The Great Recognition of 2016: Nixon-level Corruption in the DNC Means It’s Time to Build a New Party
The Democratic Convention fiasco has triggered an exodus to the Green Party
Back at the end of July, as I was leaving home and traveling to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, I wasn’t yet certain whether the leaders of the Democratic Party — the Democratic National Committee — were simply incompetent or actually corrupt. As a writer, as a progressive, and as a citizen inspired by the Bernie Sanders campaign, I was interested to see the workings of the DNC up close.
I had already witnessed in 2016 the DNC allocate and count “superdelegates” prematurely, which favored the Clinton campaign. I had also seen tremendous irregularities and probable fraud in the primary elections, which also favored the Clinton campaign. In short, I knew the DNC wasn’t running a fair primary between Sanders and Clinton, but I wasn’t sure exactly how unfair it was, and whether it was random incompetence and peccadilloes, or whether it was concerted rigging and intentional corruption to install Hillary Clinton as the nominee.
The future of our democracy, our country, and our planet hang in the balance here in 2016, so I departed for the convention knowing that the decisions of the DNC and the superdelegates would be extremely important. I arrived in Philadelphia prepared possibly to support Clinton: Were she to become the nominee, were she to choose Bernie or another strong progressive as her running mate, and were the convention carried out fairly and in a spirit of unity that included critical progressive issues, I was open to considering Clinton.
A Contested Convention
It was to be a “contested convention,” since neither Sanders nor Clinton arrived with enough pledged delegates to clinch the nomination. Accepting all the flawed primaries and probable fraud, and — for the sake of this article — going with official results, Bernie Sanders arrived at the convention having won 1,847 (46%) of the pledged delegates to Clinton’s 2,203 (54%), for a difference of 356 delegates. With the 712 superdelegates still to vote at the convention, there was a small but respectable chance the nomination would go to Sanders.
Donald Trump had just received the Republican nomination, and Hillary Clinton had just been exposed on major media for lying repeatedly about her private server and her clandestine email communications. Polls showed that Clinton was falling behind Trump, while Sanders was pulling ahead of Trump with increasing ease. There were abundant voices in the independent media — perhaps more so than in the corporate media—that argued that Sanders, though behind in pledged delegates, might become the pick of the superdelegates and win the nomination. I wrote a piece at the time joining these voices, suggesting it was the DNC’s last chance to ensure a landslide victory in November.
At the very least, because it was a contested convention, Sanders supporters arrived expecting that the two candidates and their delegates would receive similar levels of respect and support from the DNC.
A Charade of Democracy
Instead, the event the DNC organized in Philadelphia was a charade of democracy. I don’t think I can overstate this. The convention was a media-managed lie about party unity. Personally I witnessed events and decisions that have forever shaken my opinion of this party.
To begin, days before the convention began, leaked emails began pouring out via the media revealing that the DNC had been covertly coordinating and rigging the primary for Clinton from the beginning. The revelations showed that the DNC had engaged throughout the primary in Nixon-like tactics: placing moles in the Sanders campaign, colluding with corporate media to smear Sanders, and announcing secretly to the media midway through the primary season that Clinton would be the nominee. It became crystal clear that the DNC, rather than suffering from incompetence, had long ago collaborated via back channels to defeat Bernie Sanders.
Next, Clinton chose conservative pro-TPP Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine as her running mate. Not only was Kaine opposed to many progressive ideas, he was the former head of the DNC who had stepped aside to clear the way for Clinton’s ally, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz; it seemed he was now receiving his reward.
Next, I heard from Bernie delegates. They were being verbally attacked and harassed by Clinton delegates, they told me. I also heard from Bernie volunteers who told me that they were barred altogether from the convention floor while the Clinton volunteers were being seated. I interviewed both volunteers and delegates and published a detailed story at Common Dreams about this while at the convention: While Publicly Seeking Unity, the DNC is Censoring a Convention and Silencing Dissent.
The Democratic National Committee professes publicly that it longs for peace and unity between supporters of Bernie…www.commondreams.org
Taken together, these events kicked off the convention with three unmistakable messages for Sanders supporters:
- The corruption in the DNC was worse than anyone thought.
