Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Debbie?

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz
I have never once claimed to be a fan of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and have the record to prove it.  While we agree on a number of different political issues and while it is a Democratic tradition for the party's most loyal to bag on their DNC chair (they never raise enough money or create a unifying message or get enough of the base to vote-it's a relatively thankless job even when you win...unless you're Howard Dean and even he couldn't translate that into a second bid for the White House), DWS has been a constant source of embarrassment for the party.  She's frequently considered to be someone who looks out for self over party, is disliked by a number of people in the party, and is a poor ambassador to the public.  Even as a Hillary Clinton supporter myself I thought her handling of the debate schedule was ridiculously poor, particularly considering the mileage the Republicans got out of their frequent debates (their eventual nominee has them largely to thank for winning the nomination, and as has been evident in the past few weeks, he's hardly lost any base support for the bad press they got).  And as a general rule under her tenure we may have won the presidential election, but we've lost countless gubernatorial and congressional seats, and been wiped out in entire regions of the country like the south on a legislative level.  All-in-all, she's been a weak sauce chair, and someone who surely doesn't deserve that position, and as I linked above, I've been on-record previously as someone who wants her removed from the position.

That being said, the recent movement to get DWS out of the chair has me thinking what the correct move for the Democrats would be right now.  The party is toxic, and unlike the bulk of the primary season, we have a situation now where the Republicans look like they're more unified than the Democrats, something that doesn't look good as the primary season closes.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz, particularly with her public scuffles with the Sanders' campaign (which, it's very clear, she hasn't supported and didn't want to win the nomination), has created a great sense of animosity between herself and the Vermont senator, who has gone so far as to say that, were he elected president, he would have her removed from her position, and has gone on record as endorsing her primary opponent.  Removing her from the position could be seen by many as a peace offering to the Sanders' campaign and its supporters.  After all, it's going to look bad when she tries to silence the Sanders campaign on the floor of the DNC, and really there's literally no worse person to tell the Sanders campaign that their movement has ended than DWS.

But it's also problematic.  While I do feel she overstepped her bounds as DNC Chair, giving in to the Sanders' campaign here doesn't feel particularly appropriate since Hillary Clinton will, of course, be the nominee.  Clinton has generally been supportive of the chairwoman (which has been reciprocated), and this feels like she'd be doing this not because Wasserman Schultz is doing a bad job, but because it's good politics, which carries its own risks.  After all, if Sanders gets this what's to stop him from using his supporters as leverage to get more things from the Clinton campaign?  Would he then demand greater control over the platform, veto power over Clinton's VP selections, perhaps even the veep slot for himself?  It's a risky game, and Clinton knows it.  If she thought that it would get the Sanders team behind her she'd probably say "game on," but it's more complicated than that.

It's also worth noting that Wasserman Schultz, who has shown great ambition in her career and likely wants to parlay her role as Chair eventually into either a Senate/gubernatorial campaign or perhaps a spot in the House leadership, isn't going to necessarily go without a fight.  While it'd be difficult to see her staying on if Clinton or President Obama called on her to resign, she could use her surrogates to attack the president or Sen. Sanders publicly, particularly if she would be replaced by a man (there were rumors, published in a salacious Politico article about a year ago, that DWS was even planning on attacking any move to replace her as anti-woman when former Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak was under consideration for the position).  While there are women who could replace Wasserman Schultz quickly to nullify this argument (Donna Brazile being the most obvious contender), does the Democratic Party risk cleaning out its top person so close to an election cycle?  After all, Wasserman Schultz does have her plus sides, namely that she knows how to drive out strong base voters (like liberal women and Jewish-Americans) in a place like Florida, which is critical to the Clinton camp (if they win the state, they win the election-Trump can't take the race without it).

So I'm a bit stumped.  Honestly, all of this renewed attention is not helping Wasserman Schultz, and if I were her I'd probably look at the bigger picture and maybe give up graciously right now.  After all, she'll certainly be out come November/December regardless of what happens-there's too much baggage there.  And by staying in the spotlight as an easy target for the Sanders campaign (it's much easier to target her and not risk "damage the party" talks than it is to go after Hillary Clinton), she's endangering her House seat, as her primary opponent has now raised mountains of cash.  Losing her House seat would endanger any future elective plans that the congresswoman has-she'd no longer have a shot at House leadership, and would be a loser if she ran statewide.  One has to assume that the congresswoman realizes this, and President Obama also gets that having his own DNC Chair lose a primary would look terrible.  If I were DWS I would entertain going off the top spot, but Hillary Clinton and President Obama-it might not be worth the trouble to ask her to leave.

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