Wokeback Mountain purge: DCCC retreats, fires staffers over diversity complaints

The rebels in the Wokeback Mountain War have several new scalps after winning a major battle last night. DCCC chair Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IA) dismissed the executive director and a number of other “top executives” after some House Democrats complained of a lack of diversity. Bustos made a statement late yesterday asking forgiveness, saying “at times I have fallen short in leading these talented individuals”:

The chairwoman of the Democratic Party committee responsible for maintaining the House majority acknowledged missteps Monday night following mass upheaval in the group’s top staff ranks, including the sudden resignation of the group’s executive director.

The shake-up, which included the departures of several other top Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee executives, came amid an uproar over the group’s commitment to diversity in its hiring and a larger sense of unease about the leadership of Rep. Cheri Bustos (Ill.), who was elected chairwoman last year following the Democrats’ sweeping midterm victories. …

In her statement late Monday, Bustos named DCCC chief operating officer Jacqui Newman — a six-year member of the organization — as interim executive director and said she would lead an “executive council” of senior committee aides to run the organization and search for a permanent executive director.

“I have never been more committed to expanding and protecting this majority, while creating a workplace that we can all be proud of,” Bustos said. “I will work tirelessly to ensure that our staff is truly inclusive.”

Come on — this has to be a Republican plot. Somewhere, somehow, Cocaine Mitch is doing the electric glide. What political party in their right mind would take the one campaign org that’s handily beating their opponents and defenestrate it in a diversity purge? This couldn’t have worked out better for the NRCC if they planned it themselves, which … leaves open that possibility, I guess, if one’s inclined to think the NRCC could pull something like this off.

Nothing about this makes much sense except as a full-blown rout of a retreat. Bustos apologized for having “fallen short” in leading “talented individuals,” but if that’s the case, then why are the “talented individuals” getting the axe instead of Bustos? In the competitive sense, at least, the description “talented individuals” applies; they have been eating the NRCC’s lunch for the entire election cycle. Nor were there any complaints on the substance of the work they were doing — all of the public complaints had to do with the color of their skin. And that would mean that Bustos herself was already succeeding at the DCCC’s ostensible mission of winning the House resource contest for the next election.

Who were these talented individuals? Politico has the list, and the surprising twist that almost all of them were terminated immediately:

On Monday morning, Allison Jaslow, DCCC executive director and a close ally of Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) — chair of the committee — resigned during a tense meeting at the party’s Capitol Hill headquarters. And in the next 10 hours, much of the senior staff was out: Jared Smith, the communications director and another Bustos ally; Melissa Miller, a top DCCC communications aide; Molly Ritner, political director; Nick Pancrazio, deputy executive director; and Van Ornelas, the DCCC’s director of diversity. …

While most of the staff departures are effective immediately, Miller is expected to remain at DCCC temporarily to help transition a new communications team, according to sources.

Immediate terminations for non-performance issues? Get ready for some lawsuits. If that happened in the private sector, hoo boy.

Now what happens? With a massive change of executives in the middle of that campaign, the DCCC will find its operations disrupted for at least a little while. This many top-level departures can’t help but disrupt operations, as everyone now has to wait and see what the new leaders want to do instead. And who will fill those roles? The pool of replacements for those positions might be fairly shallow at this point in the cycle, too, since many of the people who would qualify may already be working on presidential, senatorial, and House races. This could take a while just to settle the new org chart, let alone to reset strategies and operations. This could set the DCCC back a few months or more at the time when they need to be building momentum.

So yes, the rebels can chalk up a major win in the Wokeback Mountain War, but it might end up being one of the most clear examples of a Pyrrhic victory in politics one will ever see. That is, if the NRCC can take advantage of the gift House Democrats just dropped into their lap.