Donna Brazile’s Boost for a Democratic Party Overhaul
As Donna Brazile outs the Clinton campaign and DNC for rigging the 2016 primary, a group of progressive Democrats detail how their party eroded and how it can be revitalized
AARON MATÉ: It’s the Real News. I’m Aaron Maté. I’m here at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. where a group of progressive Democrats have gathered to release an autopsy report on what went wrong with the Democratic Party in 2016, and one of the many problems that they identify is a widespread sense that party elites are biased, and have violated the basic precepts of fairness during the primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Now, just as they’ve been making this report public today, Donna Brazile, the former interim chair of the DNC, has come out with an explosive article in Politico, basically saying the exact same thing. Brazile says that the party rigged the primary, and was corrupt with its finances in favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.
Here with me to discuss this explosive report from Donna Brazile is Norman Solomon. He is founder of the group RootsAction.org, and is one of the co-authors of this report, this Democratic Party “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.” Welcome, Norman.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Thanks, Aaron.
AARON MATÉ: Your reaction to what Donna Brazile has just told us today?
NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, when it rains, there are often clouds in the sky, and when the DNC functions, it’s in favor of elites. Anybody who is surprised by the basic information in Donna Brazile’s article, I think, should not have been, but there is a surprise that she would publicly acknowledge what actually happened was very big thumbs on the scale by the DNC for Hillary Clinton in the primary and caucus season of the 2016 race.
AARON MATÉ: In terms of what’s in the article, she reports this fundraising scheme where basically, first of all, about a few months after Hillary Clinton announced her nomination in 2015, she essentially took control of the – her campaign operation essentially took control of the party’s finances, because the party needed the Clinton campaign money, because they were so in debt after years of neglect under Obama. What does that say, though, that the candidate who’s not even the nominee yet is now effectively controlling the party’s finances?
NORMAN SOLOMON: The affinity with Wall Street, just as a through line where the Clinton career as a senator, and of course, Bill Clinton as president, has always been threaded through the power elites and Wall Street big bank money. And so, when Hillary Clinton geared up to run for president again in 2015, it was for her a natural to pull all the levers of money power she could. So, this is one of the ways that she was able to pull it off.
I think that we see here in very sharp focus a dynamic where, at the time … Napoleon said, “It’s not necessary to censor the news. It’s efficient to delay it until it no longer matters.” Well, it matters to know the history, but when it mattered by far the most was when it was taking place, and during 2016, during the primary race, when Bernie and his supporters were pointing out the telltale signs of bias, including financial bias, of the DNC in terms of how it adjudicated and supposedly in an even-handed way ran the primary season for the Democratic Party.
I should say that when we put together this autopsy report that you mentioned, which was released this week, subtitled “The Democratic Party In Crisis,” the person who took on our second called “Democracy and the Party,” Pia Gallegos, is a civil rights attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and she went through the real details of the ways in which the DNC violated its own charter in running the primary season in 2016.
Pia also documents in this autopsy report, which I should say is on the web at DemocraticAutopsy.org, how the money flow happened and was manipulated. There was this very intricate kind of Rube Goldberg scheme that we point out in that section of the Autopsy, where money was flowing from the DNC from big donors, five figures, or a couple into six figures, a married couple could send in, or any couple.
Because of these rules that have been allowed because of Citizens United and subsequent Supreme Court ruling, rules decried by the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party was able to raise gobs and gobs of large amounts of money. Hillary Clinton did that, the DNC got the money. The DNC raised money, it sent money extensively to the states, but it just rebounded back. It was a scam, it was a scheme, and Bernie Sanders’ campaign was sort of left awash in the wake of this huge motorboat that was [inaudible 00:05:24] along with money.
I think part of the lesson is, at the time, when the denials take place, it is so routine for elites, the big money interests, to lie, and that is absolutely what happened. When you look at what Donna Brazile has written that has just come out, it’s stunning because she could have blown this whistle a long time ago, to set the record straight. She waited until her book was about to come out. This was obviously promo for the book.
And there’s one other thing, Aaron, I think we should be sure and mention, and that is that Donna Brazile, while in this article, she’s the innocent, she’s the person with the lantern who is shocked, shocked, shocked to discover that something untoward has gone on when she was sent in as interim chair of the DNC in the middle of last year, but Donna Brazile ultimately admitted that she cheated for Hillary Clinton by giving questions that were planned for a CNN debate to the Hillary Clinton campaign prior to her debate with Bernie Sanders.
This was while Donna Brazile was working for CNN. When that came out, because Wikileaks released the documents, she refused to acknowledge it. She didn’t admit it. She denied it. CNN fired here, essentially. Gradually, she eventually, sort of admitted, and then admitted it, but never apologized. She said she was willing to do it, and she had no compunctions, didn’t feel bad about it.
