Garrison Keillor says Keith Ellison, 'lackluster black Muslim,' is wrong for DNC chair

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Garrison Keillor, who retired from Prairie Home Companion this year, is trying to save Middle America from a "black Muslim" leading the Democratic Party. Leila Navidi

Garrison Keillor, the beloved "Prairie Home Companion" creator as homespun as hot dish and Christmas sweaters, has a mighty case of post-election nihilism.

In a recent editorial for the Washington Post, Keillor expounds on his general loss of faith in the American electorate, from the Republicans who protest-voted for a heart attack-inducing whoopee cushion of a president, to the Democrats wandering lost in the woods.

It’s the written equivalent of a temper tantrum, and specifically saves a few clumsy jabs for Minnesota’s own Keith Ellison.

“A lackluster black Muslim congressman from Minneapolis is a leading candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee, the person who will need to connect with disaffected workers in Youngstown and Pittsburgh,” Keillor writes. “Why not a ballet dancer or a Buddhist monk?”

Why not indeed? As long as that hypothetical ballet-dancing monk isn’t a Wall Street puppet, a job-outsourcing trust fund-made billionaire, or anything else that old-school Rust Belt Democrats should actually be concerned about?

Ellison has been racking up powerful endorsements since announcing his bid for DNC chair last month, and notably owns the support of the AFL-CIO, which represents some 12 million union workers across the country.

Ellison's record of working for working people is solid: He's tried to make union organizing a civil right, introduced legislation to tax Wall Street financial transactions, and has steadily opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

What Keillor really seems to be saying, with fly-by innuendo, is that the hardscrabble, socially conservative blue-collar Democrats so plentiful beyond the liberal oasis of Minneapolis won't get behind Ellison for the simple reason that he’s black, and a Muslim.

By implying those white middle American, lower-middle income voters will be turned off by Ellison's race and religion, Keillor is, ironically, feeding into the very problem he's trying to solve. The "protest votes" in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania were trying to give a "middle finger to Washington," Keillor suggests. He thinks calling them racists is a good way to win them back.

On Monday, Twitter was ablaze with Minnesotans wondering what's happened to Keillor. 


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