On Donna Brazile and moving progressive politics forward

I’m no fan of Donna Brazile. As vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) she violated her responsibility to run a fair process by leaking debate questions to the Clinton campaign. It is hard for me to escape the conclusion that Donna’s recent revelations are merely an attempt to curry favor with the newly ascendant lefty faction.

Nevertheless, there is substance to the information she’s provided.

First, you might want to refresh your memory about how the sham transfers between the Hillary Victory Fund (HVF), DNC and state parties worked to flout campaign finance laws. These shenanigans materially impacted state parties and their ability to support candidates. For a real-world example of opportunities lost, look no further than the James Thompson fracas.

As Democrats, we’re presumably committed to good politics and a defensible process. You’d expect us to deal seriously with well-founded claims that one favoured candidate secretly reached an agreement with the DNC (prior to the primaries) to control appointments to key positions. You would of course, be wrong.

There’s no denying that the secret side-letter the Clinton campaign reached with the DNC in August 2015 is problematic. Most defended of HVF’s agreement revolve around the presumption that Clinton was bound to be the nominee, but of course, this side letter is executed about six months before a single person had voted for Clinton to be the nominee. So even if you think Clinton was destined to win the nomination, the wholesale takeover of the DNC by the Clinton campaign. assumed and partially executed by the side-letter, is profoundly un-democratic, solely because it precedes the vote. And that’s before we get to the bit granting the Clinton campaign veto power all DNC communications about ANY primary candidate.

It’s been interesting to see the various dubious theories advanced to exonerate the side-agreement instituted between Hillary For America (HFA)f and the DNC a year before the primary was decided. These include:

  • There was no such agreement, Donna can’t make out 2015 from 2016. A patently false claim, but one made repeatedly.
  • There was a side-agreement but it really applied only to the general election. This claim is made over and over again, even though the secret aide-letter was inked 18 months prior to the election and gave HFA a say in DNC personnel decisions a year before th convention. The sole evidence presented is a transparently CYA clause in the secret side-letter itself.
  • Others have pointed to the fact that this side agreement explicitly permitted the DNC to reach similar agreements with other candidates as exculpatory. That’s a dubious claim since the Clinton campaign had already put its people in place by September 2015. Would this hypothetical other candidate have been allowed to fire these people? By the way, no other candidate (Chafee, O’Malley, Sanders or Webb) has come forward to say they were offered such a side-letter, or notified of its existence with the Clinton campaign.
  • The oft-heard defense that “loyalty” to the party is what drove various DNC staff to favor the Clinton campaign. Folks presenting this defense are applauding machine politics, perhaps unknowingly.
  • A corollary is the claim that the DNC owed nothing to Sen. Sanders because he “isn’t a Democrat”. First, this ignores the fact that he’s caucused with Democrats for decades in Congress and helped co-found the Progressive Caucus. Second, it doesn’t matter, you either run a fair process for all, or you don’t. Finally, the folks advancing this defense are hoping you’ve forgotten that the secret side-agreement also disadvantaged other candidates. Biden for example, did not conclusively rule out a run till October 2015.
  • A particularly pernicious defense is that the Clinton campaign was justified in imposing its will on the DNC because it directed large sums to it. This justification of donor-driven politics would be comical if it weren’t so dangerous. One shudders to think what demands these people believe high-dollar donors should are justified in making of politicians since apparently explicit quid pro quos are acceptable. If this is truly where we are as the “party of the people”, the sale of our democracy to the highest bidder is complete, we just don’t know it because the memorandum recording the sale was shredded.
  • Lastly, my personal favorite: Donna Brazile and Black Lives Matter were pawns in the hands of, you guessed it, the Russians.

There are several others, but time is short and there’s only so much you can do after you bring horses to water.

Here’s the thing, it’s not like the Clinton campaign even had to tilt the scales. They likely would have won anyway. The decision to twist arms at the DNC came from the same galactic brains who tried to run up the score in blue states for a popular vote margin but forgot to lock down the Electoral College. Donna Brazile advocated for such a popular vote focused strategy, which is another reason it makes no sense to throw yourself into the Brazile fan club.

Believe it or not, there’s a silver lining in all this for the left.

The 2016 election cycle and its aftermath make it abundantly clear that the Democratic party’s reigning centrist/third-way faction is in disarray. The DNC can’t seem to tie its own shoelaces, state parties have been intentionally starved of funds, candidates lack resources, and egos rule the roost.

All this disfunction makes the job of returning the party to it’s lefty roots that much easier, if we can provide the momentum forward.

All we have to do is keep working for progressive candidates, continue bringing more people to the party and stay focused on justice and equality.

There’s no reason to expend our considerably energy in futile arguments with defenders of the status-quo and mega-donor driven politics. Most voters have a healthy sense of fair play and respect for fairly run elections. They already know the score and have moved on to think about 2017 and 2018. That, is a winning strategy.

— @subirgrewal