WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are struggling to put the bitter 2016 election behind them as the party’s current chairman and his predecessor bicker over Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign, further exposing deep divisions two days before the closely watched Virginia governor’s race that could foretell Democratic prospects in 2018 and beyond.
The dueling across Sunday news shows was triggered by the disclosure that Donna Brazile, the interim Democratic leader during the final months of the campaign, considered an effort to replace Clinton as the presidential nominee because of health concerns.
“The charge that Hillary Clinton was somehow incapacitated is quite frankly ludicrous,” said Tom Perez, who took over as Democratic National Committee chairman after Donald Trump won the election.
Brazile, who claimed “tremendous pressure” to devise a backup ticket led by then-Vice President Joe Biden after Clinton fainted at an event, pushed back: “Go to hell. I’m going to tell my story.”
The dispute was spurred by revelations by Brazile in a memoir being released Tuesday and reported on by The Washington Post. It reflected simmering tensions between establishment and insurgent wings that will set the party’s future course on issues from its platform to the primary schedule and use of superdelegates — party leaders and elected officials who get a say in the nomination — in the 2020 presidential race.
“One of the things, as we go forward, is to give more power to the grass roots in all this,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, urging Democrats not to “relitigate elections.”
Brazile writes that she considered initiating Clinton’s removal after the candidate collapsed while leaving a 9/11 memorial service in New York City, and Brazile contemplated a dozen combinations to replace Clinton and her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. Brazile wrote that she settled on Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker as having the best chance of defeating Republican Trump.
Brazile says the larger issue was that Clinton campaign was “anemic” and had taken on “the odor of failure.”
But, she says, “I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.”
The revelations elicited a strong weekend rebuttal from Clinton’s former campaign staffers. An open letter signed by more than 100 people said they “do not recognize the campaign” that Brazile “portrays in the book.”