By Hank Edson
My centrist friend is saying to me, “It’s the DNC’s job to put forth the best candidate and ensure they have a chance of winning.” He’s responding to my anger over what I see as entrenched corruption in the leadership of the Democratic Party. Now, let’s be clear, just because I think the Democratic Party is extremely corrupt, I’m not saying in this election cycle we shouldn’t vote President Trump out of office. Indeed, for my suggestion on how to unify the party during this election, see my recent piece, “The Easy Road to Party Unity and Beating Trump.” So, this article is not about “Bernie or Bust.” It’s about how to fix the corruption killing our democratic political process once this election cycle is done.
A Tale of Two Election Cycles: Part 1 – Election 2016
My evidence that the Democratic Party is “beyond” corrupt: It’s like an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem, “Let me count the ways.”
First, there was the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America, signed in August of 2015, which gave the 2016 Clinton campaign control over all the money raised by the Democratic Party, as well as over its strategy, budget, mailings, data, analytics and all staffing decisions, including the communications director. The foundation for this takeover of the DNC by the Clinton campaign was the Clinton machine’s systematic scouring of state Democratic Parties to secure super delegates from 33 of them, not based on the quality of leadership or the merits of the policies being offered by Clinton as a candidate, but in exchange for a bribe in the form of a sophisticated funding arrangement.
The arrangement allowed the Clinton campaign to hold lavish fundraisers in each participating state where individual donors who had already contributed the maximum $2,700 donation to a presidential campaign, could donate an additional $353,400 per person twice, once for 2015 and again for 2016, $320,000 of which per year would go to the state party, and $33,400 of which each year would go to the Hillary Victory Fund. By my calculations, this plan helped wealthy donors exceed by nearly 25 times the limit intended by federal law. And yet, more troubling still, Donna Brazile, who took over as chair of the DNC following the rigging scandal under Debbie Wasserman-Shultz’s tenure, reported that “the states kept less than half of 1 percent of the $82 million they had amassed from the extravagant fund-raisers Hillary’s campaign was holding.”
In this way, the 2016 election primary season began in mid-2015 with the corporate media (another platform falsely representing itself to be neutral, but that was also later shown to be colluding with the Clinton campaign) reporting that Clinton had locked up the nomination due to the superdelegates that had committed to vote for her. The volume at which this narrative was broadcast by the corporate media long before a single vote had been cast pressured the public to dismiss serious consideration of any other candidate in a way that falsely legitimized the bribed superdelegates’ usurpation of the people’s vote. At the same time, the Hillary Victory Fund was also used to help bail out the DNC of $24 million in debt in exchange for Clinton’s behind-the-scenes control of the supposedly neutral primary process. This control undoubtedly explains, among other things, the DNC’s decisions to limit debates in 2016 and to hold them at times when viewership would be low, further discouraging the voters from considering any other candidate but Clinton and protecting her from having to compete for the people’s vote.
Brazile said of the DNC’s Joint Fund-Raising Agreement with the Clinton campaign: “If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.” Or to put it differently, it may not have been a criminal act, but it certainly should have been, given the voting rights that were irreparably injured by the Clinton Campaign’s secret control of the DNC during the process deciding who would be the nominee.
The DNC’s hacked emails that helped bring the rigging scandal to light provided colorful insight into the corrupt culture of the Party leadership under this agreement. Among the emails released to the public following the hacking, were emails showing DNC officials talking about how to target Sanders’ religious views, receiving advice from a Clinton campaign lawyer about how to respond to allegations from the Sanders campaign that it was improperly using its joint fundraising committee, and formulating a false narrative describing Sanders’ famously innovative and well-organized campaign as “a mess” in order to counter allegations and cover up the facts concerning DNC collusion with the Clinton campaign. Numerous emails on a wide assortment of subjects were sarcastic, disrespectful, and outright hostile to the Sanders campaign. This by the administrator of an election process on which the voting rights of a large proportion of Americans depended.
As a whole, these emails paint a damning picture of DNC officials plotting to undermine the Sanders campaign at every turn, as though their role was most definitely to advance Clinton’s nomination by any available means and, contrary to Brazile’s assertions, was not at all to provide a process in which the voters should decide which candidate would best represent their interests in the general election and as President of the United States. Indeed, the Democratic Party brazenly confirmed its anti-democratic attitude in federal court on April 25, 2017, when it argued that it had no duty to the voters participating in the Party’s primary and that therefore their rigging of the 2016 nomination was not illegal.
