Debbie Wasserman Schultz may have been forced out of her role as Democratic National Committee party chair, but she has not gone gentle into that good night. And for Democrats looking to regroup and regain control in the age of Donald Trump, Wasserman Schultz’s staying power has proved maddening.
“We wish she would go away and stop being so public by doubling down on negative stories,” Florida’s Nikki Barnes, a progressive DNC member, told Politico. For Barnes and many like her, Wasserman Schultz left the party “in shambles” last July when she was forced out amid a cloud of controversy after leaked emails showed the party working against then-Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
Barnes also takes issue with Wasserman Schultz’s handling of a former IT staffer, who the former DNC chair continued to employ despite the fact that he was the subject of a federal data scam investigation. It wasn’t until Imran Awan was nabbed by authorities trying to flee to Pakistan that Wasserman Schultz removed him from her payroll.
Wasserman Schultz went on the defense immediately after his arrest, arguing the probe was the product of anti-Muslim propaganda and insisting she was a victim of the "right wing media.”
She also tried to characterize her support of Awan as indicative of her “commitment to protecting minorities,” as Politico reports.
“As a mother, a Jew, and a Member of Congress, if there is one thing I know for sure, it's this: my commitment to doing what's right and just—even if it isn't what's easy and simple—is unyielding,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.
“Undoubtedly, the easier path would have been to terminate Mr. Awan, despite the fact that I had not received any evidence of his alleged wrongdoing. Over time, the investigation raised troubling concerns for me about fair treatment, due process, and potential ethnic and religious profiling.”
“None of this makes sense,” Barnes told Politico of Wasserman Schultz’s defense. “It doesn't sound like racial profiling … there must have been something for her.”
“This adds to Debbie being re-branded as the Democrats’ disastrous destruction,” Barnes added. “Those of us on the DNC know we have to rebrand ourselves and earn the people’s trust. And unfortunately Debbie’s name does not scream trust. It screams power. It screams limited access. It screams WikiLeaks now. DNC lawsuit. It screams a lot of negative things to the public. That’s not how we want to rebrand ourselves.”
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz is still a national figure, but unfortunately for her it’s because so many people around the country see her as playing a devastatingly bad role in the last election,” former DNC vice-chair and Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, who publicly accused Wasserman Schultz of lying to the DNC while planning the 2016 primary debates, told Politico. “I can mention her name in Minneapolis and it gets a viscerally negative reaction, and I’ve found that to be the case in other parts of the country, too. Sadly, I think she deserves the negative reputation.”
Top Democratic donor John Morgan, who clashed with Wasserman Schultz over her opposition to a marijuana initiative, succinctly summed up the former DNC chair’s problems within her own party.
“In politics, you’re as strong as your friends,” Morgan said. “And she doesn’t have as many as she used to. And that’s her fault.”