PHILADELPHIA ― Hillary Clinton’s campaign said it is looking for a progressive replacement to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to chair the Democratic National Committee, reflecting the party’s attempts to unify with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) supporters.
“We will want a person at the head of the party that represents the progressive platform that the party adopted and that represents that spirit of reform and integration of the grassroots into the party,” Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta told The Huffington Post in an interview Thursday at the Democratic National Convention.
Watch the full interview with Podesta above.
The platform that Sanders and Clinton supporters came together on is the most progressive in the party’s history. The two camps also agreed on creating a commission to examine changes to party rules that could reduce the role of superdelegates in the next election.
Wasserman Schultz stepped down as DNC chair on July 24, the day before the big gathering in Philadelphia was set to commence. Sanders supporters have long called for her ouster, believing she was tipping the scales toward Clinton in the primary. Their calls intensified after Wikileaks released hacked internal DNC emails, and party officials found they could no longer defend Wasserman Schultz staying in place.
The Florida legislator is also taking heat back home, where she is facing her first real primary challenger ever. Tim Canova, a law professor and political newbie, has the backing of progressive activists and Sanders supporters and has pulled in an impressive amount of cash. Progressives have been especially upset that Wasserman Schultz was undermining new Obama administration rules intended to rein in predatory payday lending.
There’s a widespread recognition that the DNC needs to rebuild after Wasserman Schultz’s tenure. Current and former officials who spoke with The Huffington Post said the organization has become a shell of itself, too focused on defending and promoting the chair, rather than promoting the interests of the Democratic Party.
But many of the problems were beyond Wasserman Schultz’s control. The Obama campaign saw the DNC as a tool to aid the president’s re-election, and officials had little interest in building the party infrastructure. Instead, they built Organizing for Action, which essentially became a parallel organization and pulled away resources.
Podesta acknowledged that OFA pulled resources away from the DNC.
“I think it was the president’s choice to build OFA as a progressive organizing structure that was going to focus on trying to be a force not only to influence legislation that he was trying to put forward, but to build a community really of progressive activists who were connected by their engagement with first the Obama campaign and then OFA,” he said.
“But I think that necessarily put some focus on that structure and the very good work that it was doing in terms of trying to build a social movement, if you will, out there. I think that definitely had some impact on whether the resources were being rung through and focused on the party structure,” he added.
Many Democratic officials say they expect the Clinton campaign to emphasize party-building, just as they did during President Bill Clinton’s tenure in the 1990s. Podesta reiterated that approach in his interview last week, saying Clinton was committed to a 50-state strategy.
“We have a commitment to running a campaign in all 50 states,” he said. “And I think more importantly, we have a commitment to a coordinated campaign that relies on building structure inside the party that will help not only Hillary and Tim Kaine get elected, but will have down-ballot effects so that coordinated campaign can work to do voter registration, voter contact ― up and down the ballot ― so that more Democrats could get elected.”