A Presidential Candidate Exploits America’s Democratic Institutions
Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has exploited and negated the structures of American democracy.
Given a record hostile to traditional Democratic Party values, Hillary Clinton has run a dirty presidential campaign. It is now escalating as she and supporters manipulate key democratic (and Democratic Party) institutions.
The media—who have given millions to the Clinton Foundation—first said they would call the election for her on June 7 during the primary of California. On June 6, The New York Times sent a new alert saying, “Hillary Clinton now has enough delegates to become the Democratic nominee for president, according to The A.P.” This appears to be an attempt to depress voter turnout and distract from possible mass disenfranchisement in the most populous state and five others whose June 7 elections comprise 15% of pledged delegates.
The media have also amplified calls for Bernie Sanders’ strikingly successful candidacy to end. Why? Because he remains in a competitive election that will almost definitely go to the Democratic National Convention.
Clinton’s best defense, she thinks, is for she and her supporters to subvert democracy by using institutions that should serve us to silence him, rather than showing she deserves the superdelegates’ vote as the stronger general election candidate. This institution-amplified suppression alienates Bernie supporters, building resentment. This prompts Clinton acolytes to blame Sanders.
“Stop making me beat you,” Clinton and her supporters practically tell Sanders. And stop telling people I’m beating you, they might add. Joan Walsh in The Nation writes, “Bernie Sanders Is Hurting Himself by Playing the Victim” and warns of the dangerous consequences of him claiming the nomination process is “rigged,” something echoed in numerous (sometimes misleadingly titled) columns.
This is blatantly ahistorical and hypocritical. It distracts from the role of extensive manipulation of key democratic institutions that have delivered Secretary Clinton a “winning” margin among pledged delegates thus far. It also advances the absurd argument that if Sanders does not highlight failures—of the media, electoral process, superdelegates and the Democratic National Committee—they will repair themselves and start working for the American people. Of course, their immense failures will not help progressive Democratic candidates or the public. And ironically, Hillary’s supporters now complain about the media coverage and electoral obstacles, recognizing corrupt institutions may weaken her campaign too.
How did we get here?
The last few years have brought popular uprisings for fair wages and social supports, black lives actually mattering and overdue environmental action. These culminated in Bernie Sanders’ successes in stadiums, social media and our wallets, enthusiasm he’s ridden to a 46- 54% pledged delegate split.
Now the race, which will almost certainly go to the convention, will be decided by the superdelegates. They are charged, broadly, with choosing the more electable candidate per the Hunt Commission that formed them, the media, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary. (This is also beyond obvious, as there would be no role for them were they just charged with ratifying the popular vote.) As for now, superdelegates “shouldn’t be included in any [delegate] count,” says DNC Spokesman Luis Miranda. But the media continues to report them to improve Clinton’s prospects.
Having superdelegates choose the more competitive nominee at the Democratic National Convention in late July is an almost impossible-to-ignore call for a substantive political discussion as to the merits of Clinton’s candidacy. She’s already employed numerous institutions to fight against open debate when she was on stronger ground.
The freefalling candidate (Carl Bernstein reflecting White House views) isn’t having it now either. Her weak policy positions—except those recently stolen from Sanders—are losers. So too are her political and the Clinton philanthropic record of scarfing up millions from corporations in return for numerous apparent quid pro quos. Her unbelievable electoral decline against Donald Trump mirrors that against Sanders, and the prospects of her job title-based candidacy are poor. Speculation she will lose the nomination is widespread and growing. All pose problems as potential topics for discussion.
So the former secretary of state and her surrogates have amped up efforts to shut down public access to Sanders’ issue- and record-based campaign. It’s surprising to hear a woman running for president who has manipulated levers of power, bringing violence and suppression to millions, being portrayed as the victim for having to defend her political and financial records. But it’s consistent with her entire campaign strategy.
Why revisit these old battlegrounds now? Because democracy matters. The same techniques used by Clinton and those aligned with her to silence Sanders and to steal his support are also used on those seeking to reverse great poverty, declining health and planetary destruction.
