Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), the controversial chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has a progressive primary challenger in her bid for re-election in Florida’s 23rd Congressional district. Tim Canova, a little-known liberal economist and law professor, announced Thursday that he would challenge Wasserman-Schultz, who has aroused the ire of progressives for her perceived supplication to corporate interests, outdated policy beliefs, and mishandling of the primary election season.
Wasserman-Schultz has been criticized on a range of issues and liberal calls for her resignation were given renewed vigor this week after controversial comments in which she said that millennials were “complacent” on abortion rights. She has also taken fire for her numerous policy positions that are at odds with much of the progressive Democratic base, from support for the dysfunctional corporate handout known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the private prison industry to her neoliberal economic policies and support for continuing the failed and destructive war on drugs. And, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, Wasserman-Schultz has certainly failed as DNC chair, not only presiding over dramatic Democratic losses in the 2014 midterm elections but also running the party’s finances into the ground, to the point that the DNC is essentially bankrupt, owing $1.2 million more than it has in the bank.
Beyond her policy and managerial missteps, many have come to see Wasserman-Schultz as being in the pocket of corporate interests as well as the Clinton campaign, and she has been accused of using the DNC to rig the primary process in favor of Clinton at the behest of her establishment backers. Through both her own fundraising and that of her own PAC, Wasserman-Schultz has taken in tens of thousands from corporate interests, most notably the private prison industry, several corporate law firms, and the alcohol industry, which commentators have pointed out is hypocritical given her anachronistic opposition to marijuana legalisation.
Moreover, the chairwoman seems to be doing everything she can to hand-deliver the party’s nomination to Hillary Clinton. The DNC has scheduled a mere six primary debates (as opposed to twenty-six in 2008) and held most of them on the weekends when viewership is bound to be lower, in what many see as a blatant attempt to prevent rivals Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Martin O’Malley (D-MD) from getting their message across. The DNC has also been accused of packing the debate audiences with Clinton supporters and prematurely securing superdelegates for Clinton, while DNC offices have been shared with Clinton campaign offices and the former DNC finance chair was caught illegally raising money for the Clinton campaign.
Accusations of a partisan DNC gained particular credence after Wasserman-Schultz decided to punish the Bernie Sanders campaign for taking advantage of a technical breach in a campaign firewall by removing the campaign’s access to the all-important DNC voter database. It took a massive outpouring of grassroots support and a lawsuit alleging “sabotage” from the Sanders campaign to get Wasserman-Schultz to relent and re-grant access to the Sanders campaign.
In contrast to Wasserman-Schultz, whose reputation as an establishment lackey seems increasingly warranted, her challenger is a true progressive, supporting everything from Wall Street reform to ending the war on drugs. He has been a critic of the rigged neoliberal economy since the 1980s, when he opposed the deregulation of the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan, and spent much of the Bush years warning of an impending financial crisis driven by financial speculation, which of course proved prescient with the burst bubble of 2008. Whether Canova can secure the nomination in the reliably Democratic Florida 23rd or not, his campaign is a welcome development for many progressive who feel Wasserman-Schultz has abandoned her commitment to the principles of the Democratic Party.
Here is an interview of Tim Canova by Occupy Democrats associate Grant Stern, a political activist in Miami famed for his successful campaign to keep a Wal-Mart from opening in his town. You can check out his work here.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.