The Democratic leadership, the mainstream media, and likely most of Hillary Clinton’s supporters will never address the sabotage of American democracy that they were complicit with in 2016. This is apparent because despite all the details that have come out about the theft of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, the political and media class is approaching the 2020 race with the assumption that the contest for the Democratic nomination will be run fairly.
For this reason, it’s crucial that independent journalists continue to document what the Democratic Party did three years ago, and that we make Democratic voters aware of it in the lead-up to when they participate in next year’s primary elections. This is the story of how the selfish wishes of a political dynasty resulted in an unprecedented defeat for American democracy, and how this then doomed America to the depraved political landscape that we’re now experiencing.
Prologue: preparing for a primary that was destined to be rigged
The Clintons were famously Machiavellian political figures. They perfected the art of triangulation, turning the Democratic Party’s allegiance from labor unions and the civil rights movement towards corporate interests. Hillary Clinton especially seemed to have an authoritarian approach towards politics, with her prioritization of loyal subordinates over competent ones leading to her hiring the under-qualified team of campaign leaders who helped her lose the 2016 election. As the journalist Michael Graham has written about how tightly the Clintons controlled the Democratic Party prior to their political exile after 2016: “The Clintons held the purse strings; they had the power. If you wanted to rise in the ranks of the Democratic Party, you kissed the ring- the Clinton ring. Leaders and free thinkers were quickly weeded out. Cutthroat loyalists and corporate lobbyists were placed in positions of power within the party. If you weren’t a ‘team player,’ then you were exiled.”
When Hillary Clinton lost the primary to Barack Obama in 2008, the Clintons applied their skills at winning in the game of ruling class infighting. When a group of fanatical Clinton supporters emerged who called themselves the PUMAs-ostensibly standing for “People United Means Action,” and popularly nicknamed “Party Unity My Ass”-the Clintons made no effort to rein them in. As the PUMAs urged Clinton’s supporters to vote for McCain in protest of Obama’s victory, the Clintons leveraged the PUMAs’ threats towards party unity by negotiating for the loyalty of Obama and the Democratic Party leadership. Hillary would now get a position as Secretary of State, and she could pursue the nomination in 2016 without any more threats to her ambitions.
The PUMAs’ extreme loyalty and lack of concern for the harm that their actions caused makes them representative of the cynical political operatives who Hillary Clinton relied on for gaining the nomination in 2016. And Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who’d been on Clinton’s staff in 2008, is the foremost among these operatives; in the lead-up to the 2016 election, Schultz and other top Democratic National Committee officials had almost unanimously decided that they would hand Clinton the nomination by any means necessary.
As far back as 2014, Schultz and other Democratic insiders were preparing to appoint a circle of Clinton loyalists to run the party’s election strategy. Throughout the year before the the primary elections started, the DNC chose consultants like Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Anita Dunn, Hilary Rosen, and Jon Reinish-all of whom had histories showing they would side with Clinton-to decide how the party would act. From the start, Sanders had few allies within the Democratic leadership other than Tulsi Gabbard, who was sent a rudely immature letter by the DNC for endorsing Sanders.
Hillary Clinton also ensured that the primary would be tilted by buying the loyalty of the DNC, and of many of the state Democratic parties. So says Donna Brazile’s 2017 book “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House,” Clinton leveraged her fundraising clout towards giving the DNC funding in exchange for the ability to influence the DNC’s decisions, including who it would hire and fire. Clinton also funneled money to 33 state Democratic parties, effectively buying their loyalty right before they’d manage the primary voting processes in their states.
Unlike in 2008, the Democratic Party leadership had long been prepared to hand Clinton the nomination. And unlike Obama, Sanders posed a threat to the party’s neoliberal paradigm because of his rejection of Wall Street money and his support for policies like single payer health care. So as has been revealed in the resentful anti-Sanders emails from Schultz and other DNC officials, the party had no concern for democracy as long as the preferred outcome of the primary would be reached. As Commentary Magazine’s Noah Rothman observed about the Democratic Party’s corruption, the Republican leadership “could have taken any number of avenues that would have, for example, made it impossible for Donald Trump to ascend to the debate stage or to meet the requirements to secure ballot access at the state-level. Indeed, party officials flirted with those prospects, but cooler heads prevailed. The same cannot be said of the Democratic Party’s officials, who have been nakedly at work protecting Hillary Clinton from the scrutiny of her fellow party members.”
