Chapter 10: Admissions of rigging.
It’s a good thing we have internet. It’s one reason, perhaps the main reason, that Bernie Sanders’ grassroots campaign got off the ground. Sanders eventually broke the record for number of small donations in a presidential primary.
One reason Sanders won the youth vote so overwhelmingly is probably related to the internet. Millennials and younger have grown up using technology and the internet, and were most familiar with it in the 2016 election. The internet is where they get so much of their news, hear new perspectives, and even where they can review video, audio, and written archives of the words and deeds of public officials.
Millennial voters, more than anyone else, would find videos on the internet of Bernie Sanders saying the same basic message over the course of twenty, thirty, or forty years. Maybe his entire life. It was always a message of justice. And he not only “said” these things. His actions would back it up, with regular appearance at protests, strikes, town halls, and working with independent political groups and parties.
Then, he became a part of the system, and yet, for the most part, remained an outsider within that system. He would warn the rest of the increasingly corrupt political establishment that we are “on our way to oligarchy,” and maintain that we “cannot balance the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class of this country.” And so on, for several decades.
Hillary Clinton’s story is a somewhat different one, and it is a different story that, eventually, I intend to tell. But here’s the point I am trying to make. We see you.
If you are a politician, or some kind of public official, or well-known figure, you are under scrutiny. And the internet does not forget. (And if it is taken away, the outcome would be even worse for those who take it.)
In this way, it must be difficult to be powerful and popular in this day and age. It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is difficult to retain privacy. It is more difficult to hide mistakes, and errors, which in some way, everyone makes.
But the good edge of the sword is that powerful figures should be, and now can be, more heavily scrutinized and held to account.
The political and media establishment will try to hide as much as possible, for as long as possible. But it’s not working anymore. If you say something on the record, it will come back. Best to develop some honesty and integrity, like Bernie Sanders.
For many months after the 2016 primaries, it was a contentious debate about whether the primary was “rigged.” A large group of Sanders supporters would insist that it was, even if the evidence was fragmented — with the case not fully made, and no real “smoking gun.”
Others insisted that the primary election was not “rigged.” If it were, after all, that would threaten the very core of our “democracy,” or at least whatever is left of our political democracy. It is important to some to maintain this idea that our elections are secure, that the election process as a whole is “fair,” that the media is honest and accurate, that the parties are neutral and operating in our best interest. It is important to maintain this for reasons of personal comfort, and also, for powerful people who want to maintain their power.
And yet, every once in a while, a crack would open in the dam. The crack would quickly be painted over. But we saw it, and it revealed something important.
DNC Fraud Lawsuit
In the wake of the 2016 primary, a lawsuit was filed against the DNC. The claim made was that the DNC violated its “impartiality clause,” which tipped the scales in the direction of Hillary Clinton — while simultaneously reassuring the public that the primary process was fair, open, and transparent. This is important, because if it were not actually true that the process was “impartial,” it could be declared as theft from Sanders volunteers and supporters, who donated so much time and money under the impression that the DNC was being impartial. A legal victory could even, potentially, invalidate the primary election results.
The suit concluded with the judge agreeing that the DNC did favor Hillary Clinton, but it was not possible to prosecute the DNC, since “impartiality” was undefined and not for the court to decide.
That was indeed the defense of the DNC lawyers: the impartiality clause is essentially meaningless and could be voided if they wished. As the DNC lawyers would claim, the DNC is a “private association” that, if they wanted, could nominate whichever candidate they wanted in “smoke-filled back rooms.” The lawyers also claimed that they did “not actually” do this, just that technically, they could.
A transcript of the lawsuit can be found here.
The conclusion is that the DNC does not actually have to be impartial in their primary process. But while the impartiality clause remains in their charter, they do have to claim impartiality.
Party officials admit it
Tom Perez, current DNC chair, denied during the race for DNC chair that the primary was “rigged.” But then, one day, he admitted the opposite:
After admitting it, however, he immediately walked it back. Perez would continue in the future to deny the assertion when asked, or actually preferring to dodge the question as much as possible.
Elizabeth Warren, like Perez, once took the position that the primary was not “rigged.” And then, one day, she said plainly that it was.
Quickly thereafter, like Perez, Warren walked back her statement, saying that it was not actually “rigged.”
Keith Ellison, Congressman and once-candidate for DNC Chair, also previously took the position that the primary was not “rigged.” Later, however, in November 2017, Ellison seemed to publicly change his mind. In a statement, Ellison declared “We must heed the call for our party to enact real reforms that ensure a fair, open, and impartial nominating process in elections to come.”
Warren’s and Ellison’s admissions came in the wake of a revelation by Donna Brazile, who became interim DNC chair during the 2016 campaign after Debbie Schultz was forced to step down. For reasons that remain somewhat unclear (although surely related to clearing up her public image, and boosting upcoming book sales), Brazile revealed to the public that the DNC and Clinton campaign colluded by signing a special “contract” in September 2015. Within this contract was a clear deal that Clinton resources would be used to bail out the DNC, which was in financial trouble — and in return, the Clinton campaign would essentially make the major decisions on how the DNC were to operate during the primaries. (Recall Chapter 6 of this report: DNC fundraising, spending, and strategy.)
Brazile, like the others, seemed bold in her initial admission that the primary was “rigged.” And then she even went a step further, calling the Clinton campaign a “cult.” And yet, even Brazile, with her repeated, scathing statements (at least for a little while), and her initial, clear admission of DNC “rigging,” would eventually water down her own assertions or walk them back completely.
Like the others, Brazile seems to rely on the public being unable to think for themselves, or maybe, that we’re just very forgetful. And she is sort of right — but a larger part of the public is starting to pay attention and think for themselves. We won’t forget so much, anymore. It’s all there, on the internet, for us to see and hear.
Why say one thing, then another?
That’s politics; that’s the media. It’s not what politics and media have to be — but it’s certainly what politics and media have become. In fact, the entire neoliberal era has been based strongly in this political principle: Assure the public of one thing, then, in private, take a different position (to whatever degree), but quietly advance the interests of the people who you are really working for.
The problem is a combination of individual flaws and systemic corruption. Sanders is an anomaly. His boldness and courage — to speak truth to power, to do the right thing in the face of negative consequences — there’s a reason why he has gained such respect, and produced so much hope as an outlier.
But the problem is more the system than any individual. Not everyone can be a Bernie Sanders, and not everyone should have to be. Warren, Perez, Brazile, and others, are still operating in the old political model, accepted and pioneered by Hillary Clinton herself: that political calculations must be made, and the truth largely covered up, for the sake of “advancing” party politics. Then, in quiet, the ones who are most served are the wealthy individuals, the corporate donors, the powerful elite.
Regarding the primary process, the point is that even some of these Democratic Party officials have slipped up and admitted the truth. Some of them are not even Sanders allies. They have, for one reason or another — whether calculated or by accident — admitted what so many of us have long suspected. The DNC was not “impartial,” like it claimed. The primary election was neither fair nor democratic.
What we are witnessing now is damage control. Individual politicians, public officials, and the Democratic Party are trying to “save face” — while sacrificing as little as possible in the process. They will frequently only tell the minimum amount of truth that is necessary.
Unlike Donald Trump, who will readily lie about anything and everything, those in the Democratic Party take a slightly higher standard. They will only lie about lots of things, rather than all things. The will lie only if and when they believe they can actually get away with it.
Even then, they’re often wrong. They’re not getting away with it nearly so much anymore. They underestimate the public. They will face more and more resistance. They will lose office, and the powerful will lose their throne.
A new system is taking shape. And the political revolution can only be delayed, not stopped.