Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Resigns As Leader of Democratic Party After Being All But Chased Out With Pitchforks

Following outraged response to the release of DNC emails revealing party officials directly plotted against Bernie Sanders throughout the Democratic primary, on Sunday afternoon, Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation as DNC chair. Earlier this weekend, she was removed from the list of speakers at this week’s party convention and Sanders, joined by many, renewed his call for Wasserman Schultz to resign as chairwoman.

In a statement, she acknowledged that the best way for her to help elect presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was for her to “step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention.” Wasserman Schultz emphasized the importance of party unity, ironic in the face of the Sanders camp’s outrage, writing of the convention: “We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had.”

Despite being removed from the list of speakers, Wasserman Schultz will still speak at the convention this week, noting: “As Party Chair, this week I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans.”

Sanders responded to Wasserman Schultz’s resignation on Sunday evening, offering her a tepid “thanks” for her service and for “[making] the right decision,” and called for new DNC leadership that unites young and working class Americans and remained impartial in elections. Clinton has since responded to Wasserman Schultz’s resignation, as well, by “thanking” her “long-time friend,” and pledging to support Wasserman Schultz in her congressional campaign for reelection in her Florida district.

The e-mails in question, leaked early Saturday by Wikileaks, reveal DNC officials plotted to use Sanders’ religious beliefs for character assassination and had arrangements with staffers at networks and news websites like The Washington Post (hardly a surprise if you’ve read a single Post article about Sanders), The Wall Street Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Politico, and RealClearPolitics for coverage favorable toward Clinton and critical of Sanders.

Even prior to this leak, Sanders and his supporters accused Wasserman Schultz of playing favorites, citing the scant number of scheduled debates (giving Clinton an edge as the better known candidate), the DNC freezing Sanders’ access to voter data for a brief period in December, her very public fight with Sanders and his supporters over the Nevada caucus as evidence of this, and the DNC’s lax treatment of Clinton campaign finance violations.

To some, their complaints merely came across as the whining of sore losers, but the leaked emails suggested otherwise and renewed outrage against Wasserman-Schultz just days ahead of her party’s convention.

Vox’s Tim Lee has noted that none of the emails explicitly demonstrated the primary was rigged for Clinton or revealed a specific plan to shut down Sanders’ candidacy, but as Vox’s Jeff Stein pointed out on Sunday, that DNC officials and Wasserman Schultz “personally regarded Sanders as an outside threat and that they wanted him to lose” was more than enough to enrage Sanders supporters already hostile to the Democratic “establishment” that Wasserman Schultz is the face of.

Arguably the most controversial of the 19,252 e-mails, which revealed everything from opposition to pop singer Ariana Grande performing at the White House and Wasserman Schultz’s pursuit of Hamilton tickets, were a back-and-forth on Sanders’ religion. In a series of May e-mails, DNC chief financial officer Brad Marshall called for Sanders, who was famously raised in Brooklyn under Judaism, as an atheist, which would clearly turn off older voters but likely have no negative effect on Sanders’ godless millennial supporters.

“[F]or KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief?” Marshall wrote, ahead of the Kentucky and West Virginia primaries. He added: “Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. … I think I read he is an atheist,” and noted that “this could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and atheist.” DNC CEO Amy Dacey responded with a single, approving “Amen.”

All of this immediately raised some pretty concerning questions (the most important probably being why a full-grown man was using the word “peeps.”) Sanders responded to the leaked emails Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union by renewing his call for Wasserman Schultz to resign, and claimed while the emails were “outrageous” that he wasn’t surprised. “Many months ago I made it clear that Debbie Wasserman Schultz should resign, should step down,” he reiterated.

His campaign manager Jeff Weaver shared the view that someone must be “held accountable” (hm, I wonder who he’s referring to?) for the bias revealed in the emails, but emphasized the goal of the convention starting Monday remains to “celebrate the unity of the Democratic party.”

Robert Reich, former secretary of labor, progressive economist, and vocal Bernie Sanders supporter wrote in response to the email scandal on Facebook that “removing her from a convention role is a start, but Wasserman Schultz ought to resign or else be fired,” arguing that passionate hatred toward Wasserman Schultz will work against Clinton: “Hillary’s campaign must attract as many Bernie supporters as possible, and Wasserman Schultz remaining at the helm of the DNC is a continuous reminder of the DNC’s anti-Bernie bias.” This rationale might have been shared by Wasserman Schultz and other officials, and could potentially have been a key reason for her resignation.

Republican nominee Donald Trump, predictably enough, found a way to make this scandal about him and attempt to use it for his own advancement, going off on Twitter about how corrupt the Democratic party is in a transparent attempt to court Sanders supporters who might just be angry and emotionally vulnerable enough at this point to cast opposition votes for Trump.

Wasserman Schultz will continue her congressional run, but the scandal could seriously endanger her chances against rival Tim Canova. To most Sanders supporters, even aside from her perceived antagonism toward the Vermont senator, she simply wasn’t progressive enough, supporting the TPP, opposing regulations to rein in payday loan lenders, accepting hundreds of thousands from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks, and once again, being the face of the Democratic establishment that many pro-Sanders progressives have come to distrust.

Meanwhile, her rival Canova vocally supports Sanders’ economic platform, has adopted Sanders’ fundraising methods, and lacking a political background, is as detached from the Democratic establishment as he possibly could be. Sanders has actively campaigned and encouraged his supporters to donate to Canova since earlier this year.

Looking at the week to come, I don’t doubt this storm of poorly-timed drama will add some hostility and tenseness to next week’s convention.

This story is developing…