Why Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Is Wrong
by Olu Oguibe, Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 01:20:28 PM EDT
Ben Smith at Politico reports that FL Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has suggested that Congressional supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton should write a joint letter to Senator Obama arm-twisting him to put her on a joint ticket as Vice President. Writes Ben Smith:
Members of Congress who support Clinton are weighing a joint letter to Senator Barack Obama pressing him to put Clinton on the ticket, a congressional aide confirmed.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida has suggested the letter, which would aim to represent the voices of female members of congress and those from swing states and key demographic groups.
This only hours after the Democratic Party nominee emerged, with barely enough time to contemplate the historic threshold that he just crossed.
First, let me acknowledge that this is a very delicate and sensitive moment in our party. Emotions are still raw, there is a lot of shock and grieving that has only just begun, and healing is still a distance away. On other Democratic progressive sites I have taken minor heat for suggesting that an important part of the healing process is that we acknowledge and appreciate the enormous, historic feat that Senator Clinton has helped our country accomplish in this nomination process, and equally, recognize and acknowledge the millions of citizens, Democrats and others, who believe strongly and passionately in her: her dedication, her patriotism, her pioneer accomplishments, and no less her genuine conviction that she is best able to lead this country to recuperation from years of Republican misdirection. As recently as yesterday, I pointed out in a diary elsewhere that because Senator Clinton fought so gallantly in this race, my little God-daughter now has a precedent to point to should she ever aspire to the highest office in the land, and that, among so many others, is something we must be grateful for.
That said, there are several tasks ahead for our party. There is the obvious task of winning in November and saving this country from further descent into hell. But even more urgent is the immediate task of healing and reunification, a task upon which success in all other tasks ultimately rests. Given that, we have to ask ourselves, is this politics of combative arm-twisting that Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz has come to favor in the best interest of unity and healing, and ultimately delivering the White House for the American people?
My considered answer is a firm no.
We cannot begin to heal the party if we continue to draw lines in the sand and wage combat. We cannot begin to heal the party if we continue to see one another not as rivals in a healthy democratic process, but as enemies to be arm-twisted.
John McCain became the presumptive Republican Party nominee early in March after Governors Huckabee and Romney gracefully conceded their party's nomination. But the entire party did not immediately fall behind McCain. Even so, noone in the Republican Party has found it necessary or in the interest of their party to hand John McCain an ultimatum, any ultimatum, let alone over the critical decision of who to pick as his running mate. He's had three full months now to make his decision.
And here we are as Democrats, barely twenty-four hours after our presumptive nominee emerged, and someone is already calling on members of Congress to tackle and arm-twist and force the nominee to concede the right to pick a running mate, or else "18 million voters" would be held over his head as a Sword of Damocles. Someone is already suggesting that we hold our nominee to ransome as condition for unity.
That, fellow Democrats, is unacceptable.
We cannot heal the party by holding to ransome a nominee who has also earned the votes of several million party members and citizens. As Governor Ed Rendell has rightly pointed out, it's just not done.
By the way, the premises that Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz is advancing for this troubling throw-down are very problematic. If so far noone has called them to question in a firm and resolute manner, I believe it's time to do so. We might as well begin to heal by being honest and sincere with one another.
For months now, the Congresswoman and others have been running around dividing the Democratic Party into demographic chip blocks that are supposed to belong to different candidates. They've taken taken to breaking down the Democratic Party electorate into these turfs:
Women - Clinton
Quote "Blacks" - Obama
Hardworking blue collar Americans - Clinton
Quote "Blacks" and College educated Americans - Obama
Seniors - Clinton
Young voters - Obama
These diametric turf-lines would be curious enough were they not quite insidious, divisive and disingenuous as well.
For instance, it's been heard all too often in this very difficult conundrum that our party has found itself in that by allowing Obama to be the nominee, the party is throwing women under the bus. In all frankness--in all frankness--this charge is very, very hard to swallow for someone like me. It is hard to swallow, not for the spurious implication that the party is handing the nomination to anyone, but for the clear, obvious and brazen implication that:
1. There are quote "Blacks", and there are women, and African American women are not women.
2. The millions of women who have voted for Obama and others are not women or do not exist or do not matter.
Same with claims that imply that African American blue collar workers, as American citizens, are either non-existent or inconsequential.
Stop it, folks. It's time to stop it.
It's unbecoming of people who claim to be Democrats. It's unworthy of our great party. It is absolutely in order to be passionate about our candidates. They deserve our passion and the full respect of the entire Democratic Party. However, it is a different thing altogether to denigrate whole swathes of Democratic Party faithfulls and American citizens and consign them to non-existence while claiming to represent one group or another, even to represent enfranchisement and empowerment. That anyone continues to fail to see how ridiculous this is, is highly problematic.
The Congresswoman from Florida claims that she'd be representing "female members of Congress" by handing the party nominee an ultimatum. How about those female members of Congress who support the nominee? Is she speaking for those as well? I guess those members are no longer female, or characteristically, do not exist or matter! I'll say no more on that issue.
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is not helping our party heal. What she is doing, quite characteristically, is placing her personal interests before those of the party and the American people, just like she did by refusing to support Democratic Party candidates in Florida even when it was her responsibility as co-chair of "Red to Blue". She, a Democratic Party official, chose not to support our party candidates running against her Republican friends.
Perhaps Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz is becoming a problem for our party. Perhaps she is becoming another Joe Lieberman. The kind of youthful exuberance that drives her to conservative, hard-line positions and to take actions without thinking them through and looking at their implications for our party, is no longer something to be ignored. Her "me and my side first" approach to Democratic Party politics is now something that we must begin to look at closely before she does serious harm to the party.
No doubt she has not had time to think through the implications of her idea to hand a "Congressional ultimatum" to the nominee before feistily throwing it out. But she's wrong.
Given the sensitive place that this party is in at this moment, the right thing to do in my thinking is to allow Senators Clinton and Obama to take time to work this situation out without undue pressure. We cannot heal or unite the party by holding a hatchet behind the back or drawing new lines in the sand. We cannot bring the party back together by not allowing or trusting our canditates to reason together and do what is right for the party and for the American people. There are other millions of Democratic voters out there whom Debbie Wasserman-Schultz does not represent. If they, too, were to draw a line in the sand we would get nowhere.
It's time to step back a little from this fray, and perhaps look at the overall picture, and that's not what Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz is doing.