The old fable about the scorpion and the frog is about broken trust. Frog, in spite of its misgivings, agrees to gives Scorpion a piggy-back ride across the water. Midway, Scorpion stings Frog. As it draws its last breath, Frog asks Scorpion why? Scorpion answers: “I just couldn’t help myself.”
This is the spirit of what has shaped up to be a most contentious fight for the hearts and minds of Democratic-leaning voters. It is also emblematic of a party that, like Scorpion in the fable and in the face of a year and a half of consistent data on the will of its voters and a devastating shellacking before that, in 2014, still won’t help itself and allow itself for genuine fundamental reforms.
Political sentiment on the left has undergone very stark changes since 2008. While a large number of voters continue to reject Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for much the same reasons as before, the last eight years of economic destitution resulting from the GOP-induced austerity via congressional obstruction of the Obama administration have deepened voters’ resolve to force change. Hope and change were replaced with the dogged insistence of at least 40% of Democratic voters to effect reforms in their party or leave, failing success. Signs that something is afoot were evident already in 2012. In 2014, that something should have brought about changes in leadership of the DNC. It didn’t, and it shows.
Polling over the last eighteen months has shown over and over again that signs of trouble for the Democrats were not abating. A new round of polls confirms this, as reported by The Hill:
“Surveys over the last six weeks have found a steady but noticeable jump in support for third-party candidates. The biggest beneficiary has been Libertarian Gary Johnson, who has shot up from 4.5 percent to 7.2 percent in RealClearPolitics polling averages. Green Party candidate Jill Stein has also seen an uptick since June — from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent.
The surge in support for a third-party candidate is adding a new element of unpredictability into the presidential race. Should voters opt for a third-party candidate in large numbers, it could potentially tip the scales in crucial battleground states.
Pollsters and political scientists say the deep malcontent with Clinton and Trump should give both candidates pause.
“The fact that we have two major party candidates who are enormously disliked by the electorate, enormously and equally disliked, creates the opportunity for the minor party candidates to do better than they would in other presidential elections,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.”
Previous polls that asked voters specific questions revealed an awareness on the parts of both Trump and Clinton voters that their candidates have no intentions to fulfill campaign promises.
On the left, there is unanimous agreement about the dangers presented by the candidacy of Donald J. Trump and a general disgust for it. That disgust with Trump, for just shy of half of those voters, hasn’t seemed to make a difference in their unwillingness to fall behind the Democratic nominee. Hence, this new poll showing a trend toward third parties. July 31st was #DemExit day on social media, with the hashtag trending in all major outlets.
Further confirmation of these trends comes from yet another a brand new poll, released by the Roosevelt Institute and its chief economist Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, who ran its analysis. This poll further clarifies the divisions observed within the Democratic party and confirms that the internal chasm runs along class lines and across race and the generations. The Huffington Post’s Daniel Marans reports:
“As part of a survey of 900 voters, Democracy Corps tested two different variations of the “stronger together” message of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
One version, which the pollsters called “build on the progress,” celebrates the economic gains of the Obama presidency. It proposes policies like infrastructure investment and paid family leave to lock in those gains and ensure they are better distributed.
Another version, which Democracy Corps called “rewrite the rules,” portrays an economy that is fundamentally broken and a rigged political system that prevents ordinary American voters from making changes that would improve their lives. Unlike “build on the progress,” it insists that ending the “stranglehold of big money on our politics” is effectively a prerequisite for achieving other progressive priorities.
While “rewrite the rules” does not identify itself as the Sanders campaign message, it closely mirrors the Democratic presidential candidate’s primary-season pitch to disenchanted voters.”
Needless to say, the message that closely mirrors Bernie Sanders’ message is the one that most voters choose:
“Unsurprisingly, millennials, people of color and unmarried women ― all key Democratic constituencies ― strongly preferred both “stronger together” messages over the Trump-like “nationalist economic” one.”