Intermission: Responding to the Federal Court’s Dismissal of the Case Against the DNC
The name of the case brought against the DNC for rigging the 2016 primaries is Wilding v. DNC Services Corp. In that case, the federal court dismissed the claims brought against the DNC “for lack of standing” (the initial requirement that must be established for a court to hear a suit). The court viewed the loss of the voters’ ability to cast a counted vote in a fair and unbiased presidential primary and the voters reliance to their detriment on the DNC’s fraudulent representation that the voters’ votes would count as only “generalized grievance[s]” too abstract and remote from the actions complained of to constitute a “concrete and particularized” and “actual or imminent” injury sufficient to support standing under the law. The reasoning applied by the court was notable for its lack of principled vision and broader inquiry into the injuries, relationships, and duties involved in our democratic political system.
To the court, having your vote rendered meaningless is too abstract and not a particular enough injury. One must ask, what can be more particular to one’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in a democracy then the loss of a meaningful vote? At one point, the court actually writes, “To the extent the Plaintiffs wish to air their general grievances with the DNC or its candidate selection process their redress is through the ballot box, the DNC’s internal workings, or their right of free speech—not through the judiciary.” That is, the court is saying, “If you don’t like having your vote stolen by the DNC, you can remedy this by casting a vote in the process controlled by the DNC, or by voting for Trump. You, dear voter, are dependent upon corruption being responsive to your complaints against it. Good luck!” Yes, there is the recourse of free speech, which, though important, is no substitute for access to a justice system, not when the injury at stake is the loss of people’s power to effect change through the vote. So, what is a disenfranchised voter to do? Write this article, I guess.
The Wilding Court also avoided important discussion of the duty the DNC owes the voting pubic, allowing the question of duty to remain framed as that of a private organization with no duty to the voter sufficient to give rise to a remediable injury. The court’s incomplete consideration of the duty owed by the DNC failed to adequately consider, first, that the DNC makes use of a publicly funded voting system to administer its fraudulent pretense of an unbiased nomination process, and, second, that the DNC offers the only gateway through which voters on the Political Left may pass if they hope to meaningfully participate in a presidential election in our essentially two-party system.
This role of administering a primary process that makes use of publicly funded election infrastructures and that serves as a gatekeeper to the general election should rightfully be understood as a privilege that private organizations must obtain permission under the law to perform. Such permission, one might well argue, should only be granted if the private organization faces criminal penalties and permanent revocation of its permit if it fails to reasonably uphold in the electoral process it provides the one person, one vote principle that defines the right to vote in a democracy. If, in the face of such a duty, the DNC preferred to give up holding primaries altogether and to instead retain its right to appoint its nominee just as it pleases, we all know that the Democratic Party’s membership would plummet to constitute only the superdelegates with voting rights, making it no longer a relevant force in American politics. This fact gives the lie to the DNC’s claim that it has no duty to its voters: All its political muscle is dependent upon the segment of the voting public consenting to be called Democrats. This segment vanishes when the DNC’s misrepresentations carry criminal liability and the voters realize the primaries are an illusion or when they learn the primaries will not be held, both of which scenarios amount to one and the same thing.
As a result of the court’s decision in Wilding v DNC Services Corp., Congress should post haste take affirmative action to override it with new legislation clarifying the public function of political party primaries and the legally actionable duties that attend administering any vote involved in placing a candidate on the ballot of a public general election. Similar action has been taken by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court before. In FEC v. Akins, the Supreme Court held that, in passing the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA), Congress intentionally sought to “alter the traditional view that agency enforcement decisions are not subject to judicial review,” which view, the Supreme Court had previously affirmed in Heckler v. Chaney. In FEC v Akins, the claimants sought to establish standing based on the fact that, as a result of the FEC’s refusal to classify the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as a political committee that would be subject to certain reporting requirements, they, as voters, had been injured by the denial of access to information concerning AIPAC’s campaign contributions. The Court, agreed, noting that FECA was intended to address just the type of injury then being complained of and created standing for the suit to go forward on that basis. The Court also explicitly rejected the “generalized grievance” characterization, finding that “the informational injury here, directly related to voting, the most basic of political rights, is sufficiently concrete” to establish the standing criteria of “injury in fact,” and also noting that “[t]he fact that the harm at issue is widely shared does not deprive Congress of constitutional power to authorize its vindication in the federal courts where the harm is concrete.” Thus, even without subsequent legislation by Congress, FEC v. Akins suggests the Federal Court’s “generalized grievance” argument in Wilding v DNC Service Corp. was wrong because a harm cannot be both concrete and generalized, although the case law is full of decisions that muddy this understanding, and Akins makes clear that injuries “directly related to voting, the most basic of political rights, is sufficiently concrete.”
