Thursday, February 16, 2017

Field Notes from the Battle Within the Democratic Party


TYT reporter Nomiki Konst interviews DNC Chair candidate Tom Perez

by Gaius Publius

If you ask mainstream Democrats (not a homogeneous group, but easily identifiable by their Clintonist, Obamist policies), and also their collaborators in the so-called "left media," this question — "What about the battle within the Party?" — they'll ask incredulously back, "What battle? Doesn't everyone want unity?"

Which is, itself, the next phase of the battle within the Party. The old guard, the Clinton and Obama factions, want unity  — so long as they're still in charge. Which sets the twin terms over which the next phase of the battle will be fought: the demand for "Party unity," and the insistence on silence about fundamental, irreconcilable differences.

Here are two small instances to illustrate that battle and its terms, field notes if you will about how the Party split is being handled its leaders. Both are from the above interview by TYT reporter Nomiki Konst with Tom Perez, the Obama wing candidate for DNC Chair.

Keeping the Money Game Alive

Let's begin with an exchange about the interests of big-money consultants and consulting firms in keeping the Party's budget "bloated" (Konst's term) so they could drain into consultant coffers money that could bolster state party organizations instead. (Recall that Party funding and use of money was a key Sanders concern.)

At 3:48, Konst asks Perez about the Party's ties to those high-dollar consultants and firms. His answer is revealing. He starts by saying he believes in "grassroots organizing" instead of just putting money into high-dollar TV advertising. Yet when pressed (at 6:08, which is where I cued the clip) about the role of those consulting firms, which benefit financially from their role in current Party practices, in shaping the future of the Party, he avoids the question completely.

So she tries again. At 7:30 she asks about conflicts of interest between what the consulting class wants and what the Party needs. Her example is the forward-looking "Unity" commission, on which a major Party consultant sits. This, to her, is a clear conflict of interest.

Here's that exchange (my transcript; emphasis in the original conversation):
Konst: Aren't conflicts of interest a concern? If you're going to change the culture on the ground, how do you change it without banning these conflicts of interest who want to keep the party bloated?

Perez: When you say that someone wants to keep the party bloated, I don't know. The people that I talk to want to build a Democratic Party that works for everyone. ... The folks that are running the Unity Commission, there's going to be a lot of different perspectives that are put to bear — that's what we want!

Konst (incredulous): Including consultants?

Perez: We have a big tent in the Democratic Party....
He then pivots to talking about how he would use more "minority contractors" — in other words, he repeats the Democratic Party appeal to "identity" rights and benefits as a way to distract Democratic voters and supporters from how money changes hands in the inner circles.

Shorter Perez: We're a big-tent party. Even the corrupt have a seat. (For a real-life example of what that corruption looks like, scroll or jump down to the end of this piece.)

Where Are Your Sanders Supporters?

The second interview chunk I want to point out is about why his own campaign for DNC Chair contains no high profile Sanders supporters or surrogates. At 9:08, Konst sees she's being given the off-camera signal by a Perez staffer to wrap it up, so she hurries to ask "one last question":
Konst: This is about unity, right? Who in the Bernie Sanders world, of the surrogates, is supporting you? ... Do you have any notable Bernie Sanders supporters? ...

Perez: I think you're asking the wrong questions.

Konst: I mean, you're talking about unity. Every single candidate has both sides. Every single candidate that we've asked has a surrogate from both sides.

Perez: ... Do only celebrities count?

Konst: No it's not celebrities ... union leaders, party chairs ...
Ponder that. For Perez, it seems the only Sanders people of note are "celebrities." And the capper — after Konst says that the future of the Party is "about unity" (a statement I'm not in agreement with, by the way), we hear this:
Perez (emphasizing each word): I think the future of the party is about making sure that we are focused on what we have to do together to take on our existential threat, which is Donald Trump. And when we focus on that existential threat together, that's how we move forward.
Shorter Perez: But ... Trump! That's the unity I'm talking about.

