November 3, 2017
On November 2, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told PBS News Hour that “the process was rigged” during the 2016 Democratic Primaries. “Now it is up to Democrats to build a new process. A process that really works and works for everyone and that as we go forward we have confidence in the integrity of this system that Democrats as they run a primary are going to let the people speak and that we are going to have a candidate that is chosen by the people.”
Warren’s remarks are in response to former DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile’s recent revelation that the DNC secretly handed over its operations to the Clinton Campaign in August 2015. That agreement boosted Clinton’s candidacy during the primaries, as the DNC essentially laundered money for the Clinton Campaign, even rescinding a ban on lobbyists and PACs to do so, and served as its public relations apparatus. Through this agreement and the use of super delegates, Sanders’ campaign was delegitmized by the Democratic Party establishment while it worked on behalf of Hillary Clinton, signaling to its support base that she was the only acceptable candidate. These efforts disenfranchised millions of progressives from the Democratic Party, a practice that has continued into Trump’s presidency.
In Trump’s first year in office, the Democratic establishment and DNC under Tom Perez has continued to malign Bernie Sanders supporters and progressives as political enemies. Rather than develop a party that embraces Sanders and his supporters as a political asset required to recoup the party’s drastic losses across the country, the Democratic Party has engaged in efforts to push them out. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and several other Democrats have smeared progressives as the “tea party of the left.” Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and other Democrats have reduced progressive activism to “purity tests.”
In November 2016, Obama officials hand-picked Tom Perez to stop Keith Ellison from becoming DNC Chair, in a race where delegates were reportedly intimidated and threatened into supporting Perez. Once Perez became chair he loaded DNC staff positions and appointments with former Clinton staffers and lobbyists, while leaving out progressives. Several State Democratic Parties, most notably Florida and California, held party chair races this year that were won by establishment backed candidates under dubious circumstances that disenfranchised progressives working within the party.
Through mainstream media outlets, Democratic Party insiders have continued to push pejorative narratives against Sanders and his supporters. After the People’s Summit in June 2017, the New York Times referred to progressives as the “ascendant militant wing” of the Democratic Party. An October 2017 op-ed published in the New York Times against Medicare For All described Bernie Sanders as “the crusty Vermont independent.” In August 2016, Perez’s DNC CEO Jess O’Connell pushed a hit piece published by BuzzFeed on Our Revolution President Nina Turner. In 2017, Politico and the Hill have published at least two articles each that relied on anonymous sources to push smears against Bernie Sanders and his supporters. In September 2017, Politico reported that several Democrat insiders were still pushing the narrative that Bernie Sanders needs to control his supporters, refusing to accept any responsibility for divisions within the party.
The Democratic Party insiders’ constant attacks against Sanders and his supporters perpetuates distrust of the party, signals to independent voters that they are unwelcome, and demobilizes grassroots supporters and activists. Sanders is their most viable source for Democrats to generate enthusiasm and excitement among voters. Democrats need to tap into that source before the next big election year by making it an integral part of the party. Progressives need to be permitted to hold party leadership positions, and the Democratic Party’s operations need to be reformed to expand and promote democracy and transparency. It is up to the DNC and Democratic Party to take the necessary steps to welcome progressives into the party under terms that can start to rebuild the trust broken over the past few years.
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