This is about Sanders and his (and his movement’s) changing the narrative of what a nation built on justice looks like. It is about potential changes to work, lending, inequality, the climate, the environment and prisons to reflect the public interest. But it’s also about how Clinton and her supporters manipulate fundamental Democratic—and democratic—institutions. And why they barely allow what would be a center-left candidate in most developed countries to talk to the public, much less win the popular vote. Corrupt corporate powers, supported by Clinton, are petrified of an overdue movement for social and environmental justice that could challenge ill-gained profits.
How have democratic institutions been manipulated?
MAINSTREAM MEDIA: Biggest Story of 2015
The term “fourth estate” emphasizes the independence of the press and its service to the public. It has not served its purpose. One Democratic candidate was the former first lady who ran for president in 2008, served as secretary of state and had a high profile foundation role: an extraordinarily well-known figure. Her main competitor was an independent senator with a low profile—if growing following due to his courageous stances on housing integration, the Panama “Free Trade” agreement, the 1994 Crime Bill, the Iraq invasion and his filibuster of the extension of the Bush tax cuts).
The media have also amplified calls for Bernie Sanders’ strikingly successful candidacy to end. Why? Because he remains in a competitive election that will almost definitely go to the Democratic National Convention.
Bernie Sanders soared in the polls like Donald Trump and packed stadiums, despite recurrent media blackouts. He articulated a new progressive vision that pulled Hillary Clinton leftward. His rise created the biggest, most important story of 2015. Yet mainstream media networks generally ignored and occasionally belittled him. They gave Clinton as much coverage as Trump in 2015, and Bernie one-twenty-third the coverage of either. As his numbers soared when voters learned about him, the media’s failure to cover Bernie fairly or significantly influenced early vote results (particularly impactful with Sanders running even or with improved election-day results.)
CLINTON MANIPULATED MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE ELECTION
Choosing not to highlight the biased media coverage described above was a more passive act (albeit unforgivable in a presidential candidate). But Secretary Clinton also actively sought to manipulate the media. “[T]he greatest story [a journalist] could ever possibly ever cover” was reported on by the mainstream corporate media “through the eyes of the Clinton campaign,” as per media guru Robert McChesney.
Hillary and her surrogates, at times with undisclosed ties, have overwhelmingly shaped the news. They relied on the media promoting her misleading statements, changing the subject at her whim and highlighting her successes. Her first debate used at least four carefully crafted deceptive answers. The compliant media, rather than fact-checking her or relying on focus groups and polling, declared her the “winner” which gave her crucial early momentum. Over time, Clinton and her supporters have deceptively mischaracterized Bernie’s broad movement-based campaign as only being about the banks and his health care plan as causing millions to lose insurance.
If the issue at hand doesn’t favor her, or if she or Bill Clinton are again chomping on their toes after being confronted with real people or their own records, in steps a new talking point or a shallow policy announcement. The corrupt media immediately changes their focus in full complicity with her anti-democratic media strategy.
SHE AND HER SUPPORTERS CRY SEXISM
Clinton and her supporters have known that she can’t win on the issues or her record. So they’ve drowned out debate on most issues with bizarre and heavily replayed assertions of sexism. This has been amplified by cries to elect the first woman president.
This feminist icon has employed state power to physically crush and suppress opponents on a scale even larger than Trump to date. She’s supported anti-democratic trade deals, taken major funding from Wall Street donors who crashed the world economy, condoned the Honduran coup that brought widespread violence to the nation, supported the Iraq invasion and championed the bombing of Libya. Yet she and her surrogates react to interruptions, use of certain words or minor put-downs as if she had remarkably thin skin (even as they tolerate and employ worse attacks on Sanders). This feels hypocritical to many women who advocate for sensitivity and civil discourse.
So too have her supporters generalized and demonized many Sanders fans—millennial and progressive women who seek a feminist champion along with one bold enough to stand up to corporate power. His diverse, groundbreaking progressive support is broadly categorized as hostile Bernie Bros. This stereotyping is a distraction from the urgent issues at hand.
FAILURE OF THE MEDIA TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC
This matters even more because we have a tremendously undereducated public. They have limited exposure to the societal truths at the heart of Bernie’s campaign. Thus the media’s horse-race, Hillary story-of-the-day coverage slowed Sanders’ electoral ascent.
