At a staff meeting this morning in DC, Allison Jaslaw announced that she’s resigning from her position as the Executive Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The announcement comes as the DCCC has come under a lot of criticism for not having enough diversity among it’s leadership, especially considering how Democrats have been trying to illustrate how they’re the party of inclusiveness.
Jaslaw used to be the Chief of Staff to Rep. Cheri Bustos, who was elected to chair the DCCC when Democrats gained back control of the House last November. Considering she’s still close to Bustos and served as the Executive Director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, it’s certainly understandable why Jaslaw was selected to fill the organization’s top spot. But it ended up simply furthering the perception that there weren’t enough people of color in leadership positions.
In recent days, several Hispanic leaders such as Reps. Vicente González and Filemon Vela had called for Jaslaw’s resignation and encouraged Rep. Bustos “to restore confidence in the organization and to promote diversity [and] appoint a qualified person of color, of which there are many, as executive director at once.”
As the House had gone on summer recess for “district work” over the next six weeks, there’s still been a lot of attention focused on the discussion happening in Washington. Even before today’s announcement, Bustos was planning on flying back to DC from her district to help address some of the concerns about the lack of diversity at the DCCC.
During the first few months of Bustos’s tenure leading the organization, several key senior staff members have left the DCCC. Three women who served as her Chief of Staff, polling director, and Director of Mail, have all decided to pursue other options. A staffer named Tayhlor Coleman, for instance, had posted inappropriate remarks about LGBT people and Latinos on twitter but has kept her job, which includes doing outreach to minorities. The irony of someone making derogatory comments about the communities she’s supposed to reach out to is just one example of why people have justifiably grown frustrated with the direction the DCCC’s heading.
Although Jaslaw tried to take the blame for the lack of diversity and some of the other issues going on, there’s still a lot of staffers and members of the Democratic caucus who are blaming Bustos for the “turmoil” taking place. Instead of actually addressing the need for more diversity, for instance, she highlighted her husband being Hispanic and her son’s relationship with an African American as a way of dismissing the concerns.
“Nobody thinks Rep. Bustos is a racist or is actively trying to diminish the impact of people of color, but I’m not sure if she fully appreciates how disappointing it is that pretty much everyone in a leadership position is white when there are so many qualified people of color out there who aren’t even being given a chance,” one Democratic activist told me. “We’re going up against a president who spurs his base into action by promoting bigotry and we need leaders who understand our concerns if we want to effectively combat that messaging.”
According to reports, there have been several “all staff” phone calls and meetings in recent days and Bustos hasn’t been able to adequately address the concerns staffers have been bringing up. The next steps could therefore be crucial to make sure issues are resolved as the 2020 elections are approaching quicker than might be expected.
A diversity training for staff members has already been scheduled for August, which suggests that there’s at least some steps being taken to help ensure diversity is embraced at the DCCC. A training doesn’t address the concerns over a lack of diversity in leadership positions, however, as that can only be solved by more people of color actually being hired.
Moving forward, it’s also worth noting diversity is only one of several issues Rep. Bustos and other members of the DCCC leadership will need to focus in on. Progressives have already been speaking out against the DCCC’s new policy that it won’t work with firms that have supported candidates who challenge incumbents, for example, because it would be detrimental to candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who inspired enthusiasm from the grassroots after taking on a Democratic incumbent who’d represented parts of New York City in the House for two decades.
With Members of the House of Representatives focused in their districts for the next few weeks and the elections almost a year and a half away, there’s time to address the concerns being raised. Nonetheless, they’ll need to be resolved quickly if folks how to successfully recruit candidates, help organize campaigns, and effectively promote a unified message heading into 2020.