More importantly, even if the Wilding case were correct on the law, Akins highlights the template Congress must now follow to prevent political parties’ ongoing avoidance of a duty to voters. Congress can clarify that, in order to participate in a publicly funded election system, private organizations like political parties owe a duty to voters to maintain their neutrality and to uphold the one person, one vote principle as the algorithm that determines who will be the party’s nominee. This legislation should also clarify that this same duty is owed by any private organization or political party that engages in voting activities, even if administered through a private voting system, when that voting system is represented as unbiased and when it functions as gatekeepers to public elections. Congress has taken such action before in passing the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. It should do so again.
A Tale of Two Election Cycles: Part 2 – Election 2020
Meanwhile, returning to the DNC’s unending parade of corrupt conduct, it later was revealed that even whistle-blower Brazile in her prior roles as CNN contributor and as Vice-Chair of the DNC had herself in early 2016 fed to the Clinton campaign debate questions and Sanders campaign emails describing campaign strategies being employed. Also, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, after being forced to resign for presiding over this deceitful misconduct, was immediately hired by the Clinton campaign as if her mismanagement and corruption at the DNC were to be rewarded, rather than punished, in a manner that also prevented Wasserman-Shultz from directing responsibility for her part in the scandal elsewhere than herself. By hiring the disgraced DNC chair, the Clinton campaign effectively bought her silence going forward.
But all that was last election and, while the Democratic Party establishment would like to blame Bernie Sanders for the loss, the facts are these: With such a record of behavior, neither Hilary Clinton nor the DNC has ever taken ownership for the ways in which both their abuse of the people’s sacred right to vote and their reliance on corruption, rather than on a platform serving the public interest, undoubtedly cost Clinton votes on the Political Left, suppressed voter turn-out nationwide, and helped justify the Republican Party’s demonization of her. Indeed, with such a record of deliberate misconduct, a candidate ought to be disqualified from seeking further public office. Had the DNC been run by leadership committed to democratic values instead of to the advancement of a particular candidate, Clinton ought to have been immediately replaced by the second-place finisher in the primaries, Bernie Sanders, as soon as the revelations about the DNC’s collusion with her campaign came to light.
As a result of this disregard for the voter’s right to a fair electoral process, yes, many Sanders voters refused to vote for Clinton and voted for someone else in the general election, just as any human being might refuse to continue to remain married to an abusive spouse. In such cases, the abusive spouse trope is to shout at the victim, “You’ll come crawling back! You need me! You’re worthless! You’ll never make it on your own!” The DNC and the corporate media have been screaming the political equivalent of such intimidation at voters since before the 2016 convention, with the same legitimacy and success as most abusers.
In her whistle-blowing article in Politico.com, Brazile reported that Bernie did not get angry when she informed him of Clinton’s cheating, but asked her what she thought Clinton’s chances were in the general election. Brazile wrote: “I had to be frank with him. I did not trust the polls, I said. I told him I had visited states around the country and I found a lack of enthusiasm for her everywhere.” In the end, about one hundred million people, forty-three percent of the electorate, chose not to vote, not finding anything in the process serving their interests enough to motivate them to go to the polls.
But, unlike many abused spouses who come to their senses, Sanders actually stayed in the marriage following the convention and did his best to help Clinton win the presidency, participating in 39 rallies in 13 states on her behalf between the convention and the general election. After the general election debacle in which the DNC’s chosen candidate lost to the incredibly flawed Donald Trump, Sanders’ dedication to the Democratic Party continued as he worked to help it heal the division in the Party created by the Party’s misconduct and abuse during the 2016 campaign.
Sanders went on a unity tour with the Democratic Party establishment’s choice to takeover the chair of the DNC, Thomas Perez, who barely beat out Sander’s preferred choice, Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Subsequently, a trade was engineered in which the requirement of a candidate loyalty oath was exchanged for a rule change that prevented superdelegates from participating in and thus overturning the vote of the people in the first round of the convention if a single candidate received fifty-one percent of the pledged delegates as determined by the people’s vote during the primaries. The loyalty oath required all candidates for the presidency in the Democratic Party primary to run and govern as a Democrat.
When the 2020 primary season opened with twenty Democratic candidates participating in the first debate and half a score of others in the running, Sanders voters could be heard observing that it appeared the DNC was encouraging a multitude of candidacies in order to split the vote and require a second round of voting at the convention so that establishment superdelegates could then choose the nominee. More to the point, this would allow the superdelegates to prevent Sanders from being nominated by the people, as his movement to take money out of politics would jeopardize the establishment’s franchise on political power. However, as the primary season approached and Senator Sanders’ campaign surged in the polls, any such maneuvering seems to have been deemed insufficient by the powers that be in the DNC.
