Ellison as his deputy chair gained unanimous support in the DNC. Both Keith Ellison and Bernie Sanders have issued calls for party unity.

“We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided,” said Ellison.