Much has been made of the shabby disrepair the Republican Party has endured while in the early primary spotlight. A common cry is that they have no central leadership. They have a ship full of men and women who all want to take the wheel but none among them appear to have a clear map offering any sense of direction. Because of this, we endured one of the most crowded Republican fields in recent history. Many of whom know they have no chance at the presidency, but are there to sell books, make hard ties with donors that they can call on for subsequent Senate bids, or at best, a cabinet position in the Trump Administration. I say that half joking and half fearful. One of the unexpected outcomes of the crowded field is that it waters down the majority opinion among several also-rans, which leads to a run-off effect that only serves to bolster the numbers of a charismatic celebrity orator like Trump. But, that is democracy (or at least as close as we’re willing engender) and that’s the roll of the dice you take.
An inverse dilemma is taking root within the Democratic Party. Whereas there RNC is rife with infighting and confusion, the DNC, chaired by Debra Wasserman-Shultz, operates like a Swiss clock. An argument can be made that the candidates, and to a larger extent, the party itself is much more ‘on message’ as to how they envision America and the policies that need to be enacted to realize them. No small amount of savvy coordination is required to corral that many egos under one effective banner. To that end, Wasserman-Shultz has been wildly successful. Mind you, this is the party that was all but closeted during the Bush administration. Despite President Obama’s two terms, Republicans have continued to dominate on state and local levels, and have spent much of their time trying to undermine any and all measures the Democratic Party has made under the President’s administration. Many, including the vice-chair of the DNC, Tulsi Gabbard, whom Wasserman-Schultz barred from the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas after she questioned her motivations, are wondering if her machinations are designed for the good of the party or that of a particular candidate.
Wasserman-Shultz was an open supporter and fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 campaign. There are those that would connect the dots and assume Shultz would do well to maintain her chairwomanship by making the frontrunner and apparent nominee pleased. The former is speculation and I do not give stock to musings but considered in the light of her current decisions, it is a valid premise. Despite multiple and very public requests for more than six debates to be included by Clinton’s opponents, O’Malley and Sanders, as well as Gabbard and other within the Democratic machine, Wasserman-Shultz has the final say and she is not budging. Her critics say that this, coupled with the fact that the Democratic debates are airing on inconvenient weekends before holidays and during NFL playoffs opposed to the much more rigorous weekday primetime schedule that the Republicans have experienced, are all signs that she has been purposely hiding Clinton away. The speculation is that Clinton can walk her way into the White House as long as she is kept away from the public, as long as she says as little as possible, as long the American people do not get to know her. All of that, simply put, is bollocks when one looks at the facts.
To wit, Clinton has excelled in debates. Regardless of personal opinion, it can hardly be argued that there is anyone with more experience on either side. Hiding away a given strength does not serve sound strategy. As to the anemic amount of Democratic debates, a serious complaint can be leveled at Wasserman-Shultz for remaining inflexible over the schedule when the majority of the candidates that are running, as well as other ranking Democratic members, want more. Despite the bluster, let us not forget that this is a race and that all candidates are trying to win. In American politics voters have room for either the strong Authority figure that promises to keep them safe or the Underdog to which they can liken themselves. There is no place for anyone that falls between these two poles. In this binary deadlock it is clear that, while O’Malley may be the inconsequential pickle in the middle, Clinton is the strong arm while Sanders vies for the lead in the Rudy remake.
So it plays to the Sanders campaign to portray an unchecked DNC schlepping for Hillary while they continue to fight the good fight despite the unfair adversity. That would jive except for the fact that the Sanders campaign, along with the O’Malley camp, both agreed to the number and schedule of debates well in advance, rumors that it was a hard sell to get the Clinton campaign to agree to the meager six is another conversation. Sanders can grouse that the Clinton machine is pinning him to the wall but it is a wall he signed up for when he agreed to the number, dates, and locations of the debates. It serves him to continue the underdog narrative however, as no other candidate since George McGovern’s spectacular loss in 1972 has as effectively mobilized that role into tangible assets like Sanders has with his fundraising.
He attempted the same underdog defense when his camp was caught pilfering Clinton’s voter database. The company that runs the server for all of the candidates, NGP VAN, has had a recent history of being, well, a shitty product. It has crashed, dropped firewalls, and exposed sensitive information during this campaign cycle already. While the Sanders camp has reported the malfeasance to the DNC during prior hiccups, certain members of his camp used this latest fluke to steal a peek into Clinton’s files before they alerted the DNC. They admitted this. They confessed to wrong doing, to less-than-exemplary behavior. On his end, Sanders publically apologized to Clinton for the breach, admirably owning up to his mistakes. For his camp to then say that they were the victims in the situation, that the DNC and subsequently its chair, Shultz, have targeted Sanders unfairly is curious. They were the ones who broke trust in this regard, not Clinton. They were the ones who violated election policies, not Clinton. While Shultz’s initial penalization that barred his campaign indefinitely from accessing the DNC voter database could be considered steep, it was commiserate with the actions that led to the punishment. The penalty was overturned the next night after the Sanders campaign threatened to file suit against the DNC but the chinks in the armor can be seen.
I want Sanders to fight to the very end, championing causes that other politicians consider toxic. I sincerely hope his campaign does not get lost in the weeds while looking for their next bully, real or imagined, to reinforce their grassroots ethos. There is a fine line between an underdog and a natural born loser. Sanders would do well to tend him own garden in this regard. If he feels the deck is stacked against him, then direct combat with Clinton is a failed exercise. Carving out the moral high ground and establishing a platform that Clinton will have no hope of matching while she remains tied to Wall Street and larger-interest donors is much more effective, as well as cleaner.
Whether or not her candidacy would serve as little more than a place holder, I feel Clinton would be the nation’s safest choice for the 2016 general election. If she gets that far I would want it to be through the will of the people, through the apparatus of democratic elections. I have no interest in crowning a May Queen. Coronations, no matter how well arraigned by tacticians like Shultz, are no substitute for transparent elections as well as the campaigns that precede them.