Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz was met with cheers and boos at the Florida delegation breakfast at the Democratic National Convention July 25, 2016. (CBS Miami)
The Democratic National Committee is supposed to be neutral in presidential primary races, and this year it clearly wasn't. It was fairly obvious that top party officials preferred Hillary Clinton to Sen. Bernie Sanders before Wikileaks posted 20,000 hacked emails from the DNC, and it's undeniable now. Whether the favoritism made a difference in the outcome of the primaries is irrelevant. It was wrong, and Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's resignation was a necessary and perhaps even insufficient response. The emails suggest a much broader problem among the party's staff that will necessitate broader changes in attitudes. But what this episode most certainly does not entail is cause for Senator Sanders' supporters to withhold their votes from Ms. Clinton.
To be sure, Ms. Wasserman Schultz is now something of a toxic presence at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. She was heckled and booed off the stage at a breakfast for delegates from Florida this morning, and it's hard to see where there would be much value in her promise to serve as a Clinton surrogate on the campaign trail this fall. The less seen of her this week the better, and her decision not to gavel the convention to order tonight was clearly the right one. The last thing the Democrats need after the Republican Party's internal strife was on display last week in Cleveland is to show the same kind of division to the American public now.
If anything should focus the minds of disgruntled Sanders supporters, it's the gains Republican nominee Donald Trump has recorded during the last few weeks. Ms. Clinton's lead had been eroding since FBI Director James Comey's excoriation of her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, and more recent polls suggest at least some post-convention bounce for Mr. Trump. By most measures, this race is close.
Under ordinary circumstances, progressive voters might look at an establishment figure like Ms. Clinton and lament that there's not much difference between her and a Republican when it comes to certain issues. But the Sanders campaign has clearly pulled Ms. Clinton permanently to the left — for example, she announced her plan to make public college tuition free for working and middle class families after the primary campaign was over, and she is reportedly moving to have her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, join her in dropping earlier support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She now supports a national $15 per hour minimum wage. These are not just matters of what's in the party's platform but in what the candidate herself is promising to the American people.
Meanwhile, any Sanders supporters who missed it should go back and watch Mr. Trump's RNC speech from last week. The Republican nominee is proposing a political revolution in America, all right, but we're betting it's not the one Sanders voters have in mind. There's a big difference between Mr. Sanders' calls for free tuition and tougher Wall Street regulation and Mr. Trump's promises to build a wall on the border, ban immigrants from some unspecified set of Muslim countries and immediately bring about "law and order."
The nasty and childish attitudes on display at the DNC this year are troubling, but worse in the big picture is the possibility that the leak was orchestrated by agents of the Russian government. The New York Times reports that cybersecurity experts have some evidence suggesting that may be the case. We may never know for sue whether that's true and if so whether the hackers were acting at the behest of President Vladimir Putin. But the Russian strongman would certainly have a motive to try to tip the scales Mr. Trump's way. Not only has the Republican spoken glowingly of the Russian leader but he has publicly mused about the possibility that the United States under his administration would not automatically defend NATO allies from Russian aggression.
The last thing the Clinton campaign needed at the start of the Democratic National Convention was a scandal — even one for which it was not responsible — to re-open the wounds of Sanders supporters. But there's a lot more at stake here than whether some party leaders played favorites. Cleaning house at the DNC is entirely appropriate, and by all means, these revelations should lead to a conversation about whether and how the Democrats' nominating process should be changed for future presidential elections. But they shouldn't determine the outcome of this one.