I had another idea for a column, but I wanted to deal with something that came up in the news. Thursday, longtime Democratic Party operative Donna Brazile wrote an article for Politico in which she gave behind the scenes details of the management of the Democratic National Committee, beginning with her own discovery that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had gained control of the DNC before the primary races were over, including not only fundraising but communications. And furthermore this was necessitated by the fact that Barack Obama had left the Democratic Party $24 million in debt in 2012 and had only paid half of it off by 2016.
First, a few points for consideration.
The Politico article is an excerpt from a larger book about the 2016 election which Brazile is now promoting. And in that regard, sometimes the best way to clear a room is to throw a grenade.
(The name of the book, by the way, is ‘Hacks.’ Which may be the greatest Freudian slip of the year.)
Secondly, the details of Brazile’s account of DNC finances are such that, in Clinton’s defense, she pretty much had to take things over. It does however bring up the question of how the party treasury got so bass-ackward in the first place. Clinton herself has commented on this point after the election, saying that the party was “bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong”. But even if one sides with Clinton and her “this was messed up when I got here” position, it raises a larger issue. The DNC under Obama didn’t need to raise much money for a 2012 primary campaign when Obama was running for the nomination unopposed, but they hadn’t invested anything in state races. Further, Brazile found out that expenses in 2016 were double what they were when she was interim DNC chair five years previously – despite not needing as much staffing in that period. And when Clinton took over distribution of funds, she had promised to rebuild the funding of state Democratic Party organizations, but according to a May 2016 Politico article, only 1 percent of $61 million raised got to those state parties. Indeed, money that one of Clinton’s fundraising committees had raised for state parties ended up being transferred to the DNC. The issue wasn’t so much that someone needed to take over financing and state party support after years of neglect. The issue was that even after Clinton took over, the Democrats were still spending too much money and not distributing it to state parties.
And as I’ve said at least once, it was obvious by the end of the primaries that the system was rigged against Sanders, AND that that’s not why he lost. What it really comes down to in retrospect is that the Democrats were the incumbent party in the White House with a popular but term limited president, and Barack Obama seems to have made a deal that Hillary Clinton would be his successor even if he never quite came out and said so before the national convention. This meant that she had built in advantages that would have accrued regardless and would have applied even if (say) Joe Biden had run for the nomination. Since Sanders had never run as a Democrat before, he didn’t even have Biden’s level of party support and organization, and in the long run that meant Sanders’ ground game was not where it needed to be to beat Clinton. But then, if Clinton was winning fair and square, then the party elite didn’t need to put a thumb on the scale, and if they wanted to retain the pretense of being “Democratic”, they certainly didn’t need to be so obvious about it.
Of course the fact that this news (or freshly-dug old ground) is not flattering to Clinton and the Democratic establishment has caused their supporters to come out with all sorts of defenses.
First, Clinton fans keep insisting that what Clinton did wasn’t wrong because the Democratic National Committee is a private organization that sets its own rules and contracts, and therefore nothing that happened was illegal. But that is a point frequently made by Brazile herself in her text.
Second, it’s one thing to look at the Bernie Bros and political novices and tell them “I’m sorry, but you just don’t know how the system works.” (Not withstanding that for some of these younger people, this was their first campaign, and after observation many of them concluded that the system doesn’t work.) It’s something else when you have Donna Brazile, who is a veteran operator, who was hired specifically to get party organization and finances in order, partly because she had served in a similar role before, and with that knowledge of finances she’s wondering how expenses got so out of control, and then you tell her, “you just don’t know how all this works.”
You want to know why I’d rather be a Libertarian than a Democrat? Because the fat guy in the Speedo has a better sense of optics.
But what gets me is that all the Clintonistas smugly demanding “SHOW us where what she did was illegal” are the same people who howl and whine that Queen Hillary the Inevitable wasn’t crowned by majority vote. And of course the reason for that is the Electoral College. That institution may not be moral or fair (at least on those rare occasions that it produces a result that Democrats don’t like) – but it IS legal.
And the other complaint of the Clinton camp is that airing the dirty laundry is only going to hurt the cause. Aw, liberals. Are you afraid that Trump is gonna be mean to you? I guess it hasn’t occurred to you that Trump and Sean Hannity and his other court toadies are spreading baseless propaganda about Clinton and other Democrats. Are you admitting that you will suffer more damage if the critique is based on fact? Now you’re starting to get it. You don’t do the right thing because you think people will be nice to you. You do it because it’s the right thing to do. Likewise you don’t avoid doing the right thing because you think your enemies will be mean to you. They’re going to do that anyway. That’s why they’re your enemies. That’s what I tell Republicans. But they already know they have no incentive to be reasonable or bipartisan because they know Democrats will not accept it. Even if Republicans were reasonable, (which they’re not) Democrats would still say they were a bunch of meanie vicious ogres who want to ban abortion and force women to give birth to babies so that Republican billionaires can raid the maternity wards and eat them. There’s no convincing them. But some people haven’t made up their minds yet. So when you know that the enemy is going to make stuff up, the last thing you want to do is make their job easier and your job harder by giving your enemy real ammunition. Like, if you are a Republican and you keep going on about the value of life and the need to stop abortion, and then you support a tax “reform” that kills the credit for adoption, it makes people on the outside wonder how seriously you take this “pro-life” jazz. The point is, if you’re a Republican, that’s on YOU.
Similarly, Democrats: you don’t shoot the messenger because the truth hurts you politically. If the truth hurts, that’s your problem. Viewing Brazile’s piece solely in terms of how it hurts Democrats and wishing it hadn’t been brought up makes you look disingenuous, scared of reality, and desperate to control the narrative. In other words, it makes you look like a Clinton.
In some sense it doesn’t matter if you do the right thing or not, because some people will vote for your party no matter what, and others won’t, no matter how unqualified their party’s candidate is. On the other hand, some people are not yet committed, or a mix of liberal and conservative attitudes, or don’t vote for either party because they think they’re both crooked. Some of those you might be able to sway. And given the margins of victory in Trump’s states, the need for those people means that sometimes the truth MIGHT matter as much as propaganda. Some liberals tell me that’s not true, that everything is so hyper-partisan that people will vote for their chosen party regardless. Not so. Otherwise if Democrats outnumber Republicans overall and are dominant in the high-elector-value states, Democrats will usually win. What happened was that a lot of people who voted Obama in 2012 did not vote, or voted for Trump, in 2016. Just as a lot of the white conservatives who voted for Trump last year did not vote for Romney in 2012, because they were just as demoralized by their plastic faker as liberals were by the plastic faker they had last year.
I was telling a Bernie supporter on Facebook that stuff like this will do more damage to the “Democratic” party institution than Uranium One, Seth Rich or whoever Hillary’s elite Ninja squad was supposed to have assassinated this week. Because unlike the Fox News rumor mill, this is independently verified and confirmed by a Clinton partisan, who was a partisan BECAUSE she was hired to do a job and serve the Party, and that meant she expected her party to know shit from Shinola and be up to the task of defeating the most unqualified and malevolent candidate in American history. Clearly, they were not.
Which brings me to my final point.
If I agree with Democratic partisans on anything, it’s this: January is coming up, and Democratic candidates are going to have to start their engines for the midterm races. That means the party needs to get its act together and work in the same direction. But that can’t happen if it keeps rehashing The Election, and liberals can’t stop rehashing the election because the institutional Democratic Party won’t accept that they can’t win by resetting reality to October 2016 and then saying that everything is fine. In the same regard, they’re not going to fix the country just because a Democrat is president. After all, that was our situation a year ago.