By Hank Edson
Achieving unity among Democratic Party voters is easy and beating Trump is easier, but both do require being able to accurately identify the source of our current disunity. Also, achieving unity requires being able to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate boundaries voters are presently drawing in the midst of our chaotic primary season.
The source of disunity among Democratic Party voters is not a candidate, but a disregard for the primacy of the vote in determining the party’s nominee for the presidency in the general election.
This disregard is daily evident in the corporate media that is supposed to be a neutral forum for evaluating the candidates’ respective policies, record, leadership, judgment, and character, but is instead a mouthpiece that does not shy away from brazen hostility and bias against the current front runner for the Democratic Party nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders.
This disregard is daily evident in the leadership of the DNC that, in a full fit of panic over Senator Sanders’ lead, is openly allowing an oligarch to buy his way into the presidential primary race, while also apparently contemplating undoing a rule change that provided some measure of respect for the vote of the people after the 2016 fiasco in exchange for the imposition of a “unity pledge” on all the candidates, but most particularly Senator Sanders.
This disregard is also daily evident in the conduct of each candidate competing against Senator Sanders, all of whom are choosing to sit silent and to benefit from, make use of, or even add to the DNC’s corruption and the mass media’s unethical bias and deception, even as this bias, deception, and corruption undermines the integrity of the political process on which every American’s right to vote depends for its meaning.
And last, this disregard is daily evident on social media where voters who support other campaigns than that of the front runner also frequently sit silent before or further broadcast the hostile treatment Senator Sanders receives from the media and the Democratic Party, as though winning were more important to them than the integrity of the voting process.
Unity in the Democratic Party cannot be achieved when the “one person, one vote” principle that defines the value of the vote in a democracy is so widely abandoned and abused as it currently is in this primary season by the media and the Democratic Party. Nor can Unity in the Democratic Party be achieved when so many participants in the process disregard the necessity of a forum for public debate that is neutral, reason-based, and limited to considering only criteria reasonably relevant to the question of who would be the best leader, the same way that neutrality, reason and a controlled experiment are required by the scientific method. Upholding these two elements, the “one person, one vote” principle and the neutral, reason-based forum is the most basic form of what it means to respect the vote.
Unity among voters requires respect for the vote. The whole idea of a vote is to provide a process that people agree to respect as a way of achieving unity among the people. If we don’t respect the vote, there will be and can be no unity among the people. The people whose vote is undermined in such case will not feel unity with the outcome of the voting process. It does not get any simpler than that.
For more than four years now, we have been observing a movement on the political left called “Bernie or Bust.” There is a way to unify “Bernie or Bust” voters with the rest of the voters in the Democratic Party, but first we have to acknowledge that “Bernie or Bust” voters are drawing a legitimate boundary when they refuse to legitimize the well-documented corruption of both the DNC and the corporate media undermining our right to vote. The source of lack of unity between “Bernie or Bust” voters and the rest of the Party is not with these voters but with the corruption in the rest of the party. It is foolhardy to expect an abused person to legitimize the abuse they suffer. And any argument that the voters’ rights have not been abused by the Democratic Party is itself abusive.
When Donna Brazile took over as chair of the DNC after the DNC email leak exposed the corruption under Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s tenure, she discovered more corruption than she anticipated. In her article in Politico.com she described the way that the Clinton campaign had taken control of the DNC and wrote, “This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.”
This article, here, is not the place to give a full history of the DNC’s 2016 corruption scandal, but what needs to be said here is that the DNC’s actions in 2016 were indeed criminal. They might not have been criminal to Brazile. They might not have been criminal under the law. But to many voters, there is no doubt, the conduct of the DNC in 2016 was a criminal abuse of the people’s voting rights and no argument about the DNC being a private organization that can do as it pleases holds any water when the DNC used a publicly funded election system to hold its vote, when the DNC’s primary was one of only two major gateways to meaningful participation in the general election, and when the truth is that if most voters were clearly told by the DNC, “whenever it matters to us, the oligarchy, we will disregard your vote,” there would be no voters left in the Democratic Party other than the Super Delegates. The Democratic Party would be a party without people and without power. The Democratic Party, and any political party, is nothing without its voters. Therefore, undermining the vote of these voters is a criminal act and anyone insisting on the importance of party unity who is not ready to acknowledge its criminality is the source of his or her own disunity with all voters who insist on defending their right to a meaningful vote.
So, the “Bernie or Bust” voters do legitimately draw a boundary when they refuse to legitimize the criminal corruption of the DNC with a vote for the nominee of their rigged process. What’s more, this boundary-drawing strategy has strengthened the people’s movement supporting Bernie and strengthened its integrity and appeal, which is what wise boundary drawing always does. The talking heads on the oligarchy-owned corporate media can push false narratives blaming these boundary-drawing voters all they want, but these manipulative narratives are given the lie by the fact that we are daily seeing the size of the crowds at Bernie’s rallies growing by the thousands. This is in part because “Bernie or Bust” voters didn’t back down. It takes commitment and time, but civil disobedience in the form of such boundary drawing drives humanitarian progress as it is doing now and has been these past four years.
