The counter attack being mounted by some Democrats on Donna Brazile, their former party chair, for her revelations about relations between the Clinton campaign and the party leadership are unbecoming. Brazile, a lifelong party loyalist, is right to call foul about the documents and secret agreements she found.
Party loyalty is one of the most important credentials any activist must offer the party, in good times and bad. It’s true that Brazile’s book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, and her defence of it has given new ammunition to the party’s enemies. Yes, it may raise divisions about the bitter nomination battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
But loyalty is based on trust, and that trust cannot be blind in the face of breathtakingly stupid and unethical behaviour by those charged with guarding the safety and integrity of the party.
The agreement that Brazile has revealed is unlike any I have ever seen in any real party democracy. It literally places the party — its finances, its staffing, its operations and its messaging — in the hands of a single candidate at the beginning of a presidential primary. The price: much needed cash. The Clinton campaign effectively rented the party apparatus, at a time when it was desperate financially.
Imagine if the Liberal Party of Canada, desperately broke when the contest that lead to the Trudeau leadership was launched, had made a similar pledge to his campaign? Imagine the agreement was kept secret, that its terms were kept hidden from other candidates and even from an incoming party chair. Would the Canadian political world not have gasped and seen the new party chair as a hero for her disclosure and angry denunciation of it?
There is no evidence the Democratic party “fixed” the primaries to reward Clinton, but there are disturbing smoke signals. Sanders’ team was furious at the timing and limitation on the number of debates. Political junkies will recall the GOP was clawing at each other almost weekly in 15 debates. The Democrats had six real debates over 18 months — roughly once a quarter. Brazile’s predecessor, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, a known Clinton loyalist who did little to conceal her preference, was publicly attacked by some party leaders for her refusal to schedule more.
Now, party establishments often have a favourite candidate. The GOP apparatus did its level best to frustrate Donald Trump. Strong candidates do try to ensure that the party is run by their closest allies. But this is different. The DNC traded its neutrality in return for a monthly stipend.