Donna Brazile, the former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, just released her latest book, “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.”
Well, it sure sounds definitive, as in: “Here’s the book to end all of this re-litigating of the 2016 debacle for Democrats at the national level.” But the reception hasn’t gone well and has left many Democrats scratching their heads.
It’s not just that Brazile’s perspective seems skewed; some conspiratorial actions she alludes to are easily taken down.
As just one example, take her supposed shock at discovering Hillary Clinton’s joint fundraising agreement with the DNC. She characterized this fundraising agreement representing a “cancer.”
It’s farcical to assert that the person leading the DNC doesn’t know that these joint fundraising agreements — designed to go into effect should the candidate become the nominee — are standard operating procedure. Sen. Bernie Sander’s campaign was offered one, too.
These agreements exist because both the party and the candidates have separate committees, and like any other joint effort between organizations, responsibilities and procedures are spelled out in detail. That means the agreements are reviewed by attorneys to make sure all parties are complying with all layers of state and federal campaign finance laws.
Sounds pretty sketchy, Donna.
No doubt, there are many legitimate things criticize about the way Clinton’s campaign was run — they were overly reliant on data polling and voter-modeling data, and not responsive enough to local and state party organizations and elected officials, who were sounding the alarm about their anemic ground games in key states.
So why is Brazile throwing out grave mischaracterizations that only serve to further weaken the party?
Some have postulated that she is simply trying to sell books; that Berniecrats, looking to have their “it was all rigged” anger validated, will buy it. But that seems short-sighted. Some might buy it, but many already believe Brazile is not credible because they see her as someone who was at least complicit in all of this “rigging,” including passing debate questions from CNN to Clinton’s campaign in advance of a primary debate.
Berniecrats might buy this book, but it’s hard to believe Brazile is somehow going to build a loyal following among them. And she certainly isn’t winning friends and building influence among Clinton’s supporters. Any airing of dirty laundry is likely to be seen as disloyalty. But when you take clean clothes and rub dirt on them to build outrage, that’s viewed as treachery.
If the goal is truly to expose the problems in the Democratic Party — in order to acknowledge and overcome our shortcomings — then fabrications accomplish nothing and actually detract from the real problems.
Some things are better kept in a journal for later reflection after some perspective is gained. Losing a campaign is hard, and writing about it can feel cathartic. Both wins and losses can be difficult to analyze. Usually many factors are involved.
Brazile is entitled to her say. But if she really wants to help, why not focus on the structural problems that make it impossible for any candidate to win without raising money from special interests or tackle gerrymandering (cutting district lines to reinforce the power of people in office)?
Campaign finance and redistricting aren’t sexy issues. It will take a significant movement to fix these problems. But there are plenty of creative people out there who can help others understand why these issues matter and build more popular support for changes that will have the most impact in reducing the influence of special interests and making our system more fair.
Until we fix these problems, we are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It would certainly be more productive than creating more rifts in the party based on red herrings.
Maureen Erwin is a Bay Area political consultant. Most recently she led Sonoma County’s Measure M, which will create the largest GMO-free growing zone in the U.S.