While, on the surface, Hillary Clinton seemed to move closer to the Sanders platform in her DNC acceptance speech, upon close examination, she fell far short of the expected unequivocal embrace of those issues that most matter to progressive voters; the very same issues Senator included in his own speech, at the same venue just two days before:
Hillary Clinton mentioned trade briefly and only once in her speech, and not in the context of her stance on the TPP or her appointees to the DNC platform committee and their refusal to endorse language against the trade deal:
“If you believe that we should say “no” to unfair trade deals… that we should stand up to China… that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers…join us.”
Considering the importance placed by progressives on this one issue, this line in her speech isn’t much of a come-on, especially as the opposition to the TPP was most vocal in the audience in front of her – to the point where DNC organizing committee officials went through extraordinary measures in order to silence the Sanders side of the auditorium for her speech.
Why so much mistrust?
Well, the convention began on the heels of a much publicized WikiLeaks email dump on the preceding Friday. The thousands of emails released provided proof of what Sanders supporters had been claiming all throughout the primary: the DNC was working against the Sanders campaign, and using very dirty tactics.
In the days since the DNC convention, the narrative in the media and among liberals has been focused on the provenance of the emails – not the content – to the point where Russia and GOP candidate Trump’s allegiance eclipse any discourse over what was done to Senator Sanders and how the aftermath of these revelations is being handled by the new overseers of the DNC. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange gave an interview to DemocracyNow:
You can watch the entire Democracy Now interview here.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned from the DNC following the WikiLeaks revelations. But we’ve not heard of any other resignations, for example, by the two DNC staffers who were directly implicated in actions that clearly demonstrated interference with the Sanders campaign.
Bringing in new management, with long-time Democrat Donna Brazile as its temporary head, was only a temporary welcome sign of relief. Brazile, herself, was implicated in the WikiLeaks dump with her own nasty email. But she had the grace to apologize, whereas an unrepentant Wasserman Schulz, since getting a new job with the Clinton campaign, now says she “took one for the team.” As the week wore on and most of the mainstream media was painting a portrait of harmonious proceedings, the sounds and sights in the broadcast revealed a different narrative and some disturbing measures were observed not only by Sanders delegates, but also members of the media:
The Dem establishment is more corporate, more authoritarian, more war-hungry than ever. I saw no unity, only manufactured consent at the DNC
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) July 31, 2016
On the third day of the convention, Senate Leader, Harry Reid, gave an interview:
Harry Reid On Bernie And The DNC: ‘Everybody Knew That This Was Not A Fair Deal’
Debbie Wasserman Schultz should’ve stepped down sooner, Reid said.
Reid’s statement did nothing to reassure readers. Why did he wait until now to say something, if he knew?
Breaking! Exclusive. Arkansas Delegate holds up anti-TPP sign and his delegate pass is revoked. pic.twitter.com/UI3EKMg7rC
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) July 28, 2016
— David Shuster (@DavidShuster) July 28, 2016
Then, on Wednesday, the day President Obama was due to speak at the DNC convention, another portion of the WikiLeaks dump was made available. This time, internal DNC voicemails were released, not exposing more about the internal machinations at the DNC, but lifting the cover on how the fundraising sausage is made.
On Friday, while some dissent could be heard during Clinton’s speech, there is a lot that the media didn’t show. Democracy Now reports:
Then, on Thursday, came the news that Sanders surrogate, former state Senator Nina Turner had been treated badly at the DNC and was barred from speaking at the convention. Why? It seems that her refusal to give Hillary Clinton a public endorsement was the real issue. That is not a good look for the DNC. The “Big Tent” must also include dissenters. Clearly, this time around, those were drowned out every which way possible.