- The convention wasn’t to be “contested” at all.
- The support of progressives and Sanders backers was no longer needed.
A Tale of Two Conventions
By the time the official events actually began, there were two conventions taking place in Philadelphia.
The first, official convention began inside the Wells Fargo Center in southern downtown Philadelphia. This convention was heavily guarded and exclusive, and it barely tolerated — and never genuinely welcomed — Bernie Sanders delegates and volunteers. At this convention, Sanders supporters who didn’t immediately step in line and support Clinton were ridiculed, denounced, or silenced.
A second, unofficial convention began outside, in the streets and parks of the city, particularly at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park just across the street from the Wells Fargo Center. Thousands upon thousands of people had come to this second convention to support, strategize, and march for Bernie Sanders, and as these people learned of the leaks and realized what was going on, many also began to protest the corruption of the DNC.
The first convention spoke out about preserving the party’s wealth and power and beating Republicans. The second convention spoke out for our earth, for our cities, for our poor and middle classes, and for our democracy itself.
The first convention was primarily a charade for television, where no progressive views were allowed.
The second convention was a festival of intelligent progressives from all across the country openly discussing issues in depth and detail and holding summits and meetings to address critical issues.
The first convention was a 46–54% split between Sanders and Clinton supporters.
The second convention — and seemingly every bar and restaurant throughout the city — unanimously espoused the progressive views of the Sanders campaign.
At the first convention, as the email revelations and corruption scandals were exploding through the party, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was removed as head of the DNC. Then she was appointed by Hillary Clinton to head her presidential campaign. Corruption was being rewarded.
At the second convention, experts were addressing the need to restore our democracy by overturning Citizens United, removing corporate money from election campaigns, investigating election fraud, and instituting verified voting. Corruption was being examined.
Ultimately, it wasn’t just two conventions. It was two different political parties holding conventions in the same city: There was one party that had power and was determined not to lose it, a party which at its very core had become ossified, conservative, and corrupt. And there was another party that was seeking change and creating it, a party which was profoundly committed to principles, to the earth, to peace, and to the sharing of resources necessary to care for the planet. These commitments on the part of the principled, progressive party meant that it was in a revolution against the corrupt, conservative party.
This party split was a result of a great collective recognition, perhaps the Great Recognition of 2016: The Democratic Party is too corrupt to be trusted with our future.
Personally, as the corruption in the DNC became ever more apparent, I attended a day at the Climate Revolution Summit. Scientists there emphasized repeatedly the need for an immediate nationwide transition to renewable energy in order to meet the Paris protocols — we need to end our use of coal, shale gas, and fracking in the next 24 months. That day I realized instinctively that there was no way I could support the corrupt party any longer.
But knowing that I could not support the corrupt DNC or its candidate wasn’t the same as knowing what to do next. I certainly couldn’t support Trump or the reactionary Republicans.
Bernie Sanders Should Be Running Independent or Green
Bernie Sanders started this revolution and awakened the country. It was his revolution that brought me to Philadelphia, and it was his revolution that then showed me the distinction between these two conventions and these two parties. Sanders didn’t do it single-handedly, of course. The Howard Dean campaign in 2004, the Obama campaign in 2008, the Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, and the global awakening around the Paris accords in 2015 all have played major roles, as have numerous other groups, leaders, and events.
But this revolution — this unprecedented presidential campaign led by Sanders — has resonated across the country and around the world. Presidential campaigns are our only national campaigns in this country, and this one has been unique and transformational. Bernie has inspired a movement of historic breadth and depth across America. He should be running as an independent right now.
The two candidates chosen by the older parties — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — are historically unpopular, as are the Democratic and Republican Parties themselves. Indeed, both parties are increasingly viewed as corrupt and out-of-touch with America, and Trump and Clinton are the least liked and least trusted candidates in the history of modern presidential politics.
