Monday, July 25, 2016

Ranting On...Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Resignation

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Okay, time for some real talk: this is not how Hillary Clinton or Debbie Wasserman Schultz or even Bernie Sanders was hoping that the Democratic National Convention was going to kick off in Philadelphia this weekend.  With a combination of the Wikileaks' emails and Wasserman Schultz buckling under the pressure of the scandal and resigning, Donna Brazile taking over temporarily and a pall of "who will take over now that DWS is gone?" all adding a layer of disorganization that the Republicans can constantly counter any mistakes from their convention with, no one was hoping for such a situation.

Part of this, it's worth noting, is probably an unforced error.  People have been calling for Wasserman Schultz to resign for years now, and she has clearly been an ineffective leader, and I am not a fan, as is evidenced here and here.  Her tenure at the DNC has been marked by ineffective messaging, a disastrous 2014 Midterms that cost us the Senate and brought us to historically low numbers in the House, state legislatures, and Governor's mansions, and truly opaque favoritism in the Democratic Primaries not just against Bernie Sanders, but really against any candidate that wasn't Hillary Clinton.  That debate schedule was a joke, and it took way too long for the DNC's Twitter account to start to give equal time to all of the candidates.  She clearly has been on the outs with President Obama, used the position to further her career more than the party's standing, and were it not for the fact that the Republicans nominated a sociopathic narcissist we'd probably have heard her resignation months ago.

That being said, I'm going to slightly defend the DNC and DWS here, if only for a moment, because the DNC should be fair, but I don't necessarily think it should be non-partisan.  For example, very little is said about Tulsi Gabbard, who essentially resigned the same day as she endorsed Bernie Sanders, but she was also a high-ranking official in the DNC who was clearly supporting Sanders before she decided to resign from her leadership position.  To pretend that politicians, particularly elected officials like Wasserman Schultz or Gabbard (both are sitting congresswomen) are not going to be partisan or have opinions is ridiculous-that's what they do for a living.  We barely expect that from Supreme Court justices, so I don't think it's out-of-the-question to assume that DWS was going to have a preference, probably for the woman she's supported most of her career in some capacity.  The question was whether or not she was bending the rules in some way or another to help Clinton in her official capacity, and at least when it came to the debate schedule, it was.  When it came to the fact that people at the DNC clearly had a preference, it wasn't.  So Wasserman Schultz was wrong in her approach this primary, but I'm not buying every attack against her.  I'm still apathetic on whether or not she should make it through her primary, though.  That's a topic perhaps for a different day, but she has been a strong ally of the Jewish and LGBT communities which I vigorously applaud, even if I disagree with some of her stances (particularly on medical marijuana).  I guess I'm of the mind there that I will support whomever the Democrats of Florida decide should be their nominee and will not send support either way on that primary.

DNC Chair Donna Brazile
Still, I do hope that the DNC takes this opportunity, now, to realize that there are clearly some changes that need to be made to the overall voting process, and I'm hoping that Donna Brazile, who is the interim chair (I don't know why they can't make her permanent chair, but names like Steve Israel, Stephanie Schriock, and Julian Castro are all strong ones so I am not heartbroken if she just makes it until Clinton (god-willing) wins, but truly they should have Brazile get a permanent term at some point), is smart enough to realize this.  I've been a fan of Donna Brazile since I realized what a DNC Chair was and have been calling for her to get this job for sixteen years (loved when she got it the last time, oddly enough after Tim Kaine resigned to run for the Senate), so this is an icing moment for me.  For starters, we need a more fair-and-balanced approach to the debate schedule, perhaps giving ten debates and on nights where people will actually watch-what we learned from the Republicans this cycle is that you can gain an enormous amount of power out of having multiple debates, and it's a great way to get your message out to the public.  Again, on this front the Democrats are actually quite lucky Trump ran because otherwise the free publicity that the Republicans gained could have been advantageous considering that they would have had more publicized candidates on the campaign trail.

