A few weeks ago I started preparing a mental Christmas gift wish list. Several items had been considered more or less for years, including Democratic Party swag, perhaps Democratic National Committee (DNC). I’m glad I refrained from verbalizing these suggestions to my nearest and dearest. Because party establishment – we have a problem.
When Hillary Clinton announced her 2016 candidacy in April of this year, I rejoiced. I proudly voted for the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State in the 2008 Illinois primary. I’m a 37-year-old woman who was 13 when Clinton stepped onto the national stage. There she’s remained for nearly a quarter century of iconic feminist glory. She hasn’t been perfect – as a human or a politician. She will never be in possession of the magnetism of her husband, but it’s clear that unlikely yin and yang is a powerful force for center-left (mostly) good. Clinton has been a role model for two generations of smart, ambitious young women.
She’s one of the most methodical and well-informed leaders in modern history. It’s been time to crash through that glass ceiling for decades, and Hillary Clinton would do a highly competent job of leading America through very tough times. Few know the system better.
What I’m coming to realize, however, is that I can’t live with casting a vote in favor of the system when there’s a viable, committed and inclusive alternative. And it’s increasingly obvious that Mrs. Clinton is deeply, and perhaps inextricably, tied to the status quo of politics. Email controversy, Benghazi and all 1990s-era kerfuffles aside, voters from both ends of the ideological spectrum are demonstrating hunger for real change. We may disagree vehemently on the finer points of nearly every issue, but we concur that the time of the Beltway insider has passed. The middle and working classes have been sold out, and the suffering of the poorest among us has only intensified.
As a nation, we also seem to agree that we don’t want the media or the supposed political authority telling us who’s next to lead. See the hugely transformational ascent of Donald Trump on the right, that peddler of hatemongering who taps into the fear and alienation of conservative white voters. Following the 2009 Tea Party revolution, the wings of change offered by Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, et al have been clipped. The usurpers have become the establishment during an unprecedented period of gridlock.
And on the left there’s U.S. Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, using the power of her office to influence the outcome of the Democratic primaries. As a woman and writer who tries to arrive at humanist, evidence-based conclusions, I’m not proud to admit this. I ignored a lot of mounting evidence this fall, because I didn’t want it to be true. I wanted to keep a campaign chockablock with quality superior to anything Republicans had to offer, pure and disinterested. Just the issues please. Too bad Wasserman Schultz and her team haven’t displayed the same commitment.
In early August when Martin O’Malley first accused the DNC of “circling the wagons” around the former Secretary of State, I dismissed his gripe as the natural position of a longshot candidate in need of attention. But the curiously limited and bizarrely scheduled Democratic debate structure. And the exclusivity clause which prevents Bernie, Hillary and Martin from participating in any non-DNC sponsored forums.
By the time the DNC suspended the Sanders campaign’s access to a voter data system the day before the third debate, and just six weeks before primaries begin, only the most stubbornly naïve Clintonite could dismiss reality. The DNC deck has been corruptly shuffled in Hillary’s favor. Many are calling for Wasserman Schultz’s resignation. This disgrace is more than just unbecoming of party leadership that purports to represent inclusive ideals. It’s an unforced error, creating an ugly holiday scandal when loyal Democrats should be enjoying a season of calm. Has party leadership watched or listened to the opposition lately?
Many once firmly in the Clinton camp suspect that the accomplished candidate is at least passively supportive of the DNC’s actions. And they come at the expense of an appealing alternative voice that deserves an equitable chance to be heard by the American people. Burying Senator Bernie Sanders’ populist, socialist message of change on Friday and Saturday nights, or revoking his staff’s access to information, does everyone involved a huge disservice. It taints the DNC as an activist organization with shady ethics. It positions Clinton as thin-skinned, mercurial and dishonest – magnifying 25 years’ worth of detractor accusations. It ensures a wider audience for the hateful, backward-looking Republican debates. And it’s we the people who pay the largest price.
So I’m Feelin’ the Bern this Christmas. As I told a loved one this morning, I’ll always be a fan of Hillary Clinton and remain grateful for her service to the nation. I yearn for the day when I can celebrate the election of a female POTUS. But I can’t allow gender to be my guide. I’m uncomfortable with her hawkish positions, ties to Wall Street and that she hasn’t done more to create distance between herself and the party machine. The system is broken. It needs to be taken down and rebuilt. Sanders, like Barack Obama eight years ago, is the right candidate for this moment.
I’ll end this resolute, if wistful, rant with a quote from that aforementioned loved one about Bernie’s appeal. It’s provided some solace from the pain of Clinton decampment:
“The data breach issue and the DNC’s larger manipulations on behalf of Clinton highlight the need for dramatic change in Washington. That change is Bernie. He’s not in anyone’s pocket. He doesn’t have a super PAC. He calls out bullshit even when it means taking on the committee of his own party. The revolution this country needs is not the bombastic, social media trending, scandalous talk of Donald Trump. He’s just words. Bernie has actual plans and they involve refashioning this ridiculous political climate we’re in so it works for the people rather than office holders and corporations.”