Yes, Donald Trump is certainly an "existential threat" ... to the country. But it sure sounds like for Perez, the existential threat to the Party are those pesky Sanders people and their challenges about money, about who gets it, and about how the consulting class, which feeds on and impoverishes the Party, is protected by Party's leaders, its Obama and Clinton wings.

The Democratic Consulting Class

I'll have more to say in a bit about the Democratic Party consulting class — a group of, I have to say it, predators. But this should get you started if the topic is new to you. From my friend Joe Sudbay via email, we find this article on the subject from 2005. The writer, Amy Sullivan, asks the question, "Why do Democrats continue to hire campaign advisors who lose races?" and then illustrates with examples.

Here's the start of her answer (my emphasis):
Fire the Consultants

Why do Democrats continue to hire campaign advisors who lose races?

If you were a Democrat running as a first-time candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2002, Joe Hansen was most likely a familiar part of your life. As the field director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Hansen was responsible for recruiting promising candidates, and then for getting the nascent campaigns off to a running start. In the first overwhelming days of your campaign, Joe was a lifeline. He took you out to dinner for pep talks, broke down the fundraising process into something almost manageable, walked you through the selection of campaign staff and consultants, and promised that – if you proved you were a serious candidate by putting together the right team – the DSCC would happily write the checks that might make the difference when things really heated up in the fall. And when it came to choosing just the right firm to design and produce the fliers, postcards, and door hangers that would blanket your state in the closing weeks of the campaign, Joe recommended the very best consultant he knew: Joe Hansen.

In addition to his job at the DSCC, Hansen was also a partner in the direct mail firm of Ambrosino, Muir & Hansen. His sales pitch must have been effective – Democrats in nine of the closest Senate contests in 2002 signed up with Hansen, including Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Max Cleland in Georgia, and Alex Sanders in South Carolina. The day after the election, only two (Tim Johnson in South Dakota and Mark Pryor in Arkansas) were still standing.
Why do I call them predators? Because the only success they feed, is their own.

Bottom Line

Four points:
  • There's also no question, whatever the organizational merits of any of the DNC Chair candidates, that for medium- to low-information voters this is seen as a proxy battle between the Obama-Clinton wing and the Sanders wing of the Party (search here for the phrase "proxy battle").
  • And there's absolutely no question that one of Sanders' big issues in the primary was (a) the role of money in politics, and (b) the role of money in the way the Party does business. Needless to say, that message resonated with a great many supporters who had no interest in seeing the Party's current leadership continue. That was not only true for all Sanders voters in the primary; it was true for many Sanders supporters who failed to turn out in general election as well.
  • Which means, finally, that if Perez wins this contest, those medium- to low-information voters may well think the Party hasn't changed much after all, and just stay home again in 2018.
After all, don't you think that if every Sanders supporter had pulled the lever for Clinton, she'd have won in a landslide instead of lost in a squeaker? It's not on the voters to think the Party is attractive, no matter how ugly the Trump regime is. It's on the Party to make its own self attractive enough to prevent another Trump-size disaster.

Or so one would think, unless one had a vested interest in keeping the Party just the way it is. Field notes from the battle within the Democratic Party. Stay tuned.

Scheduling note: My comments here appear regularly on Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Thursday if Monday is a holiday.


Labels: , , , , , , , ,


At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

We are sure in trouble. You sure lay it out for the Dems. Thanks, Gaius.

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good piece for sure.

But an awful lot of lefty voters who would have gleefully gone with Bernie were appalled, disgusted, flummoxed... all the way to LIVID that Bernie turtled in the face of overt voter suppression and then endorsed the worse than odious $hillbillary.

The DNC was/is the Clintons' proxy vote distortion body for the primary. Bernie was the victim. But Bernie turtled and then endorsed. I'm among the livid ones. A large number of us either voted Green or just didn't bother.

I still have difficulty understanding the degree of stupid in americans... but it does seem as though a large number (millions) of us are smart enough to just pass after Lucy pulls away the football 18 straight times.