But this is not an article advocating for “Bernie or Bust.” It is an article advocating for unity. We don’t achieve unity, however, by denying what is legitimate in the position of the people we are trying to unit with. We also don’t achieve unity with the “Bernie or Bust” movement by allowing the “Never Bernie” voter to be treated as having an equally legitimate boundary when they absolutely do not.
The “Never Bernie” voter blames Bernie for the election of Donald Trump and is angry. This is not the place to litigate responsibility for Trump’s election. But unlike “Bernie or Bust” voters who are legitimately drawing a boundary against violation of their voting rights, “Never Bernie” voters are illegitimately drawing a boundary against voters exercising their right to vote! What’s even more nonsensical is that, in declaring they will not vote for Bernie if he is the nominee, they are engaging in the very conduct they condemn and use to justify their behavior, but without understanding the distinction between legitimate boundary drawing and illegitimate boundary-drawing.
By contrast, “Bernie or Bust” voters are not concerned that others might vote differently than they. “Bernie or Bust” voters support everyone’s right to cast their vote as they see fit. They will, it is true, offer critiques of what criteria is consistent with democratic principles to consider in evaluating who will be the best leader, and they will point out that “Never Bernie” voters are considering criteria in the way they vote that are not relevant to who will be the best leader. But they will not get angry or aggressive toward a voter for exercising his or her vote based on his or her own best judgment. Their commitment to the right to vote is, no pun intended, primary.
Now, the easy road to party unity was recently pointed out by activist Shaun King who suggested the correct question when it comes to party unity is not, “Will you support the Party’s nominee in the general election?” This question, as formulated, is incomplete and misleading. To be accurate, this question would have to say, “Will you support the Party’s nominee even if the Party corruptly and criminally disregards the vote in making the nomination?” But this is not the question Shaun King recommends because it does not lead us toward unity. Instead, King proposes we ask each candidate, “Will you give whatever delegates you get to the candidate who has the most delegates going into the convention?” This proposal is a great suggestion for directing the public debate toward a more pointed examination of each candidate’s commitment to party unity. But we can even do even better than merely reframe our questions.
If we really all believe party unity is important because we all want Trump thrown out of office and we want all Democratic Party voters to vote for the nominee, then we need to do two things:
First, we need to make sure the DNC does not undo the rule change it agreed to in exchange for the unity pledge the candidates were earlier required to make. It should be obvious, after all, that if we all believe party unity is important, undoing this rule change would also likely have the undesirable result of potentially undoing the unity pledge that was the other half of the bargain struck between progressives and the DNC in the wake of 2016.
One strategy for making sure the DNC leaves the rule change intact would be for every candidate running for the nomination to make a point of demanding the rule change not be undone, but be left intact. An additional strategy would be for voters to raise an outcry impossible for the media to ignore demanding the rule change not be undone, but be left intact, and also demanding that each of the candidates make this demand as well. If we really care about party unity, then we need to make it politically untenable for the any candidate or for the DNC to avoid committing to leave the rule change intact.
Second, we need to demand that our candidates all agree to give whatever pledged delegates they get to the candidate who has the most pledged delegates going into the convention. This will assure that the people’s vote results in the candidate winning the most votes also getting the 51% of the delegates needed to cut-off superdelegate voting under the new rule change and thereby to win the nomination.
If we get these two commitments, which together ensure respect for the people’s voting rights, then we take away the criminal conduct inspiring the “Bernie or Bust” boundary-drawing and formerly “Bernie or Bust” voters will then support the nominee, whoever he or she may be at the end of the primary process. They will do so because that’s how democracy works and that’s what “Bernie or Bust” voters are actually fighting for. To win the “Bernie or Bust” vote, all we have to do is respect the vote of the people. It’s that easy.
Yes, the road to party unity is not difficult at all to anyone with a common sense understanding of how democracy is supposed to work. It’s called voting. There can only be one reason then that we don’t have party unity and that’s that the people blaming others for it don’t really want party unity at all. Whether they are “Never Bernie” voters so angry about losing to Trump that they don’t want to unify to beat him now, whether they are billionaire candidates who don’t think they have a prayer of winning the people’s vote, whether they are corporate media moguls frightened of a Sanders administration, or whether they are DNC insiders clutching desperately to their hold on power, whoever they are, they can no longer say they want party unity if they aren’t willing to take the easy steps to secure it.
As for the rest of us who do really want party unity, it’s up to us to demand it, but to demand it in a way that makes sense, by honestly acknowledging that it can only be achieved by respecting the people’s vote.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS