Win or lose, Bernie Sanders’ campaign should be considered one of the most pivotal in the Democratic Party’s history.
The enthusiasm and anger that propelled him from a little-known Senator from a small state, polling in the single digits, to a nationwide rockstar posing an existential threat to one of the largest, most powerful political operations this country has ever seen isn't going anywhere. Not after the primary is unofficially over. Not after the primary is actually officially over. And particularly not after this presidential election is over.
The passionate millennials who brought Bernie Sanders this far -- and who could still deliver him to the White House -- are the future Democratic Party. This is something every member of the “establishment" needs to wrap their mind around now, before its too late.
In event that Hillary Clinton manages to fend off the challenge from the Sanders’ campaign and becomes the nominee, she has to win over the Sanders voters before she can complete her journey to the White House and prevent the abject horror of a Republican presidency, Trump or otherwise.
Winning over the Sanders vote is a political, and frankly moral, necessity. How can it be done given her weakness with the progressive left and the millennial voters who fuel Bernie’s campaign?
The first step is obvious: Fire Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The second a little less so: Name Sanders' lead strategist Tad Devine to the top job at the DNC.
The Sanders vote doesn’t like or trust Clinton, and they aren’t likely to anytime soon. There is a reason they went for a independent, a reason party affiliation on both sides is as low as it is, and a reason voter turnout in 2014 was the worst in 72 years. That reason isn’t changing — but the public face of it can.
Debbie Wassermann Schultz embodies all that Sanders’ crowd disdains. Leave aside for a moment her decidedly undemocratic approach to Party governance, her decision to open the gates to lobbyist money, her ham-fisted handling of the debate schedule, her oh-so-obvious attempts to tilt the scales in HRC’s favor, her complete failure at gaining new seats for Democrats up and down the ballot, and the generally bad reviews of her chairmanship that include accusations of using her position to raise money for her own campaign.
Even without all that, she is a symbol of almost everything that is old, and wrong, with the Democratic Party. On the issues: she voted no on medical marijuana; but yes to fast-tracking TPP; she opposed President Obama’s detente with Cuba; she dragged her feet all the way through the Iran Nuke Deal; and now is showing her avid support for payday lenders. This is not the Democratic Party of the future, to say the least.
It’s ok to be a terrible person. It’s okay to be very bad at your job. But you can’t really get away with being both. Since HRC really, really needs the Sanders voters, she and the DNC leadership should go on and throw DWS under the bus. Now. Before it’s too late. Both for the good of the Party, and because it is the easiest, best, and fastest way to bring the Party together and ensure a Democratic victory in November.
Will people think she is doing it to save herself? Sure. But who cares.
Wasserman Schultz is kind of like tonsils. If they keep on making you sick, just cut em out. You’ll never miss them.
This would be a nice, meaty bone to throw to all the activists who wanted to believe politics could be something bigger, something beautiful. Clinton needs to close a very big enthusiasm gap, and quick. Firing Wasserman Schultz would send a powerful first signal that Secretary Clinton has heard the progressive wing of the Party and is paying attention.
And bringing on Tad Devine would be practical. We shouldn’t have a sitting U.S. Congressperson as DNC chair, there’s too much room for personal agendas. In today’s political climate, chair is a full time job. We need a real strategist in the role of DNC chair — a person who has their finger on the pulse of the electorate, and who knows how to motivate that electorate to get up and vote.
Tad Devine is this strategist. He could deliver this election. Look what he did with Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign. Can you imagine what he could do with the entire Party?
The Sanders crowd would be overjoyed — and that joy just might overcome the enthusiasm gap that is currently going to deliver Donald J. Trump into the White House.
In a single bold move, HRC could quiet her critics and get credit for giving progressives a real chance to rebuild the Democratic Party in the image in which it was conceived.
With this decision, the first female president would be able to take office with the wind of a respected, energized and empowered progressive base behind her. Now that sounds just heavenly.
Erica Payne is the founder of the Agenda Project Action Fund.