DNC lawyers say it can pick candidates in smoke-filled back-room

For the DNC, the fallout from the presidential primary is not yet over.

In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and even handedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and even-handedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process. — Democratic party charter/by-laws

That section of the charter is the subject of a class-action lawsuit by Sanders supporters and DNC donors. The plaintiffs claim the DNC violated its own by-laws and was not impartial during the 2016 presidential primary race.

The DNC’s lawyers had an interesting defense at the initial hearing:

“We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way,’” Bruce Spiva, lawyer for the DNC, said during a court hearing in Carol Wilding, et al. v. DNC Services Corp., according to court filings exclusively obtained by TYT Politics. […]

In one of the more strange defense rationales, Spiva evoked baptism to suggest the term “impartial” is too vague and open-to-interpretation to be enforced legally.

“You have a charter that says you have to be — where the party has adopted a principle of even-handedness, and just to get the language exactly right, that they would be even-handed and impartial, I believe, is the exact language. And, you know, that’s not self-defining, your Honor. I mean that’s kind of like, you know, saying, Who’s a Baptist?”

Jordan Chariton (TYT) on Medium

Now, as an occasional cigar-smoker, I object to the stereotype, but I’ll let it slide, this one time.

The attorney for the plaintiffs pointed out that DNC officials, including chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz repeated the impartiality claim on television numerous times.

The DNC’s lawyers aren’t addressing that. Instead, they’re trying to undermine the expectation of impartiality itself. Claiming that it is too vague and not enforceable.

“There’s no right to not have your candidate disadvantaged or have another candidate advantaged. There’s no contractual obligation here . . . it’s not a situation where a promise has been made that is an enforceable promise,” Spiva said.

— Salon

The DNC lawyer’s argument is this: The charter is crafted in such a way that what appears to the average person to be a promise of impartiality isn’t one at all. It’s all an illusion. What Democrats have is just a “political promise”.

The most recent court hearing on the case was held on April 25, during which the DNC reportedly argued that the organization’s neutrality among Democratic campaigns during the primaries was merely a “political promise,” and therefore it had no legal obligations to remain impartial throughout the process. — Newsweek

An uncharitable view would be that the actions of DNC officials were indefensible, and so this is the only defense their legal team could come up with.

Let’s be charitable for a moment. Maybe this is just a legal tactic, the quickest way for the DNC’s lawyers to get this case dismissed. Let’s accept their claim that there’s no “enforceable promise” so we don’t waste the court’s time trying to figure out whether or not the DNC was actually impartial. Let’s agree with them that impartiality is undefined, and there’s no measurable standard to apply to the DNC official’s actions.Now, let’s take this line of thought to its conclusion. The DNC claims:

  • the charter authorizes them to pick a candidate in a proverbial cigar smoke-filled backroom.
  • “impartiality” is so vague a concept that DNC officials can, with impunity, take actions to favor whichever candidate they wish.
  • impartiality is a “political promise”, and we all know those are worth squat amiright?

What then, is the purpose of the entire primary charade? To give Democrats the illusion that they have an actual say in who heads the ticket? To lull us into believing Democrats actually stand for democracy?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what calls for “unity” look like in this light?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what this argument does to their credibility in the future?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what happens when politicians break a “political promise”?

— @subirgrewal