The theft of an election
The first active part of the party’s sabotage of Sanders was the pro-Clinton bias that the DNC and the Clinton campaign engineered within the media. WikiLeaks has revealed that in April 2015, Politico’s Glenn Thrush privately sent stories to Clinton staffers for approval, among the numerous other instances of major media sources colluding with the Clinton campaign and/or the DNC throughout the 2016 election. And this is aside from the blackout of the Sanders campaign that happened within the corporate media regardless of the DNC’s actions-a pattern of bias which has been confirmed by a Harvard study.
Next came the DNC’s manipulating the Democratic presidential debate schedule so that Sanders would get less exposure, along with their funneling money to the Clinton campaign after it was solicited for down-ticket candidates. The DNC also helped create a false public perception about Clinton being insurmountably in the lead by counting the superdelegates as if they didn’t vote at July’s convention.
But these disturbing underhanded tricks were relatively minor. When the primary elections started, it became apparent that we weren’t just seeing a few cases of political favoritism; this was a direct election theft whose scale surpassed the Bush team’s sabotage of the Florida vote count in 2000.
The first state, Iowa, was wrought with accounts of inconsistent vote counts, poorly run polling locations, lack of voter registration and other problems. The results of the caucus were also extremely close, which would have triggered an automatic recount if the process were carried out fairly. When the Sanders campaign independently counted the votes, found inconsistencies with the official count, and asked to compare notes with the Iowa Democratic Party, the party’s chair Dr. Andy McGuire refused to open up a questioning of the results.
Then there was the Nevada caucus on February 20st, which prompted an expression of concern from National Nurses United. They concluded that the Nevada voting process was tilted in favor of Hillary Clinton, with their analysis listing the following irregularities:
- Management intimidation of voters at casinos
- Improper caucus registration
- Long lines that distorted turnout
- Biased behavior by caucus chairs (including allowing for electioneering to take place and making rules in favor of Clinton supporters)
- Disparate electioneering rules (with Clinton supporters being allowed to campaign around the caucus site while Sanders supporters were barred from doing the same)
And the violations of the voting process would surpass these voter suppression activities. As researchers at Berkeley and Stanford have found, numerous Democratic primary contests had exit polls whose discrepancies with the official results were statistically impossible-and which worked in Clinton’s favor. Another clear sign that vote tally manipulation had taken place is a look at the graphs of the vote records in many of the primary elections. Whereas a normal looking cumulative vote share graph takes the shape of a bell, one can find many graphs produced throughout the primaries that have wildly different patterns.
Among the states with evidence of these vote tally fabrications are Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, and New York. The full extent of the fraud will never be known, since the polling company Edison Research didn’t release the raw exit poll data and then canceled the remaining exit polls when people demanded to see the un-tampered with data.
As this erasure of the existing Sanders votes happened, voter suppression in favor of Clinton’s voters continued. In Massachusetts, Bill Clinton was found violating campaign laws by strategically blocking potential Sanders voters from polling locations. In the Arizona primary, massive voter role changes and purges happened before the voting day, disqualifying many thousands of Democratic voters. The amount of polling locations in Arizona was also severely inadequate, and the state’s provisional ballots weren’t counted. The New York primary was even worse, with tens of thousands of voters having been removed from the rolls and massive voter suppression on the voting day having been reported.
In a dozen important states, including New York, Illinois, Arizona, and Massachusetts, officials had to deal with lawsuits surrounding voting irregularities. The suppression of Sanders’ voters reached thuggish levels when Nevada caucus leader Roberta Lange decided to only count the results of the first-tier caucus that Clinton had won, denied Sanders’ delegates the opportunity for a re-vote, and used police to clear out the convention.
These kinds of tactics happened in California too. Hillary ally and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla gave voters conflicting instructions on how to vote, with poll workers having reporting that they were told to give out the wrong kind of ballots to independent voters. California also purged thousands of eligible voters before the primary, and the voting day was plagued with broken machines and incomplete voter rolls. In San Diego, citizens spotted a shredding truck outside of a central vote-counting station and captured video of ballots with Sanders votes covered in white-out. This was part of an effort to throw out at least a million ballots in California.