In the last three weeks, the corrupt intent of the DNC establishment to defend itself against a future government that would take money out of politics has been all but transparent. First, DNC chairman Perez nominated to the 2020 Democratic Party Platform Committee, Rules Committee and Credentials Committee what one commentator calls “a rogues’ gallery of influence-peddlers and insider power brokers” and another calls a host of “determined anti-progressives.” Perhaps most notably among them is, former Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta who, seeking advice, asked in one the DNC’s leaked emails, “Where would you stick the knife in?,” referring to Senator Sanders’ back. Also appointed was, Barney Frank, another Clinton surrogate who sits on the board of Signature Bank, a regular lender to Donald Trump’s family, who the 2016 Sanders Campaign tried unsuccessfully to get removed from that same committee on the grounds that Frank had “deeper professional, political and personal hostility” toward Sanders’ campaign.
Perez’s appointment of insiders who contributed to the DNC’s primary process rigging in 2016 declares to the people that the DNC does not see a need to rectify what should rightfully be identified as the criminal acts it committed the last time there was a presidential primary. It would be reasonable to expect that, following the exposure of its abuse of the voter in 2016, the DNC would take extra precautions this next time around to avoid any whiff of perceived, let alone, actual bias. No such luck. Instead, Perez is busy pouring salt in the still open wounds of 2016 and seems ready in 2020 to stick the knife in again, if he only gets the chance. The lack of remorse, the in-your-face willingness to expose the voters and the candidates to repeated injuries at the hands of insiders protecting their turf against an unfavorable vote and mandate of the people, although normalized by the corporate media, is enraging to a large segment of the electorate outside the beltway, creating conditions ripe for a political showdown such as our nation has never seen before.
Meanwhile, notwithstanding the DNC’s strident insistence upon a loyalty oath from Senator Sanders, Hilary Clinton, and establishment candidates Joe Biden, and Amy Klobuchar each recently made statements signaling uncertainty whether they would actually support Senator Sanders if he were the nominee. Not only is the establishment apparently wavering in its view of Party unity and loyalty to the voter’s nominee, it is also apparently having whispered conversations among the DNC leadership about possibly changing the rules before the convention to restore the ability of superdelegates to take the nomination away from Sanders if the people’s vote gives him a majority of pledged delegates. Thus, the Democratic Party is backpedaling its own commitment to both its loyalty oaths and its claim to have heard the protests of voters that superdelegates should not control who receives the nomination.
On top of this, it’s no longer a surprise to learn that, in an obvious Hail Mary attempt to derail Senator Sanders momentum, Perez decided to change the debate rules to allow Mike Bloomberg to participate in the Nevada debate. That is, other candidates were excluded from earlier debates based on their failure to meet criteria that Bloomberg himself does not presently meet, but he will be given a place on the stage nonetheless. At the same time, Perez has appointed two people presently still on Mike Bloomberg’s payroll to the convention rules committee that has decision power over when and whether superdelegate vote, a blatant conflict of interest.
And finally, we have this most recent disgrace unfolding in Iowa, involving a company called “Shadow,” which was formed less than a year ago by former Clinton campaign veterans with close ties to the Buttigieg campaign to create an app for managing the reporting of caucus votes and delegates. The communications director of the Buttigieg campaign, which prematurely claimed victory in the Iowa caucus, is the brother-in law of the founder of the non-profit who claimed to have launched Shadow, whose husband was Hilary Clinton’s lead organizer in Iowa. Moreover, Buttigieg’s campaign is a client of Shadow, having paid $42,500 for its services compared to the Iowa Democratic Party, which paid $60,000 for its use of the malfunctioning app. Questions remain as to how many clients Shadow has and how much the Buttigieg campaign’s fees represent of its total business. It’s far too soon, of course, to draw conclusions about the failure of this app developed by a company closely tied to two of what appear to be its few major clients—the self-proclaimed winner of the Iowa Caucus and the Iowa Democratic Party. But given all that has come before, we don’t really need the Iowa scandal to get any worse to see the writing on the wall concerning the Democratic Party.
Political Parties Are Inherently Counter to Our Democratic Principles and Constitution
Returning to my friend’s claim that it’s the DNC’s job to put forth the best candidate and ensure they have a chance of winning, I can’t help thinking: “Since when did voters hire the DNC and assign it the job of deciding for them who is the best candidate? And if the voters had hired the DNC to do that, why then did the voters bother voting at all? Moreover, isn’t voting the best way to determine who will actually get the most votes? Isn’t that the best indication of who can, did, and will win?”