I do agree with Perez though. The interviewer WAS asking the wrong questions. Someone should ask:

1) why the fuck should any legitimately lefty voter who, you know, thinks, ever vote for another democrap? Then list the thousands of betrayals, lies and fascist policies that were supported by each and every democrap congress and prez since 1981.

2) If the party accepts billions from corporations and less racist billionaires... why the fuck should any legitimately lefty voter EVER believe that the interests of the lowest 99% will be supported?

Then the democrap will lie and then they will lose... because lefty voters figure this shit out... takes 4 decades... but we get there.

Euthanize the so-called party (of workers, minorities, women and the middle) and put them out of our misery.

At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: " ... unless one had a vested interest in keeping the Party just the way it is."

This Dem " ... Party just the way it is" happens to have gotten itself completely shut out of control of the 64% of state legislatures (according to a figure in an article, below).

This is how the GOP's anti-American, voter suppression "Crosscheck" strategy proved so effective. (Not that HRC is capable of making a marginally effective political campaign.)

John Puma

At 7:19 AM, Anonymous rawdawgbuffalo said...

Well said. Dems are acting like American Bolshevik's

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's looking more a disagreement on optics than a war.

They all seem bent on continuing their corruption. It's just that some want to continue to try to fool their base (that the so-called D party still supports labor, the middle, the poor, the minorities and LGBTQs) while the rest just don't give a shit about maintaining the façade any more.

There are no candidates for this post that want to "drain their swamp" and bring in a whole new truly progressive team. There is no path forward for progressivism in this so-called party.

The party needs to be euthanized -- starved of votes. right fucking now.

You cannot fill a hole until you dig one.

At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Where Are Your Sanders Supporters?"

This Sanders supporter isn't fooled by Clintonite corporatists mouthing all of the trite platitudes which have been issued since Paul Tsongas tried to warn the nation about Bill Clinton:

"Paul E. Tsongas unleashed his harshest attack yet tonight against Bill Clinton, assailing his Democratic rival as a "pander bear" who "will say anything, do anything to get votes"...He went on to say "the American people are going to find out how cynical and unprincipled Bill Clinton is"....Mr. Tsongas also lashed out at Mr. Clinton, who on Thursday [3/5/92] said in Denver that "We can not put our fairness under the guise of promising growth. It won't work, it's not America."

-New York Times Published: March 7, 1992 By RICHARD L. BERKE

"We can not put our fairness under the guise of promising growth." Is that not NAFTA? Is that not TPP and TTIP and TISA and every other "free" trade agreement pushed by the Democrats since Poppy Bush was handed his head after promising "No New Taxes"?

We already know that the Democratic Party leadership have learned nothing after being trounced by a carnival barker, for they remain insistent that they don't need to change a thing. Not their strategy, not their tactics, not their focus on attracting Republican professionals rather than the working class of the United States. They blame us for not voting for them when they acted exactly as Harry Truman warned against.

Unless and until the Democratic Party remembers who made them the powerhouse of America politics for over 40 years, they can wander about the political desert bemoaning their lost Promised Land of Wall St Money and The Good Life. Then they can go fuck themselves with cactus.

At 9:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Sherry Reson said...

I don't understand the meaning of this sentence: "We can not put our fairness under the guise of promising growth." Anyone?

Fine work, as usual, GP.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Gaius Publius said...

Thanks, Sherry. Re this:

I don't understand the meaning of this sentence: "We can not put our fairness under the guise of promising growth." Anyone?

Economic growth doesn't imply increasingly equal opportunity. That's a neoliberal (very Clintonist) ploy. Tsongas said that, according to the quote, in 1992, clearly as a critique of Clinton's policies. Note that this was also the campaign that produced Clinton's public rebuke/rejection of Jesse Jackson via his Sister Souljah moment, with Jackson sitting next to him, fuming. (There's a to that video in my piece.)

Does this help?



Post a Comment

<< Home