Establishment institutions like colleges, left-leaning think tanks, large nonprofits, the DNC, many Democratic politicians and arts institutions failed to illuminate or advocate in a substantive way for progressive priorities, even as their funding from foreign governments, multinational corporations, and hedge fund and private equity managers skyrocketed. Many of these institutions also have strong connections with Clinton, including as a former colleague, speaker or campaign chair.
Thus the major challenges of our time are re-explained. Inequality, climate destruction and financial crisis are rare results of calculated acts by corporations who make billions from our suffering and need jail time and heavy regulation for true accountability. Yes, Sanders and Trump have elevated the issues of war and trade, yet the knowledge vacuum that still exists hurts the Sanders campaign and all of us.
BERNIE FANS TAKE TO SOCIAL MEDIA
One of Secretary Clinton’s major ideas was championing internet freedom, the “cornerstone of the 21st century statecraft policy agenda.” Yet Hillary trolls have taken down most of Sanders’ Facebook pages and a pro-Clinton SuperPAC is spending $1 million to attack Sanders on social media.
Even popular news articles that should accept comments do so sporadically or stop them after a short time, even as they promote a highly flawed narrative from her campaign.
BERNIE’S GROWING COMPETITIVENESS
This culminated in the Nevada convention when basically every major outlet reported Sanders’ delegates threw chairs (which did not happen, yet it wasn’t retracted as Seth Abramson satirically illustrates in “National Media Retracts Claim of Violence at the Nevada Convention”).
State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange passed “draconian new rules via a voice vote as delegates were still trickling in.” Many excluded Sanders’ delegates were also not allowed to explain their case and the convention was ended illegally. The PR playbook strategy of condemning and stereotyping individual actions once again refocused discussion from Sanders’ record and his successes.
MEDIA REPORTS SUPERDELEGATE VOTES
As early as October, superdelegates’ overwhelming support of Clinton was reported. It continued during primaries and caucuses, regardless of the popular results.
Superdelegate reporting has allowed months of reporting of a lead of 350-500 superdelegates alone in a very close election, likely influencing voters through “the bandwagon effect” that leads people to support the expected winner. Of course, this should not have been so.
DNC Spokesman Luis Miranda recently called for—then doubled down—on the media not reporting superdelegate counts before the convention. Yet virtually all media still showed the superdelegate counts and they continued their months-long pronouncements that Clinton had almost won—actions that dissuaded discussion of her comparatively weak positioning for the general election. Then they announced she had already won on the eve of the California primary, even with strong evidence that the largest primary is expected to draw high voter turnout for Sanders.
CALLS FOR SANDERS TO DROP OUT
For the longest time, there was an effort to silence, misreport or laugh off Sanders’ candidacy. But now it has culminated in the unbelievable suppression of democracy. It is not sufficient for Sanders to run an incredibly—and probably unhelpfully—clean campaign. He needs to actually stop the most competitive, viable and important candidacy for our highest office in decades.
The top one-tenth of 1% has almost as much wealth as the bottom 90% in America, as Sanders frequently says. The top 1% worldwide has almost as much as the bottom 99%.
Clinton recently said, “I will be the nominee for my party, Chris [Cuomo]. That is already done, in effect. There is no way that I won’t be,” prompting what New York Times op-ed writer Maureen Dowd has referred to as her Bataan Death March to the nomination. “Clinton Clinches the Nomination” reads the title of Seth Abramson’s article as Chris Matthews has revealed that media outlets plan to call the nomination during the day on June 7 for Clinton. (Does this justify us not voting after August?) Numerous stories have castigated him for not dropping out. A “sit down and shut up” type approach would prompt loud wails of sexism if used against the secretary, but she feels free to use the full power of the media and establishment to try to end Bernie’s campaign.
SHE’S WORRIED ABOUT THE MEDIA IF SHE CAN’T MANIPULATE IT
Now, Democrats are infuriated that the media is attacking Hillary and husband Bill, who was particularly relevant as the proposed unelected #2 government position of job czar, a statement that likely prompted T-shirts across the country to be sharpied to “I’m with him.” (He’s now been demoted to an “advisor.”)
But given her complicity in a profoundly unfair media strategy to distract from the issues, will many people care? Or in the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller: “First they came for the Socialist … But I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist … Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”
WORSENED BY AN UNFAIR DEBATE SCHEDULE
One partial fix would have been for a packed debate schedule with fair participation and hard questioning, as was done by the League of Women Voters. Yet Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz last year scheduled only six debates, mostly on weekends—about one-quarter of what Clinton participated in during her 2008 primary. Presidential candidates who participated in unsanctioned debates forfeited their right to be included in future debates.
When Sanders tried to debate Trump, Democratic insiders called it “bullshit,” “peculiar” and “time to start winding down the primary,” as they tried to silence Sanders. Yet Clinton refused to debate Sanders before the California primary, a total reversal of her 2008 statement, “You should be willing to debate anytime, anywhere.”
HER LONG-TERM WEALTHY CORPORATE FUNDERS
From Morgan Stanley’s CEO John Mack’s declaration that he was ready for Hillary—which prompted a Fortune magazine cover “Business Loves Hillary” to $100-plus million in speaking fees for the Clintons, $200 million-plus for her campaign and hundreds of millions funneled to Clinton foundations—Clinton’s closest alliances have been clear.
The institutions creating a de-facto American oligarchy are with Hillary. It’s hard to believe she’d abandon those donors for positions she has espoused since before the first debates or more recently.
CORRUPTION AND THE DEMOCRATIC GOVERNING BODY
The Democratic National Committee has been strongly biased against the Sanders campaign. Clinton’s 2008 campaign co-chair and DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has played a key role.
The skimpy debate schedule; the DNC’s role in delaying Sanders’ access to the voter database; the establishment of Hillary’s PAC which accepted checks of up to $353,400; the end to banning lobbyist money; the laundering of her PAC money with 99% of state party donations being sent back to the DNC; and Wasserman Schultz’ widely condemned interference in Nevada were bad enough.
Not surprisingly, though, she’s stacking convention leadership and committee positions in favor of Clinton. At least the platform committee’s inclusion of activists on the Vermont senator’s side (and insiders on the secretary’s) promises to be highly interesting and potentially productive, barring suppression. There have been widespread calls and petitions for Wasserman Schultz to step down, and former Sanders advisor Tim Canova has mounted a primary challenge.
AND THE ELECTIONS HAVE BEEN A MESS
The electoral failures pale in comparison with the media failures, primarily because of the enormous reach of the media (see Brazil). But there are, inarguably, major electoral failures and fraud that favor Clinton and are often engineered or reviewed by her supporters.
The improbable Iowa coin flips and Bill Clinton’s potential voter violation felony may have prevented Sanders’ fifth Super Tuesday win and helped her media narrative at crucial times. In Arizona, where Sanders won the election day vote, many polling station closures had voters waiting many hours, most provisional ballots were discarded, and registrations were flipped to prevent voting. Weeks later, there was more chaos in New York where 125,000 Brooklynites—just miles from Clinton’s office in Sanders’ hometown—were dropped from the voting rolls in one of the few areas Clinton won. There were more flipped registrations and exit polls that differed from polling results in an extremely unlikely manner that has illogically prompted the news media to cancel exit polls, a tool in judging the integrity of overseas elections.
The reported votes Sanders received decreased, a seemingly impossible phenomenon, and thousands of votes are yet to be counted in many states. Even the electoral structure seems unfair—the lockout of independents, the requirement to change parties sometimes very early, and the inclusion of parties like the American Independent Party in California.
AND NOW THE MEDIA AND HILLARY SUPPORTERS…
Superdelegates are an institution that was created for a particular purpose. Like it or love it, eliminate it now or later. But for now, it’s their job to choose the more electable candidate. That’s what we were told.
“For a full year — from early 2015 to early 2016 — Sanders supporters were told that superdelegates pick whoever they believe is the strongest general-election candidate,” Seth Abramson writes in “Sanders’ Supporters Have Been Lied to And Here’s How.” He elaborated on it in “How to Explain the Sanders Campaign to an Idiot, Paul Krugman or a Clintonite in 8 Sentences” and most recently pointed out how Clinton herself had subscribed to such a theory in “Clinton in 2008 Opposed Early Call of Primary, Told Media ‘Nomination Will Be Up to the Superdelegates.’”
