How Debbie Wasserman Schultz Clashed With D.C.'s Gender Politics
If you're a man, you're driven. But if you're a woman? Then you're shrewd and overeager. At least, that's the sense you get from reading the latest political scandal out of Washington. According to a recent profile in Politico, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is on her way out, but the reasons why are a bit suspect.
Wasserman Schultz has been leading the DNC since 2011, and was a lively presence during the 2012 presidential election race. But Politico reports that Democrats have long been turning on Wasserman Schultz, her time with the DNC may be nearing a close. Her detractors claim the congresswoman has been using her post at the DNC for her own benefit, even going so far as alleging that DNC funds cover the cost of her wardrobe.
Of course, the alleged tensions between Wasserman Schultz and her fellow Democrats goes much further than accusations of vanity. According to Politico, Wasserman Schultz hasn't been on good terms with President Barack Obama or the White House — in fact, there's pretty much no terms at all. Politico reports that Obama was immediately turned off by the congresswoman's demeanor, and they rarely meet, even though the former chairman of the DNC, Tim Kaine, reportedly had monthly lunches with the president.
Wasserman Schultz's relationship with Obama is summed up with this anecdote, via Politico:
Instead, the DNC chairwoman stakes out the president of the United States at the end of photo lines at events and fundraisers. “You need another picture, Debbie?” Obama tends to say, according to people who’ve been there for the encounters.
Really, this is all just Washington gossip, and will most likely continue as a circle of he-said, she-said press releases distracting us from the potentially damaging midterm elections. But one of the most noteworthy aspects of the Wasserman Schultz drama is the insinuation that she's incompetent and ineffective. This wouldn't be such a surprising accusation if Politico didn't point out that Wasserman Schultz has "had plenty of successes." These successes include getting Obama reelected, enabling the Democrats to hold onto the Senate majority, and clearing the debt from the 2012 campaigns with millions still on hand. Of course, there's also her continued outreach to build a solid bloc of female voters.
Looking over Wasserman Schultz's tenure, it seems like the current enmity toward Wasserman Schultz has to do with personality, rather than results. And in that respect, this all seems very Jill Abramson-esque: a woman ascends to a very powerful, historically male position, is blamed for being too much of insert-non-female-adjective-here, and ends up ousted. As Nia Malika Henderson writes in The Washington Post, Politico turned Wasserman Schultz into a "modern-day Tracy Flick" — and in case you've never seen Election, it's not a good thing.
Sure, Wasserman Schultz has her faults, and she's gotten into some off-script trouble. Her most recent faux-pas was comparing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's right-to-work policies with beating women, saying: "Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand. I know that is stark. I know that is direct. But that is reality."
It wasn't pretty, but neither is politics. And if these allegations against Wasserman Schultz — that she tried using her position in the DNC for her own benefit, whether monetary or status — then, well, that sounds a lot like American politics.
So that leads us with just one question: Would Politico bother writing this profile if Wasserman Schultz were a man? The irony, of course, is that the Obama campaign allegedly refused to let go of Wasserman Schultz in 2012 because of the PR fallout from firing a woman.
Either way, Wasserman Schultz can't win — but now the bad PR is on her.
Images: Getty Images (3)