Another act of sabotage that hurt Sanders was the decision by the Associated Press to announce the false claim that Clinton had clinched the nomination on the day before the California primary. Their statement was only a reiteration of the count of superdelegates who supported Clinton over Sanders, who wouldn’t vote until the convention and still had time to switch. But the media nonetheless repeated the AP’s lie, no doubt discouraging voters from participating in the remaining primaries.
Justice has not been done for the theft of the primary. Schultz has been able to continue with her political career, and there’s no assurance that the DNC will be impartial in 2020. The officials who perpetrated the election fraud are also still impune because of America’s corrupt voting system, a system which is exploited by both parties. As Truthout’s Victoria Collier & Ben Ptashnik have written about the voting manipulations that took place in the 2016 Democratic primary:
When it comes to accusations of fraud, the fact is that a hefty percentage of the suppression seen in the primaries can be traced back to the long-standing attack on voting rights spearheaded by right-wing forces since 2010. The American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC and the Tea Party coordinate these attacks with funding from the Koch Brothers. The plot to suppress the votes of progressive and Democratic-leaning youth and minorities is well documented, and even admitted to by a number of Republican politicians and operatives.
The cover up: denials, distractions, and censorship
The political and media class has done all they can to convince people that the primary wasn’t rigged. Writers for the New York Times and The Nation have put out condescending and misleading articles about the primary which attempt to refute the overwhelming amount of evidence that election fraud happened. Clinton’s post-defeat supporters have also tried to rationalize their decision to stick with an election fraud perpetrator, like when the pro-Hillary pundit Sasha Stone wrote a very defensive-sounding article titled: “Hey Bernie Supporters — Stop Forcing Democrats to Agree to the Lie that the Primary Was Rigged. It Wasn’t.”
When the denials of the theft of the primary haven’t been fueled by ego, they’ve seemed to be motivated by a desire to fit in with the political and media establishment. In July 2016, right after WikiLeaks had put out the emails proving DNC officials had sabotaged Sanders, Sanders staffer Symone D. Sanders threw her fellow Bernie supporters under the bus by claiming that “the system didn’t cheat us.” An even uglier response to the cries of election fraud came from the serially dishonest Democratic Party ally Bill Maher, who said in his post-California primary show that Clinton had won the primary “fair and square.” His audience clapped when he told this lie.
During this mid-2016 culture of denial around the attack on democracy that had just happened, the corporate/intelligence complex quickly worked to suppress information about the Democratic Party’s crime. In an October 2017 Senate testimony, Twitter’s lawyer admitted that Twitter had suppressed tweets relating to the DNC leak and the Podesta emails after these WikiLeaks dumps came out.
Which constitutional rights did Comey FBI & Lynch DOJ not violate? 4th & 5th Amendment privacy & due process rights when lied to FISA court. Shits all over 1st Amendment press freedoms in persecuting & lying about Julian Assange @wikileaks for publishing DNC & other inside leaks. https://t.co/WVJVxkvpPc
— Tim Canova (@Tim_Canova) March 23, 2019
This ominous event foreshadowed a new era of McCarthyism, political demagoguery, and censorship whose purpose has been to distract Americans from realities like the theft of the primary. After the DNC leak, U.S. intelligence agencies made the initially questionable and now thoroughly debunked claim that WikiLeaks had gotten the emails from Russian hackers. The media interpreted this as evidence that the DNC revelations were part of a foreign plot to influence the election, a narrative which Clinton and other Democrats who’d been involved in the primary election fraud eagerly embraced.
These Democrats needed a distraction from the heist they’d just pulled. This was apparent from the fact that Clinton’s team thought up the decision to portray Russia as the culprit for their loss within 24 hours after the election.
Since then, politicians and pundits have used the hyping of additional dubious Russia threats to deflect from the evils that they’ve been complicit in. Clinton’s defenders would rather talk about Russian memes than about the fact that voters in deciding areas rejected Clinton for her pro-war record. The Democratic Party’s embrace of neoliberalism and the decline of American living standards have been implicitly discounted as factors in Clinton’s loss, with mainstream discussions about the election usually mentioning Russia before anything else. “Russiagate” is a ruling class diversion that’s being used to cover up the rot of American democracy, and the events of the 2016 Democratic primary are a central part of what the political and media establishment wants to conceal.
