Even in a year when political prognostication has seemed pointless, it seemed safe to say that there was simply no way that the Democratic National Convention kicking off in Philadelphia Monday afternoon could possibly be more chaotic than the Republican convention last week. The GOP event was four days of acrimony, confusion, accusations of plagiarism and angry demonstrations. Surely, the Democrats would do better, right?
Actually, maybe not, if this morning’s events in the City of Brotherly Love are any guide.
The party has been thrown into yet another round of bitter infighting after the release by WikiLeaks of 20,000 internal Democratic National Committee emails, which appeared to show DNC staff openly biased against presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton’s primary challenger, Bernie Sanders. The emails don’t appear to document any concerted effort within the DNC to deny Sanders the nomination. In fact, many of them appear to have been written after Clinton had won enough delegates to clinch the nomination.
However, they reinforced the perception that the system was set up to favor Clinton from the beginning -- something Sanders and his supporters have complained about since very early in the primaries. This led to a very personal feud between Sanders and the DNC chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, leading Sanders to not only call for her resignation but to endorse and campaign for her primary challenger, Tim Canova.
The release of the emails forced Wasserman Schultz’s hand, and over the weekend she announced that she would step down as DNC chair following the convention. But it now seems fair to ask whether she will make it to the end of the day, much less the end of the week.
Wasserman Schultz appeared Monday morning at a breakfast for Florida’s delegates to the convention. Under normal circumstances, it would be hard to imagine a much friendlier crowd for the six-term congresswoman. But these are not normal circumstances. Wasserman Schultz was practically booed off the podium by her own state’s delegates, and left the room surrounded by her security detail.
With the official opening of the convention only hours away, Wasserman Schultz, Clinton and other top Democratic officials have to be asking themselves whether it makes sense to risk a similar scene -- only on a much larger scale -- by going ahead with the plan to have the embattled DNC chair gavel the convention to order and deliver brief remarks at 4 p.m. this afternoon.
Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has been hammering the DNC over the email scandal on social media in an effort to drive the existing wedge between the party establishment and Sanders supporters even deeper, could hardly contain himself Monday morning.
Wow, the Republican Convention went so smoothly compared to the Dems total mess. But fear not, the dishonest media will find a good spinnnn!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2016
The State of Florida is so embarrassed by the antics of Crooked Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz that they will vote for CHANGE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2016
The convention’s first-night speakers lineup will contain both Sanders and liberal icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who many in the Sanders wing of the party would have liked to see as the vice presidential running mate rather than Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a more moderate member of the party.
Sanders, in particular, already faces a very delicate task if, as expected, he delivers a speech meant to soothe the anger his supporters feel and get them to line up behind Clinton. That job will be even more difficult if his delegates have been fired up by a confrontation with the woman many see as the face of a corrupt party establishment.
It’s unclear that there is anything Wasserman Schultz could say to the delegates that wouldn’t result in an uproar, and one has to believe that both she and other top Democrats are wondering if the best place for her at 4 p.m. this afternoon would be on a flight back to Florida.