CLEVELAND, Ohio -- While not exactly a woman stuck behind enemy lines, Debbie Wasserman Schultz looked a little bit out of place walking down 4th Street in Cleveland on Thursday afternoon. The Florida Congresswoman and chair of the Democratic National Committee was definitely not on friendly ground in the town where only hours later Donald Trump was set to accept the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
She and a few fellow Democrats have been in Cleveland for several days to deliver counter-programming to the Republicans’ message. And they have not wanted for material.
Wasserman Schultz has delivered stinging criticism in interviews and press conferences as her counterparts on the other side of the aisle struggled through a less-than-smooth convention marked, she has said, by “xenophobia” and “unbelievable negativity.”
With violent protests going on outside Quicken Loans Arena, the events inside have been marred by a bitter floor fight over an effort to relieve bound delegates from their obligation to vote for Trump, a plagiarism scandal, and a succession of speakers delivering angry screeds from the podium that often seemed more focused on attacking presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton than in promoting a way forward for the country.
Perhaps the most surprising bit of self-sabotage from the GOP happened Wednesday night, when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who came in second to Trump in the presidential primaries, pointedly declined to endorse him from the podium. He was met with boos before being upstaged by Trump himself, who made an appearance in the hall as Cruz tried to wrap up his speech, provoking cheers and shouts that drowned the Texan out on the floor.
Wasserman Schultz said that the Cruz debacle was only the culmination of something that has been going on all week: Prominent Republicans appearing at the convention have delivered speeches that, in many cases, made only passing mention of the man who will be leading the party into the general election.
“Including his presidential candidate,” she said, “there’s no one even talking from the podium about why someone should vote for Donald Trump.”
She said that, in her view, Cruz’s remarks last night simply reflect the broader fact that the GOP is having major problems coming to terms with having Donald Trump at the top of its presidential ticket, and that it has got in the way of addressing serious issues.
“What we’re seeing here has nothing to do with things like getting our economy going again,” she said. Repeating a talking point that has been a staple of the Clinton campaign, she said, “We’re here to get the message across that we’re better than this.”