Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been down more campaign trails than she can recall. The Florida lawmaker, who knocked on 25,000 doors during her first political race at age 26 and won, also has witnessed over the years the blatant manner in which Democrats have taken Black voters for granted.
“Year in and year out I have seen Black community leadership in my community, all across the country and my colleagues, just get rightfully frustrated with the fact that too often the Party shows up at the last minute in the black community. We sound the alarms,” Wasserman Schultz told a roundtable discussion with African-American reporters. “We expect the two-week turnaround in terms of [getting out the vote] and turnout and that’s because we spend many, many months taking for granted that the Black community is going to be there; all we have to do is flip the switch and magic will happen.”
This sort of attitude, she added, is disrespectful, makes no sense and will not happen on her watch. Wasserman Schultz said that she has already begun visiting with Black community leadership in states where there’s a high Black population to make sure she can address their concerns and engage both leaders and rank-and-file voters in the next election cycle.
Wasserman Schultz acknowledged that Democrats have in the past ceded control of the messaging on key issues to Republicans, such as health care and the debt ceiling. But she also said that she thinks she was chosen to chair the party because she’s “not a shrinking violet” and doesn’t hesitate to be speak out and voters will see her and other party leaders, including President Obama, making clear distinctions between the two parties’ proposals.
“Have we been very clear messengers before? No,” she said. “But the first step in any 12-step problem is acknowledging there’s a problem and then you move on through the other 11 steps and that’s what we’re doing.”
The DNC also is alarmed by efforts in Republican-led legislatures that could disenfranchise minority voters and dilute their voting power. William Crossley, who heads the party’s voter protection division, said that the organization is committed to expanding the African-American vote and fighting for provisions that make the process easier, such as same-day registration and early voting.
Despite hurdles included in new voter ID bills, the DNC also will continue to conduct voter registration drives around the nation, since it is one of the most widely-used ways that African-Americans and others register. And it is creating manuals to ensure that their efforts comply with new laws so that new registrations cannot be challenged, and helping people in some states obtain the correct forms of voter ID so they cannot be prevented from voting.
“We’re going to meet them where they are,” Crossley said.
(Photo: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)