Would Democrats be better off without the Democratic Party?

If you’re a Republican, a standard criticism of Democrats is that they are bad with all things money – raising it, spending it, managing it and overseeing it. As new little “secrets” come out about the operations of the Democratic National Committee in the last presidential cycle, it’s clear that in many ways the Republicans have the Democrats correctly pegged.

Okay, Democrats can raise money. It’s ugly as they largely depend on a donor class that is about as far removed as possible from the traditional constituents of the party. It’s important to add a caveat here. Bernie Sanders largely raised his money from grass roots and equally importantly stayed away from money-bags that are the source of revenue for most Dems running for office. But Bernie had little to do with the DNC, and the latest revelations tell us that the situation was not accidental.

Donna Brazile, interim chair of the DNC, acknowledged, “An August 2016 agreement gave Hillary Clinton’s campaign partial control of the DNC months prior to Clinton winning the nomination.” This was before Brazile was chair; it was on Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s watch under the supervision of President Barack Obama. What would be the motivation for this? Could it have been that the powers-that-be in the Democratic Party thought that Clinton did not have the political power to win the nomination without their help? Is it that the powers thought that Clinton had such a corner on wisdom of the issues that no competing points-of-view were necessary?

It’s more likely that it was what we frequently see in corporate America, interlocking directorates. It is not secret that Wasserman-Schultz was a strong supporter of Clinton. And since it was clear that Obama was supporting Clinton and that he was in a position to determine key staff positions in the DNC, the Committee was obviously going to do whatever it could to ease Clinton’s way to the nomination.

One of the reasons why Republicans dislike government is their skepticism about bureaucracy, particularly the ways in which Democrats run them. Fortunately for Americans, the party does a much better job of running most of the essential agencies necessary for government than they do of their own privately-political enclave.

Brazile says that the party’s monthly expenditures doubled in the previous five years, in large part because of Wasserman-Schultz and Obama keeping expensive consultants on the payroll.  No one seems to know what the consultants were actually doing, but the outcome of their work, or non-work, was to lose the White House and have the fewest Democrats in Congress since before FDR.

Might it not be better to simply not have a Democratic National Committee? A party organization must stay neutral in the contests between nominees, at least it should if it says that is part of its mission. But the DNC did just the opposite. They said they were neutral, but they took sides.

Do they really need to raise money? Democratic candidates have become as skillful as Republican in the post-Citizens-United era that began in 2010 of raising money from deep pockets. If all that the DNC does is to raise money to line some pockets and self-perpetuate, then there is no need for it.

Someone needs to organize the quadrennial conventions and call to order meetings of state and local Democrats. But that could be done by a small, sleek and efficient office personed by a handful of staffers.

Like any organization, the Democratic Party will connect better with its members if the bureaucracy models the behavior that they would like to see. Democrats need to prove that they can be a lean, non-mean machine. Waste and inefficiency undermine the important goals of meeting the needs of the disenfranchised and economically disadvantaged among us. For now, let’s drastically pare down the role of the DNC, and while we’re at it, let’s have the candidates run campaigns that are better characterized by the needs of the core of the party’s historical constituency rather than the donor class. That’s what we can call the common good.

  • Stacy Mergenthal

    It was good to hear Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats own up to their unethical behavior and other democratic deficiencies of recent history, via CNN and other national news sources. It restores a little faith I had lost in them to do right by and truly represent The People. As you say, they must be more than just a fundraising apparatus and tool of the donor class if they want to avoid irrelevancy. They lost a lot of good people with their shenanigans last year.

    “What we have to focus on now as Democrats is, we recognize the process was rigged, and now it is up to Democrats to build a new process; a process that really works and works for everyone. And that as we go forward, we have confidence in the integrity of the system. That Democrats, as they run a primary, are gonna let the people speak. And that we’re gonna have a candidate who’s the candidate chosen by the people. That’s our job.” — Elizabeth Warren

  • KelvinSampson87

    I have three key points here:

    1. The DNC :”as confirmed by Donna Brazil” did not allow the Clinton campaign to use any funds for ads or any campaigning efforts during the primary. Instead the DNC allowed the Clinton team to use funds for general election opposition research and to set up an infrastructure and polling system for the general election which had been diminished due to Obama using Organizing for America and neglection the DNC. In no way did this deal rig the system unfairly and pragmatically Bernie had already lost.

    2. The fundraising agreement did not help Clinton in anyway but the DNC was clearly biased in her favor in numerous ways but this is not becuase of corruption, monied interest or political elites colluding. It is because Bernie Sanders IS NOT AND NEVER WAS A DEMOCRAT. He is a democratic socialist who has spent his career running against democrats and taking donations that would otherwise go to the democratic candidate. Sanders shamelessly used the democratic party platform to increase his chances of winning the presidency and returned to being an independent immediately after the election. Treating a candidate that running as a democrat for his own benefit and no commitment to the party itself less favorably than a life long party contributor is in no way unfair. Had Sanders remained in the party after the election and tried to change it from within he would have some credibility but at this point clearly got what he deserved.

    3. Democrats in certain parts of the county like CA and NY can attract big money donors as well if not better than most GOP candidates. However, Dems in the midwest, South and Mountain West generally do not have that ability. The function of the DNC is to allow big fundraising (mostly coastal) Dems to raise money that can be used to fund elections in the rest of country. Unfortunately Obama neglected this part of his job which he admits is one of his regrets.