Senator Sanders, on the other hand, is ridiculously, uncommonly popular, the most popular politician in the country today. He is an independent with a socialist history, a leader who has already broken through the two-party system as the first independent ever to be re-elected to the Senate. He is uniquely positioned to run as an independent for the presidency, and he would likely win.
Recent polls show that over 60% of the country dislikes Trump and Clinton. Meanwhile, the number of registered independents has surged over the past decade.
Taking election fraud into account, Bernie Sanders probably won the primary election of pledged delegates outright. Many studies show as much. But even ignoring for a moment the evidence of fraud and rigging, and again accepting Hillary’s 54–46% margin in the primary, it remains clear Bernie would do better than she will in a general election. Independents, Libertarians and Greens, who currently account for 44% of the electorate, generally didn’t get to vote in the primary. These voters favor Bernie over Hillary by a very wide margin. Polls show that throwing Trump and these independent voters into the race would make a Sanders victory nearly certain; he would win more of the independents than either of the other candidates while also taking nearly half of Democrats.
Dr. Jill Stein, before accepting the Green Party nomination, actually offered to run with Sanders. It was an offer of remarkable generosity: she offered him the top of the ticket and volunteered to be his running mate.
Bernie Sanders should have taken that offer.
The Revolution Can Only Continue in Another Party
But Senator Sanders decided not to run as an independent or as the Green nominee. Perhaps he was politically threatened by the DNC, or perhaps he or his grandchildren were even physically threatened. With all the damning revelations in the leaked emails showing how the DNC broke laws to install their candidate as the nominee, any and all allegations of foul play by the DNC must be taken seriously. Nevertheless, it’s beyond the scope of this article to consider what the DNC did to convince Bernie Sanders not to run in the general election. For some reason or combination of reasons, Sanders chose not to run for president in the general, and he also decided somewhere along the line not to meaningfully contest the election fraud and rigging that is now widely evident.
Bernie has backed out, but that changes little about where we are politically. The issues that Bernie raised remain urgent and essential.
We must act aggressively to save our planet from climate change, end racist policing and incarceration, enable everyone who wants to attend college to do so without grotesque debt, remove corrupt money from politics, end aggressive wars around the planet, and provide decent healthcare to all Americans. In addition to all these other issues, we now also have this Great Recognition of 2016 to deal with: The leadership of our nominally left-leaning political party is corrupt and is likely tampering with our elections to maintain their power.
The revolution must continue, and it must continue without Bernie in the race for president. And we now know it must continue outside the DNC-controlled Democratic Party. For millions of Bernie supporters, myself included, supporting Hillary Clinton and the DNC is no longer possible or helpful. We need to build up a new party now so that it can change the national dialogue, affect policy, and win elections immediately.
While both the Democratic and Republican nominees are historically bad, the Green nominee, Jill Stein, is historically strong. The party itself is growing rapidly, fueled by the enthusiasm of the very young people who favored Sanders by 40 points nationwide in the primary. If there were ever a year when an independent or a new party could succeed, this is the year. 2016 has already been remarkable in countless ways, and more extraordinary events are likely to come.
The last time a third party candidate won the White House, a man named Abraham Lincoln was nominated in 1860 by a new third party called the Republican Party. That was at a time when the existential issue of slavery confronted the nation. Today the existential issue of climate change confronts our country. Extraordinary times produce extraordinary events.
The Patriotic Color in 2016 is Green
These are extraordinary times. In Philadelphia, the birthplace of our country, I witnessed the conventions for two political parties in one place.
One convention did something very undemocratic and unamerican in silencing the voices of thousands who had come to participate.
The other convention held inclusive, democratic conferences and summits to propose solutions to the most serious issues facing our country and planet. This convention wasn’t the formal Green Party convention of course— that would happen two weeks later in Houston — this was the convention of a movement, a movement that is forging ahead, a movement that in the best patriotic traditions of our country is reacting to a loss of representation with deeper democracy and revolution. A great many people at this outdoor convention, there and then, shifted their support from the corrupt Democratic Party to the Green Party. With the Great Recognition of 2016 underway, those new supporters of Jill Stein will likely prove to be but the first of millions.
Extraordinary times produce extraordinary events.