Fighting “Russian propaganda” has also been used as an excuse to censor those who speak up about these kinds of issues. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Google, which are tied in with the American intelligence community, have imposed unprecedented censorship in the last three years which has mainly targeted alternative media outlets. The liberal press has either ignored or supported these attacks against democracy, and even progressives like Cenk Uygur have pushed the dangerous anti-Russia narratives which make them possible.
All of this has been an attempt to gaslight Bernie Sanders’ supporters into submission. And this behavior from Clinton and the rest of the Democratic establishment is standard operating procedure. As the columnist Amanda Girard observed during the primary:
According to the basic Wikipedia definition, gaslighting is a form of mental abuse wherein “information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented” by an abusive person in order to manipulate the accuser into questioning reality. Most commonly, the technique is used by abusers to outright deny any past wrongdoing when confronted for past behavior.
After a feud yesterday in which Clinton questioned Sanders’ qualifications for the presidency and Sanders responded in kind, Hillary Clinton played coy and acted as if she were above the fray. During an interview in New York, Clinton said she would support Sanders if he were the nominee, and suggested he instead direct his attacks on Republicans and “keep our eye on what’s really at stake in this election.” Liberal blog Daily Kos praised Clinton’s remarks, saying she was taking “the high road.” The same author of that blog called on Sanders to apologize for responding to Clinton’s previous attacks on his qualifications.
Since this is how the Clintons (and the ruling class in general) act when confronted over their behavior, their response to the revelations about the theft of the primary has been predictable: try to convince their victims that the harm that was done is all imagined.
The lesson from all of this: we need a revolution
There are many signs that the Democratic establishment plans to rig the next primary against the progressive Democratic candidates Sanders and Gabbard. The DNC has created a loyalty oath allowing for the chair to deny progressives access to the ballot if he thinks they haven’t been “faithful” to the party, kept the superdelegate system, slashed the number of caucuses because this would likely hurt Sanders’ performance, and done nothing to stop the corporate donations to the party which let billionaires control which candidates it runs.
It’s quite possible that the DNC will elect Trump in 2020 by forcing through a Wall Street candidate who wasn’t picked by Democratic voters, just like was the case in 2016. And if this happens, many Sanders supporters will likely come to the conclusion I’ve reached: that our political system is too thoroughly rigged by a ruling cabal of oligarchs, so we can only get change by overthrowing it.
“When evil is running amok, revolt is compassion,” the Sanders supporter Michael E. Sparks wrote in his 2016 piece Civil Disobedience and Bernie Sanders. “I am not espousing violence. It is not the violence, but the rage I am embracing. As I watched Sanders’ supporters storm the barrier [in the Nevada convention], I prayed they would stop. I watched the man raise the chair and my heart skipped a beat. ‘If he throws the chair the police charge, the citizens will fight back and ultimately people will be hurt and possibly die,’ I thought. I held my breath. The man set the chair back down. Tragedy was averted. But democracy was still raped.”
Around the world, people are rebelling against their governments. The working class reaction against neoliberalism has produced the Yellow Vests, whose efforts are already leading to systemic change. Worker rebellions like the teacher strikes have been happening at exceptional rates in the last year or so, and it’s clear that the ruling class is once again afraid of a movement towards socialism. We’ve entered into a revolutionary period, where discontent with global inequality is boiling over. I have hope that in the coming years, people will stand up to the corporations and politicians who’ve beaten us down for so long. #DnCriminals Click To Tweet
“We are not ready for violence,” Sparks continues in the piece. “We are not at our end. We have so many avenues left to pursue. The pen is mightier than the sword and The Internet is a billion pens scribbling at once. I advocate NOT for violence, but for rage and for action.”
I wrote this because in order to dismantle the systems of oppression, we need to tell the facts and name the names about injustices like the theft of the 2016 election. This article is meant not to be a rehashing of painful memories, but a piece of agitation propaganda which reminds people why it’s so crucial for us all to fight for our freedom.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” ~ John F. Kennedy
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