Last week’s Republican National Convention was dismal and frankly embarrassing, featuring a speaker list filled with D-list celebrities, at least two speeches plagued by accusations of plagiarism, a high-profile snub from Ted Cruz and a protester interrupting Trump’s long, grim final opus. After that, all the Democrats needed to do to appear moderately competent by comparison was avoid any massive missteps.
Unfortunately for them, the convention in Philadelphia this week is already shaping up to be a shit show that could rival last week’s.
The drama started early Monday morning, day one of the convention, when freshly ousted DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was greeted by a chorus of boos and chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” at a scheduled breakfast with the delegation representing her home state of Florida.
The Congresswoman’s critics held up Bernie Sanders signs and pieces of printer paper that said “EMAILS,” “THANKS FOR THE ‘HELP’ DEBBIE =),” and “DIVISION.” Wasserman Schultz did not address the emails controversy that cost her her job, instead smiling and ignoring the protesters. “Thank you so much; thank you!” she said, as the booing continued. “It is so wonderful to be here, with my home state.”
The drama all started Friday, when Wikileaks — the platform that’s previously published leaked documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as U.S. diplomatic cables and files related to the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay — published a trove of 20,000 emails it received from a hacker who cyber-security experts say appears to be backed by the Russian government.
The emails served to confirm the suspicion, harbored by many Sanders supporters, that the DNC heavily favored Hillary Clinton in the primary race and was doing everything in its power to make sure she won. In one email, a DNC operative floated the idea of planting someone in the crowd at a Sanders rally to ask about his faith in the religious South.
“I think I read he is an atheist,” DNC chief financial officer Brad Marshall wrote in an email on May 5th. “This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”
Two days earlier, leaked emails show the DNC solicited advice from a Clinton campaign lawyer about how to respond to a Sanders campaign attack accusing Clinton of using funds raised for the DNC for her own campaign. A few weeks after that, the DNC press secretary discussed the best way to frame Sanders’ primary loss for the media. The narrative that emerged boiled down to: “It’s not a DNC conspiracy, it’s because they never had their act together.”
In the end, though, the emails written by Debbie Wasserman Schultz — long reviled by Sanders and his supporters — were the ones that caught the most attention. Wasserman Schultz called Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver “scummy” and “a damn liar,” and wrote that Sanders “has never been a member of the Democratic Party and has no understanding of what we do.” (Sanders, who has caucused with the Democrats in Congress, was technically an Independent for most of his political career; he switched his party affiliation before announcing his bid for the presidency.)
On Sunday afternoon, Wasserman Schultz resigned her position as DNC chair, effective Thursday night, when the convention ends. She had been slotted to open and close the convention itself, with Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge chairing the event, but on Friday early afternoon, Wasserman Schultz said she would no longer gavel in the proceedings so the event can start on a “high note.”
On Monday, the protesters continued heckling Wasserman Schultz even as she called for a moment of silence to acknowledge the victims of Sunday’s shooting at a nightclub in Fort Myers, Florida.
When the convention is over, Wasserman Schultz will turn her full attention to her own campaign; she is up for reelection in her Florida district on August 30th. Sanders, who has called on Wasserman Schultz to step down for months, has endorsed her rival, Tim Canova.