May 6, 2016 by Barbara With
The race for the democratic nomination lurches forward as Bernie Sanders won another unexpected victory in Indiana. With each win, the party divides further, split between Sanders and We the People who stand behind his FDR-style popularism, and Clinton, the Wall Street limousine Democrats, and her global financiers.
Out of this split have come several groups pledging not to vote for Hillary Clinton no matter what. Part of their “enough is enough” sentiment is due to Clinton having all the wrong money from all the wrong places, including multinational mining, fossil fuel, defense contractors, hedge funders, bankers, Big Pharma, and a network of dark money Super Pacs.
To understand this anti-vote, consider the party platform and how it is created.
Every four years, the Democratic Party holds a national convention to nominate candidates for president and vice president. Delegates come together from all the state parties to approve a party platform. This is the “democracy” part of Democrat: the people give consent to be governed based on the vision they themselves had input into during their local, county, and state party conventions.
The platform, principles and strategies are designed by rank and file party members to address their pressing issues. They express the values on which all party candidates should run. Platforms inform and direct candidates by providing a position from which to campaign. Party members also receive the assurance that their candidates will be governing in line with these mutually agreed-upon values, thereby earning the voters’ consent.
Members of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) voted to adopt a new party platform at the 2014 state convention. Contained within it are the values Democrats agreed should guide their progressive party: Clean water, addressing climate change, equality for all, open government, equal right to vote, affordable health care, quality public education, to name a few. Bernie Sanders’ campaign aligns with this platform. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is disturbingly out of alignment with several non-negotiable issues, including climate change and the “root of all evil” issue of campaign finance and Citizen United.
Campaign Finance and Dark Money in Politics
Addressing the pressing issue of the 2010 Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates of corporate donations, the platform reads:
Our goal is a government and an electoral process free of the corrupting influences of money and power. We strongly oppose the decision of the US Supreme Court to allow unlimited campaign advertising by corporations, foreign and domestic. A new Amendment to the Constitution must be adopted to make clear that Corporations are not People and that money is not speech;
Clinton is not demonstrating alignment with this non-negotiable plank. She is clearly in conflict with a major core value of the platform. Regardless of the influence wielded by the money she accepts from special interests, she is still taking the dark money, the advertising, and more. One Clinton Super Pac run by David Brock, Correct the Record (CTR), openly brags about spending $1M on internet trolls to take down any opposition to Hillary Clinton. Campaign money doesn’t get much darker than that. Clinton is practicing what the party has committed to doing away with.
As the Clinton campaign takes advantage of all that dark money, she sends a message to the down-ballot candidates that it’s perfectly acceptable for them to take it, too.
It’s working. In an interview on The Devil’s Advocate radio show in April 2016, DPW Party Chair Martha Laning was asked about the Hillary Victory Fund (HVF), a fundraising scheme now under fire for misleading the public regarding the use of the donations. Taking advantage of the 2014 Supreme Court decision McCutcheon v. FEC, the HVF is another venue for wealthy donors who have already given millions to other Clinton Super Pacs to pump even more money and influence into the election:
Devil’s Advocate: Do you think this is, in light of the McCutcheon ruling, is this a new way of doing business for the Dem party of Wisconsin?
Martha Laning: I’m thrilled to have that support because it is really tough to compete against the dark money from the Republican Party.
DA: What do you say to the people who are saying that this is an effective end around to campaign contributions being funneled to Hillary Clinton or to back channel support back to her through the DNC?
ML: No, it isn’t, and this is again the conspiracy theory. [Laughs and chuckles] Oh and I understand. People get very involved in this and they get very suspicious … We were able to bring people [Clinton’s donors] into our state … Just because this money is coming through from supporters of a particular candidate, there’s nothing wrong with it as long as we’re using the money properly and we are.
Despite Laning’s claims that the money is getting into the hands of down-ticket Dems at state and local levels, state parties that signed up to benefit from the fund are actually required to turn the donations over immediately to the DNC, where more than 60% of the funds are fueled back to support Clinton through her Super Pacs.
Laning’s statements indicate that the DPW is now embracing dark money and supports receiving and being a part of a dark money network. That network includes Correct the Record, which has the same donors as the HVF. CTR was just caught drafting Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s scathing column on CNN.com that praised Hillary Clinton and ripped apart Sanders. Emails released by the mayor’s communications director show CTR directly coordinating with Reed’s office, which is explicitly prohibited.
This means that Democrats who support Clinton are abandoning the platform and values on which they were elected, taking the money, and shaming those who are trying to hold them accountable. For this reason, those in the #DropOutHillary movement are demanding—and rightfully so—that Clinton should drop out for the good of the party. They want the party to align to the platform to which they gave their consent to be governed, or they will remove their consent. How can a potential candidate for president go against the very platform that members of the Democratic party itself created, voted on, and professes to abide by? Dark money is not what We the People signed up for.
If Clinton gets the nomination, #DropOutHillary supporters are prepared to abandon the party, and for good reason. Here in Wisconsin, the majority of the state’s Super Delegates have already pledged themselves to Clinton, despite 99% of the counties going to Sanders in the primary. Sanders supporters feel robbed of elected representation. But it’s life-long Democrats announcing that they will shut up and take the money, thereby abandoning the party platform in order to align with Clinton, that strikes at the deep core of the discontent.
With Donald Trump now the presumptive nominee for the Republicans, #DropOutHillary pledgers are working overtime to hold Clinton supporters—especially the Super Delegates—accountable. They are demanding the Democratic party abandon her as the weaker of the two Democratic candidates or they will remove their consent to be governed. With so many committed to not voting for her, Clinton becomes even more vulnerable in the general election and a greater liability to the party. With the convention looming, this split will only get bigger, darker, and undeniably uglier.
Democrats are in the throes of a major melt-down. As they abandon their principles to line up for a chunk of the corporate cash, they are effectively destroying their party from within. The only hope of salvation is if this year’s Super Delegates make the right choice and back Sanders. If they succumb to internal party corruption and back Clinton, they will lose to Trump, destroy the party, and will only have themselves to blame.