The Democratic National Convention is off to a rocky start — and it hasn’t even officially begun.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation the day before the convention opens is the big news Monday morning.
It follows the release of embarrassing emails between DNC officials that appear to confirm the suspicions of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters that Wasserman Schultz and the DNC tipped the scales during the party’s primary in favor of Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee.
The resignation overtook Clinton campaign’s planned rollout of running mate Tim Kaine, crowding out a highly anticipated joint interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday night, and will again raise questions about how unified the Democratic Party can be in November.
The good news for Clinton is that Wasserman Schultz resigned. By the end of the week, the Clinton campaign can only hope that the news about the embattled chairwoman has faded.
One Clinton ally said Wasserman Schultz meant well, but, “she turned out to be the ultimate pain in the ass.”
“Every single time the campaign started to gain their footing, she would do something else to set us back,” the Clinton ally told The Hill on Sunday. “And it wasn’t helpful. It became an annoyance.
“Her mere presence would have been a thorn in the side,” the ally continued. “So this is helpful for all sides.”
Frustration over Wasserman Schultz and the DNC boiled over earlier this summer, when there were rumblings that she could be dumped before the convention in the name of party unity.
Sanders supporters have been angry with Wasserman Schultz and the DNC for some time, and believe she has repeatedly undermined or slighted their candidate.
Wasserman Schultz pushed back against the murmuring that she should be replaced, and it appeared she would survive until Friday, when Wikileaks released its emails — including one in which DNC staffers seemed to discuss using questions about Sanders’s faith against him.
Sanders welcomed Wasserman Schultz’s resignation on Sunday, which came after he again called for her to quit on the Sunday morning news shows.
He called her resignation “the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party.”
Nina Turner, a top spokeswoman for the campaign, separately cheered the selection of longtime Democratic strategist and DNC vice chairwoman Donna Brazile as interim chairwoman.
Brazile was widely praised by Sanders supporters as a fair and steadying presence during the primaries.
“We believe in you,” Turner tweeted. “Thanks for being fair and transparent!”
All eyes will be on Sanders on Monday night, when he is scheduled to speak to delegates.
And eyes will also be on Wasserman Schultz, who has said she will not quit until after the convention. The Florida lawmaker also plans to open and close the convention, and says she will speak to delegates at some point this week.
That risks a divisive and embarrassing scene like the one that unfolded at the Republican National Convention last week when Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) was booed off stage.
“It’s shocking to me that she would still be speaking,” said Democracy For America spokesman Neil Sroka, who supported Sanders during the primaries. “That’s not helpful for unity. When you resign, you resign.”
Sanders supporters also say Wasserman Schultz’s resignation should be only a starting point.
They say the Wikileaks scandal revealed deeply ingrained institutional problems within the national party that won’t be resolved overnight.
“My concern is that those leaks fundamentally undermine the integrity of the party,” said Jacob Limon, the Texas state director for Bernie Sanders’s campaign.
“If you’re a Democratic candidate and you want to run for office you’re assuming you’ll get a fair deal and that Democrats will facilitate even-handed elections,” he said. “If her resignation will start healing the Democratic Party, I’m all for it, but we still have to restore the integrity of the party.”
The hashtag #DNCleak was being used Sunday night be Sanders supporters to call for more changes at the DNC, including the removal of staffers.
The Clinton and Sanders campaigns have been working for months to come to terms on an alliance that would cement Sanders’ legacy in the Democratic Party and encourage his fervent base of grassroots liberals and young voters to throw their support behind Clinton.
Before the email leak, there were signs of progress. Now the question is whether the latest episode will tear that band-aid off.
Sroka called Wassersman Schultz’s resignation the “first step in a long process.”
“This was the only acceptable response to those revelations,” he said. “It was helpful to demonstrate that the party understands the importance of bringing in 13 million folks who supported Bernie Sanders into the Democratic Party and will help bring the party closer to unity and to enthusiasm and the fight ahead.”
One Democratic strategist predicted that Wasserman Schultz’s resignation would help the party unify.
“There will still be a little bit of messiness,” the strategist said. “But she might have been the greatest contribution to party unity in the end.”
(via: The Hill)