Dear Bernie Bros: Trying to Defeat Debbie Wasserman Schultz Is Just Plain Stupid

Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Photo by Giulio Sciorio

For years, the knock against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was that she was just too damn liberal for her own good. Every time a Florida political columnist mentioned the possibility of the congresswoman running for statewide office, it came with the caveat that she was perhaps too far to the left to win outside her district.

When President Obama nominated her to a second term as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, moderates within the party complained that she would turn off swing voters and that her rhetoric incited class warfare. In 2012, this paper dubbed her a "liberal warrior." And in the more right-wing corners of the internet, she has for years been painted as an extremist, socialist she-devil. Her overall voting record certainly attests that she's one of the most solidly progressive politicians in Florida. 

So from a local political perspective, its seems more than a bit ironic that DWS, who represents portions of Broward County and Miami Beach, is now facing her first real primary challenger in 16 years because, well, she's apparently now not liberal enough. 

Thanks to her perceived transgressions against the Bernie Sanders campaign while serving as DNC chair, Wasserman Schultz has now become public enemy number two of Sanders' hordes of online fans, AKA Bernie Bros. 

They're pumping big money into the campaign of her primary opponent, Tim Canova. He has already raised a massive $575,000 in the first quarter of 2016 (though he refuses to release how much of that money came from Floridians) and has done so by courting the Bernie Bro base. After all, he kicked off his campaign by hosting an "Ask Me Anything" thread in the SandersForPresident group on Reddit. 

Sanders has talked about inspiring a grand, voter-driven political revolution at all levels of government. Ask online Sanders fans to point to an example of that actually happening, and Canova's name will likely be one of the first out of their mouths. 

This is all, frankly, very stupid and not a good example of what a practical voter revolution would look like. 

No, that's not to co-sign everything Wasserman Schultz has done as a congresswoman, nor is it co-signing her performance as DNC chair. There is certainly fair room for criticism there.  

And this isn't meant as an attack on Canova, who seems like an accomplished fellow who has every right to run against DWS. Though, like so many Florida congresspeople did before they were elected to federal office, he could do a service to Floridians by looking into a run for the state House or Senate first. 

Also, this column isn't an attack on the Sanders campaign. Really, it doesn't have much to do with Sanders himself. 

This argument is about the fact that Canova has very little shot of beating Wasserman Schutz, and given the enormous number of other, more realistic opportunities for progressives to make a statement in Florida during this election cycle, spending time and money on Canova's windmill chase seems pointless. 

This is about the kind of electoral common sense anyone with half a poli-sci degree could give you. 

Let's look at the facts: 

1. Hillary Clinton won 72 percent of the primary vote in Broward and almost 75 percent of the primary vote in Miami-Dade. There aren't exactly a lot of people down here who were feeling the Bern, and it's unlikely that a candidate who has so closely aligned himself with Sanders will catch on in the district. 

2. DWS is an expert fundraiser with lots of favors to call in and deep connections in her district. She has a solid record on the issues that people in her district care about most and has already been endorsed by President Obama. There's been no public polling of the race so far (and likely won't be much), but there's not much indication Democrats in her districts are particularly itching to kick her out. Everyone hates Congress but loves their congresswoman after all. 

So where should progressively minded folks put their money and resources to effect change in Florida?

The End of Gerrymandering and the Election of a Democratic Majority in the State Senate
Late last year, Florida courts threw out Republican-drawn gerrymandered state Senate and House districts. This is huge (YUGE!?) news. Maybe more so than big money in politics, gerrymandering is a scourge upon our democracy. This is the kind of decision that should be celebrated by every progressive and fan of fair democracy in the nation. 

The result is that 21 of the 40 new Senate districts voted for Barack Obama in 2012. That's big news in a state that's fed up with its superconservative Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott. It's a real chance to neutralize him during his final two years in office. 

Of course, that will mean nothing unless candidates in those districts are recruited, funded, and staffed by volunteers. 

That Senate Campaign
The truth is that the race to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate is already a messy affair (welcome to Florida democracy). Two Democrats are running in the primary. Rep. Patrick Murphy is a former Republican who donated to Mitt Romney in 2008. Rep. Alan Grayson is a complicated figure, to say the least, but has a solidly progressive voting record. 

Other Congressional Races
The redistricting rulings will also have effects on federal congressional districts. Two seats (Districts 10 and 13) formerly held by Republicans are now almost certainly favored to be won by Dems. Charlie Crist (yes, the former Republican) and former Orlando Police Chief Val Demmings are the favorites for the Dem nominations right now. Maybe Bernie Bros like what they see; maybe they won't and could help support another candidate. 

Reps. Murphy and Grayson will also vacate their seats to run for Senate, meaning there will be competitive primaries to get involved with in those districts. 

Down here in Miami, Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is highly vulnerable. Annette Tadeo and former Rep. Joe Garcia are vying for the Democratic nomination. 

Other Republican-held seats in Florida could come into play depending upon the dynamics created by the presidential general election, but they will only if well-funded Democrats are running in those districts. 

Medical Marijuana 
Oh, hey, medical marijuana will be back before Florida voters as an amendment this year. It's likely to pass, but, then again, it was likely to pass in 2014 until Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson popped into Florida with a load of money to fund a campaign against it. 

Given all of those causes, I'm really not sure how someone could deduce that replacing one progressive Democrat with another (debatably) slightly more progressive Democrat really does much to accomplish anything. 

The targeting of Wasserman Schultz seems petty. It seems more about payback than political reality. It seems, at times, misogynistic. It seems, frankly, like something the Tea Party would pull. It seems like the kind of thing a mature netroots movement should be above. 

If you're serious about sending a strong progressive message that could truly shake up politics in Florida, there are much better ways to do it. 


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