Forget Bernie Sanders (who, after all, isn’t really a Democrat anyway). Keith Ellison is the face of today’s far-left, identity politics-obsessed Democrat Party. He was the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, in 2006. (But he’s already not the last: two years after his election, Hoosiers sent André Carson to Washington.)
Raised Catholic, Ellison became a Muslim at 19. In law school, he wrote a series of articles in which he sought to defend Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his flunky Khalid Abdul Muhammed (a Holocaust denier who had called Jews “hook-nosed, bagel-eatin’, lox-eatin’ impostors”) against frankly indisputable charges of being anti-white and anti-Semitic.
Ellison, who originally ran for office under the name Keith Ellison-Muhammed, spent four years in the Minnesota legislature before running in 2006 for the U.S. Congress. During the 2006 campaign, his opponents brought up his failure to pay income taxes for several years in the 1990s. (As a result, the IRS had put liens on his home.) He’d also failed to pay parking tickets and fines, causing his driver’s license to be suspended repeatedly. You might consider these actions to be a sign of – at the very least – a lack of civic responsibility, and you might think that civic responsibility would be the first requirement for a member of Congress. But never mind.
Opponents also brought up his longtime association with Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. In response, Ellison readily denounced both the organization and its leader. You might wonder how sincere his denunciation was. You also might wonder how principled a man is when he’s willing to kick to the curb, prontissimo, a man who, however execrable, was apparently one of his heroes. But never mind.
Curiously, even as he distanced himself from the Nation of Islam, Ellison accepted support from the equally reprehensible, terrorist-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose then executive director, Nihad Awad, spoke at one of his fundraisers. Ellison also spoke numerous times at CAIR events, while Awad and at least one other CAIR official also personally contributed to the Ellison campaign. Ellison’s Republican challenger criticized him for taking terrorist-tainted money. (Awad, a former official of the Islamic Association of Palestine, a group drenched in the blood of terrorist victims, had also donated to Hamas.) You might think all of this would have given voters pause. But never mind. In the end, none of it mattered. Ellison was elected to Congress, where he has since represented all of Minneapolis and parts of two adjacent counties.
He was the first member of Congress to take his oath on a Koran. But the controversies didn’t end there. In a 2007 speech, he suggested that the U.S. was a “totalitarian” power, compared George W. Bush to Hitler, and implied that 9/11 had been engineered by the Bush White House. Ellison later walked back those statements, acknowledging that Osama bin Laden, not Bush, was in fact behind 9/11.
In 2007, in violation of administration policy, Ellison and other members of Congress visited Syria, a designated state sponsor of terrorism. In Saudi Arabia, Ellison waxed poetic over the experience of being in the same country as Mecca and Medina. In 2008, he expressed support for Sami al-Arian, who had been dismissed from the faculty of the University of South Florida for aiding the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In 2010, Ellison decried supposed Israeli influence over U.S. foreign policy, finally sparking criticism by the Anti-Defamation League, which had previously bent over backwards to avoid chiding him.
While frequently excoriating Israel for defending itself against terrorist attacks, Ellison has had good things to say about Iran – and even North Korea. Speaking on a panel last August, he said that while “the world always thought” Kim Jong-un “was not a responsible leader,” the dictator was in fact “acting more responsible [sic] than this guy is” – “this guy” being the President of the United States, Donald Trump. Ellison had to walk back that statement, too.
In November 2016, Ellison was the “progressive” choice for chair of the Democratic National Committee. When Tom Perez beat him, Perez asked that Ellison be chosen to serve as his Deputy Chair; Ellison won by a unanimous voice vote. His ascent to this party position clinched his role as the most powerful and prominent Muslim in the U.S. But, as we’ll see on Thursday, it certainly didn’t persuade him to take a less radical line in his politics.