Both Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile have declared the 2016 primaries “rigged” in Hillary Clinton’s favor. This claim is entirely false and can only be made by those with political motives, whether rekindling popularity among the Bernie Sanders wing of the party or practicing revisionist history to shift society’s memory away from ethical improprieties that reflect poorly on Brazile, but not the the Clinton campaign.
Warren’s incorrect agreement that the DNC “rigged” the primary follows an explosive — at least to those not politically trained — excerpt from Brazile’s forthcoming book in which she reveals that the Clinton campaign used its Hillary Victory Fund to keep the DNC financially afloat in return for controlling a number of its operations.
That’s not new information, it’s not shocking information, and it in no way “rigs” an entire primary. In August 2015, the DNC publicly announced its joint fundraising venture with the Clinton campaign — a remarkably poor way to hide the information Brazile claims is a bombshell. Just three months later, Bernie Sanders himself signed a similar agreement with the party (to which he never belonged until he sought the presidency).
So Brazile’s Super Explosive Report That Changes Everything™ reveals no new information, but does rekindle the ignorant passions that rally those angered, without reason, at the DNC. We can only hope Brazile, who noted in the book her desire to get to the bottom of the alleged “rigging,” didn’t expend money or resources to find a document of which all knew in 2015. (*UPDATE, November 3, 7:25p* NBC reports that the memo Brazile cites as “rigging” only pertained to the general election, a routine procedure worthy of no debate and certainly not evidence of non-existent “rigging.”)
Furthermore, in absolutely no way does a campaign trying to control party operations rig an election. The party organization itself does not fall under campaign control until delegates select a nominee. Up to that point, the party’s national committee is pretty impotent: It (wrongly) doesn’t choose favorites and even if certain staff members voice their desire to see one candidate elected over another, they can do nothing about it.
No DNC operatives hit the ground during the primaries to campaign for or against a candidate; the DNC spends no money on ads to boost or deride presidential aspirants; the party itself does little — and it almost always does little. Fixation on the DNC and RNC largely misses the mark because those committees have little actual power or campaign prowess. Most actions and funds go to campaigns or the national party’s committee arms (eg, the DCCC or RNSC).
The party does, however, decide the primary’s rules. This represents the best method by which the party can “rig” a primary. If an early favorite controls the rulemaking process and, for instance, moves the largest and most expensive states to the beginning of the primary calendar and makes the winner-take-all, then that would be rigging the primary by pricing out competitors and ensuring early momentum goes exclusively to the frontrunner. Controlling the rule making process is one method by which Donald Trump can fend off a primary challenge in 2020.
But the Clinton campaign had not “infiltrated” the DNC (to borrow Brazile’s parlance) at the time of primary rule approval. This happened back in 2014 and those rules by and large carried over from the ones to which the party agreed in 2010. Moreover, the rules as they stand actually favor insurgent candidates.
Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina currently begin the primary season. All are small states and relatively cheap television markets (New Hampshire’s a bit tricky as campaigns sometimes need to buy air time in the Boston television market to best reach New Hampshire voters), so underdog candidates are not priced out of competing. Iowa’s caucus system favors populist candidates able to forge an intimate connection with the voters — caucuses and primaries differ rather dramatically in demographics with the former being far less democratic. State demographics also favor factional candidates able only to appeal to certain races (IA and NH being overwhelmingly white whereas SC has a large African American constituency).
This calendar actually favored Bernie Sanders and enabled his continued presence in the primaries. He performed best in smaller, caucus states with few minorities — exactly the demographics of the first two states (IA and NH), conveniently those which generate the most news coverage and which can decide momentum moving forward. Had the calendar started with a diverse sect of states, Sanders would have lost each one by large margins and been written-off even by his most ardent supporters.
Far from the DNC “rigging” the primary for Hillary Clinton, the rules carried over from 2010 (agreed to in 2014) allowed Sanders to stay in the race and appear competitive.
Both Elizabeth Warren and Donna Brazile are wrong and while I cannot be sure of their motives, the most obvious — a political ploy to retain 2020 favor and an effort to revise history after an ethical embarrassment, respectively — point to weak characters willing to lie to angered partisans. The Democratic Party doesn’t need the continued fabrication of alleged “rigging” hanging over its head. It needs to rebound in strength to wage a strong midterm fight. Enough with the lies.