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.