Clinton significantly lags Sanders in polling against Trump, potentially awaits indictment and is viewed as “honest and trustworthy” by about 30% of American voters, so she claims superdelegates should support the candidate with more popular votes. This is, by definition, the opposite reason of why they were created; and while the two—the popular leader and the better election candidate—can coincide, they do not this year.
Why this detailed recounting of the role and failures of our institutions? Why not just accept the prevailing narrative that she’ll be the winner and that his complaining is “sour grapes?”
THE FIGHT AHEAD AGAINST CORPORATE POWER
It’s important democratic institutions function in a democracy. They allow remarkable candidacies and promote movements to spearhead change.
Sanders has elevated truths about the daunting tasks we now face to dramatically reduce inequality and poverty, and to promote sustainability: for humans to live with dignity. He has provided great messaging for what Abramson calls a “philosophical revolution” in which we can reconstruct our economic and cultural markets to better reflect our values. A look at the vocabulary he employs illustrates the significance of his candidacy.
“Establishment” is a frequent Sandersism mocked by Clinton and her supporters. Logically so: these funders, allies, senior employees and vacation buddies comprise her world. But it’s useful to also remember that it serves as shorthand for our society’s power structure. Today, it represents those who have conceived of and created a world of pervasive inequality, deprivation and planetary destruction with its full measure of suffering.
This appears to be an attempt to depress voter turnout and distract from possible mass disenfranchisement in the most populous state and five others whose June 7 elections comprise 15% of pledged delegates.
“Inequality” is something Clinton visited Senator Elizabeth Warren to discuss months ago (coincidentally right before Warren announced she wouldn’t run for president). It too is a term equally out of her reach. The top one-tenth of 1% has almost as much wealth as the bottom 90% in America, as Sanders frequently says. The top 1% worldwide has almost as much as the bottom 99%.
Inequality in America is “shorthand … for the coronation of Wall Street and the slow blighting of wherever it is you live … You catch a glimpse of it when you hear about the bankruptcy your neighbor had to declare when his child got sick … [it] is a euphemism for the Appalachification of our world,” Sanders supporter Tom Frank explains in Listen, Liberal: What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?
“[I]t is the eternal conflict of management and labor, owner and worker, rich and poor—only with one side pinned to the ground and the other leisurely pounding away at its adversary’s face.”
“Sharing economy” doesn’t refer to a new cooperative structure sweeping America. Rather, it is a model in which workers have to own their own work assets, and provide insurance and savings for illness and retirement in “one of the most lopsided, antiworker employment schemes to come down the pike in years,” according to Frank. It is perhaps a precursor to atomized labor and crowdworking that could turn many people into not day- but minute-laborers. Today’s championed “innovations” rarely provide potable water, healthy and safe food, or planetary sustainability. It’s often a method to get something a little quicker and cheaper on the internet by ignoring land and worker regulations that just societies are built on.
“Climate change” involves impending droughts and famine across Central America and Africa, the desperate mass migration of refugees and looming planetary catastrophe. It is a harsh reality that remains as the call to use our arms to embrace humanity through an ethos of love, cooperation and peace goes unanswered.
The “status quo” evolves to favor power structures that deepen exploitation (as we perhaps headed to a 50% job loss), just as a “rigged system” is an ever-changing set of rules to justify an outcome sought by the powerful.
When Framer Ben Franklin walked out of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, he was breathlessly asked: “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” He responded without hesitation: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
We can use instead the words oligarchy and democracy. But the fight continues to keep clear in our sights the goals of human rights and dignity, sustainability and justice. With functioning democratic institutions, violence becomes less likely as a means to change the lot of the poor and the oppressed.
Sanders’ uncomfortable truths that he speaks to power, and for all of us, have been muted in our so-called democracy. Meanwhile, Clinton consolidates her power by torching renegade institutions, ascending their decayed structures atop sooty ashes.
“The revolution will not be televised,” sings Gil Scott-Heron. And neither will any meaningful evolution. The harsh reaction by oppressive power over the last year is a reminder of how little dissension they tolerate from their plans to accelerate human and planetary exploitation. It is the job of those in political office—and all of us—to fight for a world that is just and sustainable. One grounded in a vision to treasure and share our enormous resources.
It is a world best achieved through a functioning democracy. Such a world that is only conceivable with Bernie’s nomination.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.