“No,” I can’t help answering: “I’m pretty sure the DNC appointed itself for no honest reason that makes sense.”
From my perspective, we are living in a time in which something old is dying and something new is being born. What is being born is a more sophisticated understanding of our relationship to the one person, one vote algorithm on which democratic societies stand or fall. We are learning that this algorithm is technology, the sophistication of which must be continuously advanced against the corruptions of an ever-evolving world. We are also learning that the sense of self that informs each voter’s participation in the electoral process is most accurately defined not as a limited self in a quest to accumulate wealth and power, but as the larger self that identifies with the sustainable, balanced, healthy, and richly abundant well-being of the whole of society and, indeed, the planet. We are learning that when our political process technology is sophisticated enough to ensure the integrity of its application of the one person, one vote algorithm and when voters participate in the electoral process, each voting for the candidate whose policies, leadership, experience, character and record of sound judgment best serves the interests of that more accurate, larger sense of self identified with the well-being of the whole, then society flourishes and political parties not only become irrelevant, they are further understood to be an intolerable corruption of the electoral process, as our founding patriots said they would be.
The rudimentary political process technology these patriots gave us in the Constitution was conceived as subject to the people’s will and as an expression of the people’s will. Political parties never were either of these. There is no legitimate source for their authority. From Boss Tweed to Mayor Daley, political parties have always been the child of secret maneuvering—not the people’s choice by vote, but a tool for concentrating and controlling power no matter what the voters might think is best. Like the argument of my friend, political parties are at bottom an authoritarian pretension that some few of us know better and are thus entitled to rule over the rest.
In 2020, this is the DNC and this is what is dying. In 2020, the understanding being born is that our job as a society is to continuously advance the sophistication of our application of the one person, one vote algorithm so that it is kept absolutely pure. Anything that interferes with the pure application of this principle (like SuperPAC funding, gerrymandering, the electoral college, absence of a paper trail, a press co-opted by the oligarchy, slanted debate participation rules, and yes, political parties) is a corruption of it that is no longer tolerable to a society of competent engineers like ourselves.
When democracy was young, the American continent largely stretched unknown, a wilderness. In these early days, one group fought for human rights for its own sake even as it rushed to close the door on these same rights for others. As a people, we had, by and large, little to no commitment to our interrelationship as living beings beyond our own limited self-interest. We also thought our resources were inexhaustible. And, thus, we had a very incomplete access to understanding the true basis and import of our equality and were ill equipped to defend ourselves against political machinations that undermined our democratic principles.
Today, however, we face a future of global environmental crisis and there are no more new frontiers. At the same time, we have become a society of technological innovators capable of engineering our way out of any difficulty if only our designs and applications will respect the laws of ecology. In this new era we are learning to insist on a deliberative process unpolluted by concentrated wealth and toxic corruption through an insistent focus on the integrity of the application of the one person, one vote algorithm and on the voters’ understanding and consideration of only those criteria on which candidates for political office are properly evaluated under democratic principles.
As was true in the time of our founding patriots, this new movement is revolutionary and requires a revolutionary commitment that may need to endure over many years. Those who doubt that such commitment can be sustained do not understand the imperative arising out of our planetary emergency. Whenever one person might faulter in his or her commitment to the birth of a more sophisticated understanding of democracy, the growing global political, economic, and environmental imbalance will be teaching this commitment anew to ten thousand people more.
Four years ago, the conventional wisdom held that it was impossible for a candidate to refuse SuperPAC funding and become a contender, let alone a front runner in a presidential race. Today, because of Sanders leadership in the 2016 campaign, every serious candidate is forced to account for whether he or she will accept such funding in a way that assumes rejection of such funding is not only possible, but preferred by the voters. We see in the history of the Democratic Party over these same four years that the Party is fighting tooth and nail against this change, but that this struggle, all the same, is nothing more than a death rattle. In four more years, as hard as it may be to believe, the Democratic Party as we know it (like the SuperPACs to which it is addicted), may, and hopefully will, belong only to history books. In its place will rise a neutral public primary process administrator liable under federal law to uphold the integrity of the one person, one vote principle. But many in our society, like my friend preaching the establishment’s authority to subvert the peoples’ vote, still haven’t gotten the news. So, for all of them, here it is: The Party’s over. But what’s coming next will be so much better. Spread the word.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS