In the end, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) ran out of allies. For months, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman faced quiet criticisms from party insiders, coupled with much louder rebukes from Bernie Sanders and his allies, who believed the DNC wasn’t entirely neutral during the presidential primaries.
Last week, after nearly 20,000 DNC emails, apparently stolen by Russian hackers, showed up on WikiLeaks, Wasserman Schultz’s tenure became even more controversial. Late yesterday, on the eve of the party’s national convention, the Florida congresswoman announced she’s stepping down from her leadership post.
“Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention,” Wasserman Schultz said in a lengthy statement Sunday announcing her resignation. “I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans.”“We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had,” she added.
DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile will step up, serving as Interim Chair for the rest of the election season. It will be her second term: Brazile, who also served as Al Gore’s campaign manager, led the DNC in 2011, following Tim Kaine’s chairmanship.
Wasserman Schultz has also stepped aside as chair of the Democratic National Convention, handing the reins to Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio).
As a practical matter, the impact of the shake-up will probably be relatively modest: once a presumptive nominee emerges, he or she effectively takes control of the party apparatus. In the Democrats’ case, Hillary Clinton’s campaign had already installed Brandon Davis at the DNC, and he’s been overseeing day-to-day coordination on behalf of the candidate for weeks.
What’s more, as a historical matter, there’s some precedent for moves like these. As Michael Beschloss noted yesterday, Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy, and George McGovern “all forced out the sitting Democratic national chair as soon as they got the nomination.”
But the broader circumstances matter: for Sanders and his allies, Wasserman Schultz had become a villain. Her departure offers evidence of a party that still takes Team Bernie’s concerns seriously, and constitutes the latest in a series of important internal victories for the Vermont senator.
The timing of the announcement also matters, insofar as the party can start to put this unpleasantness in its rear-view mirror, rather than have it remain a distraction for the next several days in Philadelphia.
As for the broader political impact, some “Dems in disarray” coverage is inevitable, but there’s probably a limit to the electorate’s interest: most Americans have no idea who Debbie Wasserman Schultz is.
Postscript: Conservative Seth Mandel noted that this development isn’t exactly good news for Trump or Republicans, who hoped to use Wasserman Schultz this week as a wedge to divide Democrats. Dan Senor, of all people, added, “And look how quickly the Dems acknowledged the fire & put it out. Compare to how GOP convention let stories drag out.”