Commentary: Black eye for the DNC

There has been plenty of bad news lately for the Democratic Party.

Congressional Democrats failed in their Mission Impossible attempt to remove President Trump from office via impeachment.

Then there was the Iowa caucus fiasco. By the way, the time has clearly come to end the tradition of the Iowa caucus being the first presidential primary. Far too much importance is placed on the results of this election in a state with a small population and a demographic profile that is not representative of the U.S. as a whole. Asking voters to participate in the time-consuming caucus process is unfair and discourages turnout. Dump the Iowa caucus, and the Electoral College too, while we’re at it.

Meanwhile, Democrats have problems back in Milwaukee. The city is preparing to host its biggest political bash ever, the 2020 Democratic National Convention, hoped to bring a big economic boost and huge amount of national and international attention to Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

But the 2020 DNC got a black eye recently when, less than six months before the big event, the top two executives for the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee (the organization responsible for organizing, hosting and funding the convention) were fired after allegations were made by some staff members that they created a toxic work environment.

The board of directors for the committee quickly moved to fire president Liz Gilbert and chief of staff Adam Alonso. In a letter published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, female staffers claimed Alonso “bullied and intimidated” staff, primarily women. In a statement to the newspaper, an attorney for Gilbert said “disgruntled staff who, when confronted with a strong woman leader, is using the euphemism of a toxic workplace to complain about their boss.”

No matter which side you believe, this is ugly. It’s certainly not a good look for a political party that likes to say it’s a champion for women’s rights.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats want to move past this as quickly as possible. The Host Committee board named longtime political operative Teresa Vilmain to serve as the committee’s interim leader. Vilmain is a senior advisor for the DNC’s national team. She has worked on several political campaigns, including campaigns for former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and U.S. Senator Herb Kohl. For now, it’s up to Vilmain to get the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee back on track.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how effective the DNC run in Milwaukee, a smaller city than is traditionally chosen to host a major party national political convention. There are still some skeptics doubtful Milwaukee can pull it off, saying we don’t have the necessary infrastructure, including hotel room inventory.

Some Republicans were quick to use the problems that the Democrats had with the Iowa caucus as a political talking point. Expect more of the same if things don’t go smoothly this summer in Milwaukee.

Andrew Weiland
Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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