Democratic Party mover and shaker Donna Brazile grabbed the headlines with her charge that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton virtually bought the Democratic National Committee and stacked the deck against Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders. This is pretty much an update on the old charge that Sanders himself made during the campaign. His campaign filed a lawsuit against the DNC. Now Clinton did give a lot of money to the DNC. And she did have the coziest of cozy relationships with then DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz. That made it almost certain that if there was going to be any tilt by the DNC it was going to be toward Clinton. But there are problems with trying to make an airtight case that an alleged Clinton controlled DNC was the downfall of Sanders.
One is that the DNC didn’t call the shots in the state primaries. The states do that. Clinton already had a monster lead over Sanders in the key primary states. She got the lead because of her long history with, and deep ties to, Democratic party leaders and grassroots groups (especially African-American and Hispanic religious and community leaders) and elected officials in the primary states. She also waged a drawn out presidential primary campaign against Obama in 2008 in those states. Sanders, by contrast, was a late entry on the political scene in those states. He had virtually no name identification with Black and Hispanic voters and no political organization in minority communities.
The Clinton “rigging” charge is even shakier when it’s considered that the DNC did have more direct control over the Caucuses in states that had them. If Clinton rigged things against Sanders, then she should have won the Caucuses handily. She didn’t. In fact. She lost more of them to Sanders than she won. All the alleged Clinton campaign wealth didn’t do much to discourage the high and enthusiastic voter turnout among youth, progressives and women in both the primary and Caucus states.
Sanders didn’t help his case against the DNC by repeatedly making it clear that he did not want a nickel of corporate campaign money and that he was not going to suck up to the Democratic party establishment to get their backing. He reminded all at every turn that he was an “independent” and a “progressive” and if there was anything left to be called democrat in that, it was democrat with a small “d.”
Sanders in lambasting the DNC for its alleged tilt to Clinton was trying to have his political cake and eat it to. That is call out and shame the DNC for being pro Clinton and thereby solidifying his credentials with progressives as the man who called out the party for run allegedly being by a bunch of staid, corporate, deal making beltway politicians.
The DNC was by any standard a wreck and a ruin during the 2016 presidential campaign.
So, what is the real point then in dragging and distorting along the way the tit for tat between Sanders, Clinton and the DNC way after the fact? It certainly makes good copy, and gets the media and some of the public’s tongues wagging again about “crooked Hillary.” It undoubtedly brings a big smile to Trump’s face. It gives the GOP yet another stone to hurl at the Democrats for being allegedly corrupt and boss controlled.
The only real value in any of this is to send yet another message to the DNC that it must fix things with Sanders, his base, grassroots donors and local Democratic Party committees and boosters. This is a must for the DNC if it is to clear the air of the factionalism, division and bickering that plagued Democrats in 2016 and created the huge pathway for Trump to the White House. There’s not a lot of time left. The 2018 mid-term elections are the most important in decades. They will go a long toward telling whether the Democrats can regain their footing and start winning some seats in places other than California and New York. Equally important, it will tell whether the party will be poised to mount a robust, well-oiled, united campaign to unseat Trump.
The DNC was by any standard a wreck and a ruin during the 2016 presidential campaign. It got pounded for misstep after misstep that included poor and disconnected leadership, leaked emails, gross favoritism, petty infighting, blatant manipulation of the primaries and gross cluelessness about the Trump.
The gaping disparity between the GOP and Democrats in voter turnout in the primaries was not in the tens of thousands but millions. The GOP energized its base like it hadn’t done in years, as well as fired up lots of young persons who in years past would likely not have been caught dead voting for a GOP presidential candidate. At the same time, the Democratic turnout was to be charitable, tepid, and this in the face of the spirited, impassioned face-off between Clinton and Sanders whose populist, hit-Wall-Street-hard message touched a huge nerve among legions of young and not-so-young voters.
This should be the takeaway from 2016 for the DNC and Democrats. Trying to make a shaky case against Clinton may sell some books but it won’t do anything to win elections for the Democrats.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is, The impeachment of President Trump? (Amazon Kindle) will be released in August. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.