NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign fires top organizer for inappropriate behavior

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.

Adjacent posts

  • Sustain the Cascadia Advocate by joining us on April 17th!

    Join us on April 17th for NPI's 2020 Spring Gala
  • Can’t attend the gala? Make a donation!


    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local pol­i­tics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you: we have nev­er accept­ed adver­tis­ing or place­ments of paid con­tent.

    And we’d like it to stay that way.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy jour­nal­ism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time dona­tion