Matthew Rozsa explains why Hillary Clinton still looks like she’s cheating in the Democratic presidential primaries.
I suppose I should be happy that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has reversed its decision to block the Bernie Sanders campaign from its own voter data. For one thing, the punishment was grossly out of proportion to the crime – without proof that Sanders himself knew about the leaks from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, denying him access to his network of supporters would have effectively found the Vermont Senator himself guilty based on speculation rather than evidence. More importantly, though, the DNC’s initial move would have destroyed Sanders’ presidential bid before the first ballot was cast. Considering that there are already only three candidates in the Democratic presidential race – and one of them, former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, isn’t taken seriously – this would have been a devastating blow not only for Sanders’ left-wing supporters, but for the cause of democracy within the Democratic Party.
Then again, even though Sanders has had his voter data restored, I’m still not sure that small ‘d’ democracy is actually doing that well in the party which bears its name. Whether we like to admit it or not, it still appears that Clinton is cheating in her campaign against Sanders for the presidency. If anything, the DNC’s decision only exacerbates that perception.
Allow me to explain.
First, as I wrote in an article for The Daily Dot yesterday, the Democratic debate schedule has clearly been developed with Clinton’s best interests in mind. As the frontrunner, she stands to lose the most by appearing in these debates, since a strong performance isn’t likely to help her as much while a poor one could eliminate her lead. This makes it particularly troubling that Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a longtime friend and supporter of Clinton’s, only scheduled four debates to occur before the primaries… and buried three of those events on weekend nights, which are notorious for garnering poor ratings (at least for political television). By contrast, the Republicans will have had eight debates before their primaries kick off, allowing their candidates plenty of time to shake things up within the GOP.
All of this is unsavory enough, but the speed with which the DNC backpedaled on Sanders is arguably just as bad. It’s hard to know how they expected the political world to respond to their blow against the Sanders campaign, but they seemed genuinely shocked at the intensity of the ensuing outrage. Perhaps the most revealing comments came from Miles Mogulescu of The Huffington Post, whose viral op-ed calling for Wasserman Schultz to be fired argued that the chairwoman “is being prosecutor, judge and jury, imposing the death penalty on Bernie Sanders’ campaign for, at worst, a minor misdemeanor which hasn’t even been proven” because “she’s acting as a shill for Hillary Clinton, doing everything in her power to ensure that no one will effectively challenge Hillary’s coronation as the nominee.” Pundits from Jamelle Bouie of Slate to former President Obama aide David Axelrod have all said essentially the same thing, with some even speculating that Sanders might run as a third-party candidate because of this injustice.
Again, I’m not sure what Wasserman Schultz expected would happen, but because the Democratic debate is occurring tonight, it’s obvious that she did not need her decision dominating coverage of that event – or, even worse, empowering Sanders and O’Malley to have powerful new evidence that she’s misusing her power to rig the contest for Clinton. Consequently, despite making a big to-do over how it needed to punish Sanders out of principle, the DNC quickly seized an opportunity to return things to normal. This is the kind of last-minute turnaround that makes perfect sense if you’ve been caught doing something unsavory and want to wipe the slate clean … but considerably less so if you actually believe your initial choice was the morally correct one.
Hence why the DNC’s move only increases my suspicions rather than diminishing them.
In fact, as far as I’m concerned, the only way Wasserman Schultz will convince me that she isn’t shilling for Clinton is by increasing the number of debates between now and the Iowa caucuses. I know that this would be a logistical nightmare, but with its vast financial resources the Democratic Party could still pull it off. What’s more, in light of Clinton’s lukewarm poll numbers in run-offs against her potential Republican opponents, it legitimately behooves them to offer Democrats a meaningful look not only at Sanders, but at O’Malley as well, both of whom could be more electable than the former Secretary of State.
Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to happen. For better or worse, Clinton will retain the bulk of her unfair advantages over the other two candidates and stroll toward a nomination for which she had to fight (and ultimately lose) eight years earlier. The only difference now is that she won’t be able to deny Sanders his playbook.