Aftermath: Party in crisis
The 2016 Democratic presidential primary election was neither fair nor democratic. This we know. It proceeded, though, under the notion that it was fair and democratic. It was supposed to be impartial, but it wasn’t. Bernie Sanders’ campaign paid the price, and so did the rest of us.
It was death by a thousand cuts. Some of those cuts were bigger than others. The debate schedule, the voting schedule, the complex registration rules, the closing of polls, the purging of voter rolls, the invalidation of ballots, the DNC money laundering, the VAN suspension, the deregulated ban on federal lobbyists, the collusion with media, the superdelegates, and even a potential direct manipulation of votes — it all added up. Finally, the admissions of rigging — by Democratic officials themselves — makes the case clear. The question is not “if” the primary was rigged. The question, rather, will always be “by how much.” This report made clear that it was not just a little bit.
It was a trick on the progressive wing of the party, and in a way, the entire country. It was a farce on democracy itself.
The Democratic Party has failed and is in a downward spiral. Some believe it is already dead and cannot recover. The only way it could recover, if it were still possible, is to do what Sanders has been suggesting for many years, and his supporters now as well: The party must change on a fundamental level. At its very core.
The primary elections, ensured by the DNC and rules committee, must be made fair, democratic, and secure. Difficult work must be done to fight for a shift to public financing of elections. And in the meantime, the financial structure of the party, which relies on big donors and corporate interests, must be fundamentally changed to rely on small donors. That is the only way to make it accountable to “the people.”
The Democratic Party must “open its doors to young people, working people, disenfranchised voters,” and Americans of all creed and color, as Bernie Sanders has repeated over and over again. The Democratic Party must pursue a “50 state strategy,” rather than abandoning certain states and swaths of voters.
No clear will to change
There is little evidence that the Democratic Party is willing to do this. High level officials in the party, the structure of the party, and the powerful vested interests behind the party are doing what they can to keep things the same. After many decades of major legislative loss, and after losing the White House to the most unfavorable candidate in U.S. political history, the Democratic Party and DNC have mostly doubled-down on their failed approach.
When Keith Ellison, an “anti-establishment” candidate — but clearly not so anti-establishment as Bernie Sanders — announced his run for DNC chair, Barack Obama quickly urged Tom Perez to challenge Ellison. Tom Perez was noted by progressives as more of the same.
The progressives who supported Ellison turned out to be right. Under Tom Perez, the DNC will not reinstate its ban on corporate lobbying. Tom Perez then purged the DNC of progressives who were too comfortable with Sanders, Ellison, and their “anti-establishment” rhetoric and agenda.
The DNC and Democratic Party as a whole remain attached to superdelegates. At best, the discussion seems to be in “curtailing” the amount of superdelegates, rather than ridding the party of them altogether.
It would appear the goal is to squash any significant challenge to the status quo of the party. It must stay the same: losing is not so bad, and when we lose, we can always blame the “left wing” of the party, who “refuse” to unite with corporate-driven politics.
A “DNC Unity Commission” has been established to investigate what went wrong in the party, and how to fix it. It remains to be seen how this will work out, but it is not looking good. Early next month, in December 2017, the findings of this unity commission will be revealed, and any solutions implemented.
The DNC rules committee retains a similar composition to the same “establishment” officials who were loyal to Hillary Clinton in 2016; one might even suspect they’re preparing to “rig” the primary again, in 2020. Donna Brazile was appointed to the rules committee, and despite her belated admission of “rigging” — and then a walking back of that admission — Donna herself was a part of the “rigging” process in 2016.
Is the DNC going to change? Is the Democratic Party past the point of no return? Progressives have organized to change the party from within, and in the short-term, this is a commendable effort. Ultimately, though, it may prove futile. It seems that we will find out soon: within a few years, or less.
We know this: The DNC and Democratic Party have a long way to go if it is to become a “party of the people.” And that is the only way it will survive. The DNC and the Democrats are not showing much sign of remorse. They are not showing much will to change: in direction, in strategy, in structure.
They are not doing very well at “resisting” Donald Trump and the Republicans, nor are they standing up to the big money interests who have corrupted the political process. They are sucking up to the same big donors as before.
The national Democratic Party may be more content losing to Trump, again in 2020, than winning with a progressive like Bernie Sanders. It certainly seems that was the case in 2016 — the evidence was always strong that Bernie Sanders would have beaten Donald Trump in a general election, and yet the party still pushed hard, at every step of the way, to nominate Hillary Clinton. It seems little has changed since then.
The Democrats will continue to lose down-ballot races, too, and one reason is their unwillingness to support progressive candidates in their races around the country. It was the progressive grassroots, not the DNC or establishment wing of the party, who have powered recent electoral wins against Republicans.
There’s more stark evidence of the sinking Democratic ship. DNC fundraising is at a low, and they are nearly broke. With $5 million currently in the bank — and $3.2 million in debt — their fundraising efforts have shown little success. The enthusiastic part of the base is not going to send them small donations, like they did to Bernie Sanders, until they see a major change. And it will only happen if and when there is a major change.
The RNC, meanwhile, is in power across the country, at every level. They have $42.5 million in the bank, compared to the DNC’s $5 million. They have no debt.
Even with all this, the Democratic Party is reluctant to change.
Progressives will attempt to change the party from the inside, and that would be sorely needed. But it may be too difficult, and too late. More Americans are registered as Independent than as Republican or Democrat, and 61 percent of Americans think a “third major party is needed” — because “the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job.”
A new party could very well replace the Democrats, and become strong enough — where the Democrats have failed — to challenge an extremely right-wing Republican Party. In United States history, one party has supplanted another before. It could happen again.
In fact, I would bet on it.
November 22, 2017