It took some time of muzzling and concealment before the horror, but various Democrats have finally come clean about the Hillary Clinton machine: things were, it seems, rigged, stacked, and doctored. This was the language of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump from opposite sides of the political spectrum, the code of anti-establishment anger, the message for disruptive change.
Such anti-establishment creatures were ultimately reviled by orthodox party priests as futile hopes, misguided and bound to lose. In the great tradition of US presidential politics, they had to be neutralised.
As each less credible than the last figure fell before the Trump juggernaut, Clinton felt she could hold her own on the Democratic wing, keeping Sanders at bay and ultimately convincing a broken Democratic party machine that her famed outfit would steady the ship for an effortless docking in the White House.
Donna Brazile’s revelations, to that end, can hardly be deemed “explosive,” as Politico puts it. (Damp squib, more like.) The Podesta emails available on the WikiLeaks site already showed a picture of concern and application against the Sanders threat, a nursed fear that his message was biting. Tactics are discussed, dirt suggested as to how best to stall and eliminate the Bernie momentum.
In her book Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman reveals collusion and bad smell complicity. She insists, however, that there was nothing “criminal” in it, though it “compromised the party’s integrity”. “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.”
Brazile is, as ever, careful with the water: she is always ready to wash her hands vigorously in the anticipation that she might be accused of bad faith and shape changing. She claims to have “promised Bernie when I took the helm of the Democratic National Committee after the convention that I would get to the bottom of whether Hillary Clinton’s team had rigged the nomination process, as a cache of emails stolen by Russian hackers and posted online had suggested.”
The more Brazile goes into the story, the more the story seems old and known. What matters is that she has woken up to it, to Clinton as ruthless and omnivorous. “Right around the time of the convention, the leaked emails revealed Hillary’s campaign was grabbing money from the state parties for its own purposes, leaving the states with very little to support down-ballot races.”
Brazile’s revelations stimulated interest among certain Democratic politicians, notably Elizabeth Warren who decided to recapitulate the rigging theme in three of five national television interviews. “We recognize the process was rigged,” explained Warren to Judy Woodruff of PBS, “and now it is up to Democrats to build a new process, a process that really works, and works for everyone.”
Unfortunately for Warren, much of this is fuming after the horse has bolted, the wringing of hands at milk long spilt. She might well have picked another option, glaringly obvious and daring, but decided to fall into line with the DNC machinery when her protest would have counted most. Warren ultimately joined forces to give Clinton ballast on the campaign trail. The ignorance card is only bound to take you so far.
A former Sanders campaign strategist sees the play by Warren for what it is. “There is a Bernie donor base that’s very important if you want to be in national political office. This is a play for that.” To that end, “Repairing that relationship is more important than poisoning the well with the Clintonites.”
That may well do much to continue undermining the reform agenda, which the Democrats have yet to embrace. While Clinton attempts to monetise her abysmal failure to defeat Trump through speeches, publications and interviews, Brazile is now reconsidering her slant.
Did she ever actually say, let alone suggest, that the process had been tampered with, sewn up and manipulated in favour of Clinton? No. On Twitter, she fretted: “Today’s lesson: Being quoted by Donald Trump means being MIS-quoted by Donald Trump. Stop trolling me.”
In another statement, Brazile seemed to have undergone a remarkable transformation, suggesting that the author of Hacks had been abducted and substituted. The problem, as ever, was who was capitalising on her sudden insight. “Trump looks for a daily excuse to distract from his job. No, the primary system wasn’t rigged! States control primary ballots.”
Perhaps this is hardly surprising, when one considers the Russian mania that suffuses her Twitter postings, the usual bellyaching blame game that keeps company with Clinton. “Russia,” she writes in a re-Tweet of a link from The Guardian, “funded Facebook and Twitter investments through Kushner associate.” On November 4, she chirps in smug satisfaction how, “Report shows the complex way Russian hackers went after Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.”
Another re-Tweet features a piece by Joy-Anne Reid in The Daily Beast as another attempt to throw critics off the scent, hoping that attention will not be paid to the atrocious conduct of the Clinton machine: “Donna Brazile’s Bombshell Isn’t that Hillary Clinton rigged the race, but that the Democratic Party Blew it.”
All that is true, but the ugly, grizzled picture of Democratic decline and fabled suicide was epitomised by its poor choice of candidate, the party establishment’s inadvertent admission that ossification had set in. The Warrens fell silent, and Sanders retreated, leaving his supporters to grieve and observe the unfolding calamity. Trump duly scooped up the remains. WikiLeaks was, after the dust had settled, discomfortingly right.