Last Saturday afternoon, the day before the Democratic presidential debate, members of the South Carolina Democratic Women’s Council, College of Charleston students and others gathered in the Wells Fargo Auditorium for a round table discussion. The council, host of the event, is a state-wide club and activist organization. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the D.N.C., opened and led the panel. Of the five other panelists, two were from the College, Carson Schafer and Brandon Chapman. Schultz covered several topics of political importance for women but more specifically for Democratic voters in the South: Planned Parenthood, gender income equality and marriage equality. On the issue of gun control, she said, “Gun rights shouldn’t impede on the right to feel safe.”
Schultz addressed the lack of Democrats holding office in the state of South Carolina. According to Schultz, there are enough Democrats in the state, especially with the younger voting population, for Democrats to win in our political elections. However, not enough Democrats actually go out and vote, keeping the party from holding more positions in S.C. She pointed out that many S.C. college graduates leave the state for better-paying jobs but for change to occur, we need more young, active Democrats to stay in the state. Schultz went on to speak about women in national politics. She told how 2010 was the first dip in the numbers for female Congress members, giving the explanation that the generation of women in their 40s and 50s are unaware of the freedoms that were “hard-won” by the women before them. “We can’t be complacent,” said Schultz. She accused the GOP of trying to “roll back” the progress that Democrats have made in the past few decades.
Towards the end of the panel, mediator Angela Douglas stood at the podium to speak and was interrupted by a leader of the Charleston #BlackLivesMatter organization. He stood up and quickly circled the middle of the auditorium, handing out pamphlets for his cause. He addressed Schultz, questioning the Democratic presidential candidates’ lack of ethnic diversity. He ended with frustration that Dr. Willie Wilson, the little-known African American Democratic candidate, was not allowed to take part in NBC’s televised debate.
Schultz closed by emphasizing the issue of gaining more female Democratic candidates in S.C. through a willingness to “help women self-recruit.” She suggested that women in politics “cut through the noise, speak loudly, speak clearly.” Women in government, even in Congress, though they may belong to different parties, are more likely than men to succeed in negotiations across the aisle. They tend to view fellow members of Congress as colleagues, not as opponents.