The goings-on at the DNC were noticed by millions of voters. Julian Assange, like his tactics or not, is right that the leaks his organization made public exposed the truth. It doesn’t matter whether or not this was achieved with the help of a foreign power or not. The truth remains that the DNC interfered with a primary it had no business interfering in, as a party whose mission it is to be neutral and provide an equal measure of support to all competing campaigns. But more than even that, what also transpired is that DNC staffers not only enjoy an unseemly amount of control over the mainstream media, but used it to wage an ugly racial divide and conquer war on Bernie Sanders, using his religion against him in states they know have a bias. This has not gone unnoticed in the Jewish community. In “How Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s DNC Tried To Weaponize Bernie Sanders’s Jewishness,” Ari Paul writes:
“While this email does not prove that Marshall and his group are actual Jew haters, it does show that they view religious bigotry as a force to be leveraged against a political opponent in the field, rather than as a force needing to be confronted and destroyed at all costs.
What’s particularly troubling here is not that Marshall is saying that the Clinton campaign should overplay Sanders’s Jewishness — it’s that he’s saying they should call it into question, hoping to play off some Americans’ fear of atheists, and in this case, of how close atheism is thought to be close to socialism (although I can tell you there are plenty of religious socialists out there).”
This, in part, is what I’ve written about this past year in several posts exposing the Clinton campaign’s use of race in the campaign, in various forms, directly and indirectly, through media personalities, and through the work of former Clinton arch-enemy David Brock. All this was taking place against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter confrontations at primary events, as they were ejected by the Clinton campaign time and time again, and as Clinton herself made speeches on racial justice.
How, when a campaign that is aware of its issues with public trust, does it work to earn it when it continues to broadcast conflicting messages and make half-hearted attempts at conciliation? How, after a win, does a candidate unify by suppressing its own voters’ opinions?
After a bruising year of campaigning, one in which the issues and concerns of voters have remained the same in spite of the media’s lack of coverage of them, how likely is it they will be forgotten? If the DNC in Philly is any indication, the answer is “unlikely.” If new polling on rising interest in third parties is any indication, 30% or more of Democrats are looking outside their party for a candidate. That says absolutely nothing about what must be going on in the minds of left-leaning independents who’ve been watching the primaries for the past year and couldn’t vote in many states due to the DNC’s rules on voter participation.
The DNC, post-WikiLeaks, had an opportunity to make badly needed reforms and show some repentance in the process. Instead, its former head resigned and it may well be the end of the story for the DNC. If that is the case, it will be another serious error in a string of egregious mistakes in recent years. WikiLeaks exposed a lot of things. Most of all, it exposed that the Democratic party, just like its Republican counterpart, is a corporate tool that isn’t what it purports to be: the voice of the people.
Hillary Clinton, four decades into a long career in politics, knew all of these things going into this election and has, so far, chosen to keep going as she has, ignoring warning signs and trying to power her way through tremendous opposition. The problem, this time, is that voters are not willing to bend to the will of a party that has left them. Clinton now has to choose between winning thanks to the help of repulsed Republican voters and lose progressives after November, or make an honest effort to win them back.
For many progressives who won’t consider even holding their noses and voting for Clinton, the long-term is at issue: vote for Clinton/Kaine and assure the continuous control of the neoliberal wing over the Democratic party for at least another decade, or abstain from voting and force a change. For those voters, change is the desired result and fear of Trump just isn’t a factor. For those people, continuing on the path we are currently on signifies another eight years or deprivation in political and economic system that is stacked against them.
A failure for Hillary Clinton, this time around, won’t be because Senator Bernie Sanders didn’t honor his promise to support whomever voters chose in the primary, but because progressive voters have no such obligation to meet, especially as the Democratic party so obviously left them behind.
Like Scorpion in the fable, Clinton and the DNC chose to give into the instinct that got them this far in politics, rather than adapt and mind Frog’s needs. Scorpion hasn’t stung just yet, but the pair are nearing the mid-point line between the river’s shores. Is Hillary Clinton capable of reassessing her position and adjusting accordingly? She never has before. The stakes have never been this high before, so there is always some hope she might.
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Bernie Sanders: Full speech at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, July 26th, 2016.
Hillary Clinton: Full Acceptance Speech at DNC convention in Philadelphia, July 28th, 2016.