I also want them to find a way to fix the voting process, and quite frankly make the voting process in more states uniform.  Some of this has to do with state laws, of course, so some of this would require state chairs and the DNC leadership working with Secretaries of State, but I want a more uniformed approach to the elections.  I want to see, for example, a reform in the way that delegates are allotted from a state-there should be a threshold of having to reach 10% of the delegates to win any delegates in a state, but also that there should be no such thing as unpledged delegates from the state-if, say, Bernie Sanders wins 55% of the votes from a state, he should win 55% of the first-round delegates that are allotted to that state.  I don't agree with the Sanders campaign on creating more open primaries (I think if you're going to vote in a Democratic primary, you should, in fact, be a Democrat-that only seems fair that you're willing to get behind the full party since it's technically a private organization, and really the only thing you have to do to be included is call yourself a Democrat) and I definitely think that we should eliminate caucus systems, which are undemocratic, but I also feel that we should make it easier and more open to register/vote.  You should be able to do same-day registration in every single state-that seems like an easy solution, and I think that early-voting or multi-day voting is also a great idea that will encourage more people to be involved in the electoral process.  I also think that we have to re-visit the primary calendar.  I am a firm believer that the process that over-values New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina has caused some of our more extreme reactions in politics in recent years, and eliminates too many candidates before the vast majority of Americans get to vote.  A National Primary Day is the simplest and most democratic solution, but at least rotate the calendar a bit of which states get to go first if that's not possible.

Finally, because this is probably the last time it will really be talked about, I want to discuss the superdelegates, because that process did not get eliminated for 2016 at this point (and likely will not, period), but is in desperate need of reform.  The reality is, and it cannot be said enough-Bernie Sanders did not lose because of superdelegates.  One of the things that has caused me to lose enormous respect for Sanders was him giving into his supporters' conspiracy theories around superdelegates.  Yes, they aren't exactly democratic, but that doesn't mean that he would have won if they hadn't existed.  Clinton won more states, more votes, more pledged delegates, and more support from the Democratic Party than Sanders-that's why he lost.  No one made up their mind based on a random superdelegate in their state and what he or she said.  So blaming the superdelegates for overturning the election isn't real and saying so is a dangerous lie, because it makes people feel disenfranchised who weren't.

That being said, I want some reforms around the superdelegate process.  In any other year, I probably would have said to scrap them, and if you read back on this blog enough you might see me espousing that belief, but after the RNC I realized that the superdelegates probably could serve a purpose if need be, as the Republicans clearly wish that they'd had a superdelegate process in place with Donald Trump.  So here is my proposal: only pledged delegates chosen as a result of actual election results (preferably on a single, nationwide election over a period of ten days), get to vote on the first ballot.  Delegates will be nominated by the campaigns at least one month in advance of the primary voting, so that people are aware of whom they are electing as potential delegates if they so choose to be informed, but also so that they aren't chosen at a later date that the public won't have access toward.  If no person gets a majority on the first ballot, all of the pledged delegates, bound to their states on the first ballot, will become unbound and will be free to vote in the second ballot for whomever they choose.  At this point, however, superdelegates will also get to vote.  Superdelegates would be limited to former and current Democratic presidents, vice presidents, and Speakers of the House, sitting governors and members of Congress, the state party chairs of each state, and the nine DNC officers.  That's it.  That would ensure that all of the superdelegates would either be elected officials currently culpable to the voters in some capacity, officials that are directly elected by their own party and are highly visible in their state or national party, or figures that are distinguished and limited enough that they have earned this position.  All of them would be public figures, so there would be no accusations that someone was undermining the process through back-room deals or that people who were not elected by the people and that the vast majority of the public had never heard of was deciding the election.

Doing this would do two things-one, it would ensure that the will of the party was not deterred-if we had closed primaries, and the people of the party spoke in an overwhelming voice for one candidate, that candidate would get to be the nominee, as that is how democracy works.  However, it would also ensure that a candidate like Donald Trump, who won a plurality of the votes and not a majority (remember-if Republicans didn't have winner-take-all states, Trump likely wouldn't have had a majority of the votes), but was unacceptable as a nominee came forward or if a candidate was caught in a major scandal, the party would have the power to overturn him or her if need be, and would ensure that a group of elected leaders help that process along.  It's not perfect, but after the Trump debacle, I don't want the Democrats to go through a primary without an insurance policy.  This still would have resulted in, admittedly, Hillary Clinton being the nominee (possibly, thanks to the closed primaries and the elimination of the caucus states, with a larger percentage of the votes), but it would have meant that all of the voters were vested in the future of the Democratic Party and its ideals, and it would have meant that Clinton (or whomever) was given the opportunity to be elected fairly by a majority of her party's voters.  That's what we should all want, and something we should hopefully move past, as I want the DNC Chair to get back to the task at hand and not just fixing the primary system as there are bigger fish to fry here-not only winning the White House, but making gains in Congress, governor's mansions, state legislatures, and mayoral elections, as well as espousing the progressive platform that we have passed and should be proud of putting to paper.  Hopefully Donna Brazile takes that to heart, as it's a big task, and hopefully we can all move past this moment because the stakes of this election are too large to get distracted by inner-squabbles.

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