Debbie Wasserman Schultz is out — and the convention hasn’t even started. Why the drama in Philly probably won’t end there.
PHILADELPHIA — A fight to free the delegates. Melania plagiarizing Michelle. “Lock Her Up!” Ted Cruz refusing to endorse. And Donald Trump channeling Richard Nixon, with a touch of Mussolini for good measure.
For sheer conflict — and near-psychedelic strangeness — it will be difficult for this week’s Democratic National Convention to match last week’s GOP shindig in Cleveland.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any drama.
As normal human beings spent their weekends recuperating from the RNC, various forces and factions within (and without) the Democratic Party began to converge on the City of Brotherly Love, bringing their agendas and grievances along with them.
Meanwhile, a devilish act of political subterfuge threatened to further inflame tensions in the final hours before the convention: Wikileaks’ release of nearly 20,000 emails suggesting that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other party leaders preferred presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton to underdog Bernie Sanders, even though they claimed to be impartial.
As Yahoo News’s Michael Walsh has reported, the DNC emails “contain embarrassing exchanges in which DNC top brass mock Sanders’ campaign, think up anti-Sanders narratives, and apparently consider using Sanders’ religious beliefs” — or lack thereof — “to minimize his support.”
Sanders appeared Sunday on both CNN and ABC to remind viewers that he has long accused Wasserman Schultz & Co. of favoring Clinton — and to demand her resignation again.
“I don’t think she is qualified to be the chair of the DNC,” Sanders snapped. “Not only for these awful emails — which revealed the prejudice of the DNC — but also because we need a party that reaches out to working people and young people, and I don’t think her leadership style is doing that. I think she should resign, period.”
Within minutes, CNN was reporting that DNC Rules Committee had relieved Wasserman Schultz of her role as convention chair and replaced her with Ohio Rep. Martha Fudge. A few hours later, news broke that Wasserman Schultz would, in fact, resign from the DNC after the convention.
It was an extraordinary last-minute upheaval that demonstrated how worried Team Clinton is about keeping everything copacetic at the Wells Fargo Center.
The question now, however, is whether the Bernie or Bust crowd will play along.
They had hoped, for instance, to abolish the process that gives Democratic superdelegates the power to tip a party primary toward their preferred candidate. More than 130,000 people signed a petition in support of the effort.
“It is our belief as sponsors of this resolution that our Democratic Party’s internal structure and processes need to reflect our core values,” explained Rhode Island state Rep. Aaron Regunberg on Saturday. “It is a fundamentally elitist argument to say that there are folks at the top who know better than anyone else.”
But after several rounds of Rules Committee voting, the amendment was defeated 108 to 58.
At the same time, Sanders fans — who have long demanded that Clinton tap as her running mate a true-blue liberal such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, or even Sanders himself — were bitterly disappointed Friday when Hillary selected the more moderate Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
“Secretary Clinton must know that her choice of Kaine can only inflame rather than soothe her relations with the huge constituency of Bernie supporters,” Norman Solomon, co-founder of the online advocacy group RootsAction.org and national coordinator for the Bernie Delegates Network,told Common Dreams in response to the news. “If Clinton has reached out to Bernie supporters, it appears that she has done so to stick triangulating thumbs in their eyes.”
Inside the Wells Fargo Arena, it’s unlikely that these gripes will amount to much. Wasserman Schultz is gone. Sanders is speaking Monday, and he has promised, via press release, to “make it clear” that this year’s platform is “the most progressive” in “Democratic Party history” and “that Hillary Clinton is by far superior to Donald Trump on every major issue from economics and health care to education and the environment.” And in stark contrast to the RNC, where a C-list of Trump friends, family members, employees, and largely forgotten “celebrity” endorsers took to the stage, the DNC schedule is packed with popular Democratic figures: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren. These developments should defuse the situation somewhat.
Also, the Clinton and Sanders campaigns agreed, after the superdelegate amendment failed, to create a “unity commission” tasked with reexamining the entire nominating process, and even Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver endorsed the plan, arguing that it would “result in the reduction of superdelegates as we know them by two-thirds.” So while Team Sanders earned enough votes on the Rules Committee to file a minority report and force the entire convention to spar over superdelegates on the floor of the arena, they probably won’t.
Outside the hall, however, things may get messier. Each day, the city is expecting 35,000 to 50,000 demonstrators to gather at six nearby protest sites. Nearly all of the permitted protest groups are more sympathetic to Sanders than Clinton. Some will call for voters to “deregister” from the major parties. Some are planning to block thoroughfares used to transport delegates to and from the arena. Some are willing to be arrested. Some will be marching a 51-foot marijuana “joint” from City Hall to the Wells Fargo Center.
“If the Democratic Party wants to put on a $50 million infomercial saying, ‘Hey vote for us,’ without committing to make this the last corrupt, billionaire-nominated voter suppression-marred election,”Democracy Spring’s Kai Newkirk recently told CNN, “then we’re going to crash the party.”