PHILADELPHIA ― Back in May, just as Hillary Clinton was locking up the Democratic nomination, a top Democrat in Congress told me that the then-reigning chairwoman of the party, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, would be out of a job soon.
“The Bernie Sanders people can’t stand her, she has been doing too much too obviously for Hillary,” said this Democrat, a Hillary supporter who had roots in the Obama 2008 campaign.
“She’ll be out, sooner or later.”
Well, later is now. This morning, this person told me, “I don’t like her chances.” A few hours later, she was gone.
But it should be noted that DWS is being replaced ― until the election ― by another woman who was clearly friendly toward Clinton behind the scenes and whose background is no more tied to the Bernie Sanders revolution than Wasserman Schultz’s was.
Donna Brazile, a genial 56-year-old political consultant and commentator from Louisiana, has been involved in centrist ― not left-leaning ― Democratic Party intramural politics for decades.
She is immensely smart and likable, but she has Louisiana political gumbo in her veins, which means that she is an inside-loving dealmaker who is comfortable with the corporate types and fixers that grassroots voters in this political year want to oust.
She was allied in her early years with the then-new Democratic Leadership Council, a group formed in 1985 after the “liberal” candidacy of Walter Mondale lost 49 states to President Ronald Reagan.
A rump parliament of Blue Dog conservative Democrats and moderates such as Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri founded the group to pull the party away from its reliance on unions, urban voters and left-leaning theorists ― and toward an alliance with Wall Street, corporations and “Reagan Democrat” cultural conservatives who favored the death penalty and welfare reform.
One of the few women members to join this new “Democratic Leadership Council” was Rep. Lindy Boggs (D-La.), whose son, Tommy Boggs, was a legendary Washington lobbyist.
Brazile, a young grad of LSU and a political activist, was happily in the middle of that action, eventually signing on as a top aide to Gephardt’s DLC-oriented presidential campaign.
Gephart lost, but Brazile ― a charming personality who loves to cook feasts and always asks about everyone’s relatives ― had launched a career that has made her a fixture in D.C.
As an African-American and a woman from modest but upright circumstances in a Deep South state, she cuts a wide figure in the capital, in the halls of academe and as a pundit on TV. She was a key advisor and aide to the likes of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), another original DLC type who is now out of the Senate after she lost her re-election bid in 2014. Brazile helped her win the previous time.
Both DWS and Brazile are tight with the party powers that be and showed, in various email exchanges within their purview that have now been unearthed by WikiLeaks, that they were privately and not-so-privately fully on board with the Clinton team. The emails came and went under the aegis of an organization that Brazile, as vice chair for voter participation, was also involved in.
Bernie supporters in my hotel lobby were delighted at the news that DWS had been ousted, but, from the little that they knew of Brazile, hardly excited about the new interim chair.
“But at least Wasserman Schultz is gone,” said one.
DWS was guilty, among other things, of unrealistic expectations: that if she put her full weight behind the Clinton machine, they would somehow let her stay on as chair or reward her with some grand job.
But chairs never stay on, and anyone who knows both politics in general and the Clintons in particular knew that she was a candidate to get thrown under the bus as soon as that was necessary.
Today it became necessary, and she was.