You’ve got to ask yourself, if she now is willing to, in a sense, historically throw Hillary Clinton under the bus based on facts, why is Donna Brazile so unrepentant for her own role in cheating on behalf of Hillary Clinton during the primary season?
AARON MATÉ: Well, on the point about finances, I think her contention here is that this is something she discovered after the fact, and she details the investigation that she tried to pursue herself, which lead her to these conclusions. On the issue of Bernie and the debate, that’s a very good question.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Aaron, I would like to just jump in and say, she recounts in the article that she, with great sorrow, called Bernie Sanders to inform him, and she informed him more than a year ago. So, she took quite a while to inform the public. I think underneath this all, though, is the personalities, in terms of the history of our country and what’s at stake, they don’t really matter. And I think that’s true of so many people. Ultimately, we don’t care very much about one individual. This is about a political system that’s been corrupted.
AARON MATÉ: And speaking of individuals, what does it say to you that Donna Brazile is now willing to come out so publicly and throw two party stalwarts, not just Hillary Clinton, but also former party chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, under the bus? She had some harsh criticisms for Wasserman-Schultz in this piece.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, everybody is ultimately expendable in the power game, and I mean everybody. If somebody has power, if Hillary Clinton were president right now, let me say that I think this article would have read very differently. People like to jump on the coattails when somebody’s in a powerful position. When they’re down and out, then it’s fair game.
I think, ultimately, we need to ask the question of how to democratize the Democratic Party. If democratic is your first name, why are you functioning, as a party, in an undemocratic way? And one of the aspects in the autopsy report just released that talks about democracy in the party, goes into the fact that Donna Brazile herself was brought back into positions of responsibility in the party, and in fact, right as the Autopsy was finalized in Las Vegas at a big national meeting of the Democratic Party, she was elevated.
I know as somebody, like millions of people who are on the Democratic Party email list, we’re getting emails from Donna Brazile. We’ve gotten many emails from her for fundraising purposes all year, including a few days ago. So, you have to ask yourself, even if you set aside her current admission, or you take on face value that she was a total innocent, that she didn’t realize the corruption and the swamp and the sewer that she was being recruited back into at the DNC, if you give her all the benefit of the doubt, from a structural DNC power standpoint, when somebody was forced to ultimately acknowledge that she cheated on behalf of one presidential candidate in the party primaries against another, that is such an indication of a lack of ethics.
Why is she still one of the main names that has been used month after month this year to try to raise money? Is it any wonder that with that kind of attitude, the DNC is doing terrible in fundraising? It’s quite a contrast to individual Democratic candidates, who are going like gangbusters raising money. But when it comes to the Democratic National Committee, they’re in terrible shape financially, by all accounts and their own admission.
I’d sort of sum up and say, we have a huge problem at the national level with the Democratic Party, and our autopsy report is not just an end in itself. We’re going to organize like hell through RootsAction.org. We just heard and announced today that the Democratic group, Progressive Democrats of America, has endorsed the Autopsy, they’re going to run with it. We expect that every Democrat in the House and Senate this month will be hearing from dozens and dozens of constituents to insist that they read the report and give an accounting of where they’re at on it, because frankly, unless the party changes, the right wing Republicans will continue to gain ground.
AARON MATÉ: With Donna Brazile coming out today and essentially cosigning, endorsing, confirming many of Bernie Sanders supporters’ worst fears about the Democratic Party elite, do you think that’s going to galvanize even more momentum towards reforming the party?
NORMAN SOLOMON: I think we’re going to see the Democratic National Committee establishment on the defensive more and more, and actually, the chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, who coauthored our Autopsy, and I will be meeting with a high official of the Democratic National Committee this afternoon as we speak, November 2nd, and we’re going to press our recommendations and insist that if the DNC doesn’t take seriously this grassroots outrage at the way the DNC is functioning, both in terms of its improprieties, its undemocratic processes, and its terrible strategic decisions to defeat Republicans, there’s going to be a larger and larger groundswell of outrage directed at the Democratic Party and the DNC.
And one would hope, if not expect, that the power structure of the Democratic National Committee will take seriously the fact that if it further erodes its own base, then it’s going to erode the prospects for defeating Republicans next year.
AARON MATÉ: Norman Solomon, the co-founder of RootsAction.org, one of the co-authors of this report, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis,” available at DemocraticAutopsy.org. Norman, thank you.
NORMAN SOLOMON: Thanks, Aaron.
AARON MATÉ: And thank you for joining us on the Real News.