Today the Florida Democratic Party convened a judicial committee to hear complaints against the two front-runners in the race to lead the party. Candidates Alan Clendenin and Stephen Bittel both faced challenges to their bids to chair the party, but only one survived. For now. See note at end.
The fact that the FDP chose to hear these complaints less than 24 hours before the first round of voting, in itself, seems roughshod—needlessly likely to alienate party members across the state. Many Dems still sting from the primaries and convention, when it appeared that DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schulz put her thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton. Every move the party makes since is seen through that lens. That’s because no clear attempts have been made at healing the rifts in the party.
With this in mind, it was particularly shocking to hear that the committee voted to uphold the complaint against Clendenin while dismissing the equally bothersome complaint against Bittel. I watched most of the proceedings live, and had to step away as the decision was to be made, so I missed the actual “moment of truth.”
This disqualifies Clendenin from running for chair. But it also does something else. It opens the party up to accusations of bias.
Alan didn’t lawyer-up before the committee hearing. He spoke in defense of himself, while his opponent had polished and aggressive counsel speak for him. Maybe he’s rethinking that strategy now.
Likewise, in the first hearing regarding the complaint against Bittel, the two attorneys arguing opposing sides were entirely mismatched. One was a “lunch box lawyer” and the other was a “silk stocking” type. Workers vs elite. This is so depressingly familiar.
Candidate Bittel’s campaign for chair has been pushed along by little more than “well, who’s got more money?” rationalizations. It’s what you hear from him and it’s what you hear from supporters who should know better. Hillary Clinton lost with more money banked and spent than her opponent. She lost because we’re divided as a party between workers and elite.
We need more grassroots and less elite consultants making decisions where it matters. Elite consultants are responsible for telling the SEIU to stay the hell out of Michigan, that they didn’t need any damn help up there.
Bittel has promised nothing less than doubling-down on the failed strategies that got us where we are today—and our party apparatus has just put their thumb on the scale for him. Bonus! They did it in a grand performance where the two sides couldn’t be in higher relief.
I hope that the State Committee Folks casting votes tomorrow think long and hard about this. If you were an Alan supporter, where should your votes go? If you were undecided or “leans-Bittel,” ask yourself if you really believe there’s a place for YOU in his party.
There are better choices. There’s us. We are the grassroots. We are the party.
*NOTE: I’m told the Executive Committee has to accept the recommendation of the Judicial Committee for Clendenin to be forced out of the race. Tomorrow should be interesting.
FULL DISCLOSURE — I volunteered for Lisa King, and would be just as happy seeing her or Dwight Bullard take the chair. I don’t have a vote. I have a voice.