Last Thursday, former interim Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile published an excerpt of her upcoming book in Politico magazine titled “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC.”
In the excerpt, she alleged that the DNC offered Clinton’s campaign substantial power over DNC operations in return for access to Clinton’s expansive network of donors.
According to Brazile, the DNC was left with $24 million of debt by profligacies on the part of the 2012 Obama campaign and the leadership of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Brazile found out about this debt only after Wasserman-Schultz stepped down and Brazile was nominated as the replacement.
In order to rectify the debt situation, the DNC leadership formed a Joint Fundraising Commission (JFC) with the Clinton campaign, the DNC and 33 state Democratic parties. The formation of a JFC is not in itself unusual — as Brazile herself pointed out in the excerpt, JFCs are commonplace in primary elections, and one was also offered to the Bernie Sanders campaign (though they declined to use it).
What is unusual — and what has stirred up profound anger among the progressive wing of the Democratic Party — is that the DNC offered the Clinton campaign power over vast swaths of the party’s activities (according to Brazile, this included the party’s “finances, strategy and all the money raised”).
While such control is often granted once a candidate is nominated, it isn’t supposed to happen pre-nomination.
But that wasn’t all. Two days later, The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker, having somehow obtained an early copy of the book from which the Politico article was excerpted, published a summary of many of the rest of the book’s conclusions.
The most startling one? Brazile evidently claims in the book that she “seriously considered” replacing Clinton with then-Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic presidential nominee after Clinton fainted at a 9-11 memorial speech last year.
Together, these two claims have sparked a re-flaring of tensions between the party’s establishment and progressive wings that previously manifested themselves in the conflict between Sanders and Clinton for the nomination.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Massachusetts Senator and prominent Sanders ally Elizabeth Warren called the situation “a real problem” and “a test for [current DNC chair] Tom Perez.” When asked if she thought the primary was rigged, she replied, “Yes.”
Sanders’ former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said in an interview with MSNBC that the “DNC should apologize” for their treatment of the Sanders campaign.
Writing for Salon, Executive Editor Andrew O’Hehir stated that the impression given by the DNC is that of an “organization so rudderless, demoralized and destitute it had stopped caring about its integrity.” He also called the DNC a “money-laundering front” and compared Clinton’s treatment of the party to Tony Soprano’s treatment of a bankrupt sports store in The Sopranos.
On the other side, MSNBC’s Joy Reid took to Twitter in an attempt to justify the DNC’s deal.
And not for nothing, but he wasn’t a member of the party (and still isn’t). Not a huge shock that the party both needed & favored Clinton.
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) November 2, 2017
Others argued that, while the Clinton campaign’s efforts were undoubtedly shady, the voting results indicate that she likely would have won either way.
“She bested Sanders by more than 3.7 million votes (55 percent to 43 percent) and was always well ahead of him among both superdelegates and the regular ones actually chosen by voters,” wrote Matthew Rosza in Salon.
Some were more forceful in their defenses of Clinton. Writing for the Huffington Post, contributor Peter Rosenstein stated that Brazile had “bought into the Bernie Sanders campaign story for profit,” arguing that she was releasing this now only to make money off book sales.
Many of these forceful defenses came from previous members of her campaign. Peter Daou, a former Clinton advisor from her 2008 campaign, stated on Twitter that the claims were “sexist,” “NOXIOUS AND FALSE” (sic) and argued that anyone who believed Brazile’s claims were “embarrassing their country.”
Most notably, what appears to be the entirety of Clinton’s 2016 campaign penned an open letter in response to Brazile’s claims.
The letter did not address the claims regarding the unusual nature of the JFC, but it called Brazile’s considerations of replacing Clinton “particularly troubling and puzzling,” as well as calling the concerns over Clinton’s health that precipitated those concerns “false Russian-fueled propaganda.”
This conflict between the establishment and progressive wings of the Democratic Party is not new — it is only the newest chapter in a storied partisan history that some trace back to 1896.
Whatever the outcome of this latest skirmish, it would be quite difficult to argue that such prolonged infighting will aid the Democrats in their attempts to regain political ground in 2018 and 2020. The intra-party conflict certainly does not inspire confidence among those hoping for Democratic victories against Trump over the next three years.