Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Two months before the 2014 mid-term elections President Obama issued this statement that read in part: “The president’s foremost political goal is helping Democrats do well in the midterms — and Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is doing a great job in that effort.” Obama was horribly disappointed in his first wish, and horribly off in the second in complimenting Wasserman Schultz. The mid-term losses for the Democrats were nothing short of catastrophic. The GOP took back the Senate, tightened its grip on the House, and increased its dominance of local state legislatures and state houses nationally.
The blame finger squarely pointed at the same Wasserman Schulz that Obama had showered with fulsome praise in the months before the debacle. And rightly so. The Democratic National Committee is tasked with the chore of spotting and recruiting able talent to run as Democrats for office, then helping to raise money for the Democratic candidates and incumbents, putting volunteer and paid professional boots on the ground for their campaigns, and mounting an all-out get out the vote blitz in the weeks leading up to the election to put Democrats locally and nationally over the top. This takes a well-oiled, well-coordinated ground game to put as many Democrats as possible in Congress and to keep the ones who are there there. That’s a more than full time job. There’s no room for a part timer and especially a part timer who remains under fire within and without her own party for ineptness, incompetence, and blatant Clinton favoritism, and is locked in a hotly contested Democratic primary race to keep her own Florida congressional seat. The Republican National Committee chairman by contrast holds no office, and spends every moment on planning, fundraising and strategizing ways for the GOP to hold onto its seats and take seats away from Democrats.
The swelling criticism of Wasserman Schultz and the loud and persistent demands for her ouster as DNC chair aren’t simply being shouted because of her miserable track record at getting Democrats elected and reelected in 2014, or for incompetence. It’s because the opportunity for Democrats to reverse the hideous losses of 2014 are so great. The GOP has to defend 24 senate seats, while the Democrats only have to defend 10. The Democrats can wrest back the Senate with a mere swing of five senate seats. This is huge. It would give a President Clinton or Sanders a fighting chance to get their agenda on the Congressional table and get a fair hearing of it. It would also potentially damp down some of the no holds barred obstructionism, bitterness and rancor that hamstrung Obama in dealing with Congress for nearly every waking moment that he’s been in office.
In one telling moment, Obama reminded Schultz that the DNC post was not about her but as he put it “Don’t forget you work for me.” That’s true at least in part. The part being that Obama put her in her DNC head post, and that means that he can take the lead in removing her. So far, he has remained silent at least publicly on Schultz’s fate. But with so much riding on this election for the Democrats it’s hard to figure just how or even why Obama would not want to intervene while there’s still a chance to make a difference this campaign.
The need for Obama to take action fast is underscored by the very thing that should have set off the loudest alarm bells among Democratic party officials and the White House. That’s the gaping disparity between the GOP and Democrats in voter turnout in the primaries. The gap is not in the tens of thousands but millions. The GOP is energizing its base like hasn’t been done in years, as well as firing up lots of young persons who in years past would likely not have been caught dead voting for a GOP presidential candidate. At the same time, the Democratic turnout has been to be charitable tepid and this in the face of the spirited, impassioned face-off between Clinton and Bernie Sanders whose populist, hit wall Street hard message, has touched a huge nerve among legions of young and not so young voters.
The near universal consensus is that this election will come down to which party can get the greatest number of voters to the polls to vote for their candidate from the White House to any and every congressional and statewide office in between. It’s a numbers game pure and simple. The GOP from the early going has shown that it can get those numbers out. The question is can and will the Democrats be able to do the same? They can, but it will take a fierce full court press to do it. That’s supposed to be the job of the Democratic National Committee, and its chair to make that happen. That won’t happen with Schultz at the head. The message then President Obama is that she must go, and go now.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is From Sanders to Trump: A Guide to the 2016 Presidential Primary Battles (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network