Senator Elizabeth Warren at Netroots Nation 2019
Senator Elizabeth Warren participates in the Netroots Nation 2019 presidential forum (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

This past week­end, Eliz­a­beth Warren’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign announced that Rich McDaniel, the campaign’s Nation­al Orga­niz­ing Direc­tor, had been fired for behav­ior towards fel­low staffers that was “incon­sis­tent with the val­ues of the cam­paign.”

Over the past two weeks, cam­paign man­age­ment had received a num­ber of com­plaints from work­ers about McDaniel’s behav­ior and decid­ed to hire out­side coun­sel to con­duct an inter­nal investigation.

The results of the inves­ti­ga­tion led to McDaniel’s firing.

Due to con­fi­den­tial­i­ty poli­cies, no details of McDaniel’s behav­ior have been released, but one source famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion assured Politi­co that there were no alle­ga­tions of sex­u­al assault.

McDaniel is a high­ly expe­ri­enced polit­i­cal cam­paign­er: he was Hilary Clinton’s 2016 Pri­ma­ry States Region­al Direc­tor, worked on Doug Jones’ improb­a­ble 2017 sen­a­to­r­i­al cam­paign in Alaba­ma, and advised Ran­dall Woodfin’s suc­cess­ful 2017 may­oral cam­paign in Birmingham.

In a state­ment pro­vid­ed to CNN, McDaniel said that “depart­ing at this time is in the best inter­est of both parties.”

He claimed that he did not inten­tion­al­ly behave inap­pro­pri­ate­ly, but that he under­stands “it is impor­tant to lis­ten, even when you disagree.”

Rich McDaniel’s depar­ture from the War­ren cam­paign is one of the strongest exam­ples yet of the changes that the #MeToo move­ment (which began in 2017) has brought to polit­i­cal campaigning.

In the pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns of Barack Oba­ma and Hillary Clin­ton, inter­nal harass­ment poli­cies con­sist­ed of a few basic box-tick­ing exer­cis­es that large­ly left the prob­lem of ram­pant sex­u­al mis­con­duct in cam­paign pol­i­tics unaddressed.

Things are dif­fer­ent in the 2020 race.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates have insti­tut­ed a vari­ety of inter­nal poli­cies to try to root out the prob­lem: manda­to­ry train­ing ses­sions, employ­ee sur­veys, spe­cial­ized employ­ee hand­books, and mul­ti­ple report­ing mech­a­nisms have all been used.

Bernie Sanders – whose 2020 cam­paign faced an ear­ly hur­dle in the fact that his 2016 team mis­han­dled sex­u­al harass­ment com­plaints – has even gone so far as to allow union rep­re­sen­ta­tives to inves­ti­gate harass­ment complaints.

This way, the inves­ti­ga­tors have the work­ers’ inter­ests, not the campaign’s, as their core motivator.

The War­ren campaign’s move shows that they too are tak­ing mis­con­duct seri­ous­ly. Beyond being just a mat­ter of prop­er pro­ce­dure, McDaniel’s fir­ing could also help Sen­a­tor War­ren in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic primary.

Senator Elizabeth Warren at Netroots Nation 2019
Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren par­tic­i­pates in the Net­roots Nation 2019 pres­i­den­tial forum (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

The fir­ing could allow War­ren to draw com­par­isons between her campaign’s ethics and those of her main rival for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion, Joe Biden.

Much like Rich McDaniel, Joe Biden has been accused of inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior (usu­al­ly over­ly famil­iar touch­ing of one kind or anoth­er) by a num­ber of women. Also like McDaniel, Biden has claimed that he nev­er intend­ed to behave in an inap­pro­pri­ate way. What Biden (and like­ly McDaniel, too) fails to under­stand is that his per­son­al moti­va­tions or per­cep­tion of the behav­ior is not the prob­lem: it is the behav­ior itself and the way his actions affect others.

Joe Biden campaigning
Joe Biden has often been accused of inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior towards oth­ers (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

While the accu­sa­tions against Biden’s behav­ior don’t hold a can­dle to the accu­sa­tions against the man cur­rent­ly occu­py­ing the White House (who has at least sev­en­teen seri­ous sex­u­al assault alle­ga­tions against him), they may cause him trou­ble in the pri­ma­ry. Mid­dle income, white women – who are often all-too famil­iar with the behav­ior Biden has been crit­i­cized for – are aban­don­ing the Repub­li­can Par­ty and becom­ing a rapid­ly grow­ing facet of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic base.

The move by the War­ren cam­paign could form part of a pow­er­ful narrative.

War­ren rep­re­sents the long-suf­fer­ing women who are an increas­ing­ly impor­tant part of both the Demo­c­ra­t­ic and the nation­al elec­torate, while Biden is just anoth­er old white guy who can­not con­nect with their needs. There are signs of this slide already hap­pen­ing – War­ren has long been a favorite with very lib­er­al vot­ers, but her appeal is increas­ing­ly break­ing through to so-called “mod­er­ates,” many of whom are white women mov­ing away from sup­port­ing the GOP.

Regard­less of whether or not War­ren wins the nom­i­na­tion, the fir­ing of Rich McDaniel is an impor­tant moment in polit­i­cal history.

That some­one in such an impor­tant posi­tion in a cam­paign could be dis­missed after an inves­ti­ga­tion into accu­sa­tions of inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior shows that the sys­tems put in place to deal with such behav­iors can work, which could lead to a sig­nif­i­cant change for the bet­ter in polit­i­cal workplaces.

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