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Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia

Two aspects of Hillary Clinton’s response to the Bernie Sanders campaign have been notable in 2016. One has involved her attempts to “adjust” to his views to make tactical gains. (Mixed mutterings of scepticism, for instance, about the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.)

Of more interest is the undermining effort made by the Clinton camp, which has certainly veered well beyond Queensberry Rules. This might seem as ordinary as any statement about the prolific variety of cheese in France. We expect a political scrap in such primaries, and even the odd flash of indecent behaviour.

Nonetheless, it is always good to get incontrovertible evidence of such a tendency, showing the extent Sanders proved threatening to an individual who considers the White House her variant of political real estate.

WikiLeaks has again provided another list of items as part of its new series of releases on Hillary Clinton (the so-called “Hillary Leaks series”). The retort from the Clinton campaign team is that the source of the release did not necessarily come from a bleeding heart in the Democratic camp, some questioning spirit who had fallen on hard times and wished for a Sanders salvation. In all likelihood, suggested Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, Moscow played a role.

According to Mook, unspecified experts, always dangerously assumed to be such in the political business, were “telling us Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump.”[1] Those pesky Russians – again.

The accounts of seven figures of the Democratic National Congress feature in the WikiLeaks trove: Luis Miranda, Communications Director; National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan; Finance Chief of Staff Scott Comer; Finance Director of Data and Strategic Initiatives Daniel Parrish, Finance Director Allen Zachary, Senior Advisor Andrew Wright, and Northern California Finance Director Robert Stowe.

The political insight offered by the emails is also one of tactical outlines on how best to neutralise opponents. Little surprise that Trump features heavily, with one strategy document insisting on emphasizing important themes designed to make the GOP candidate look like a mad dog: “Trump is dangerous and divisive, undermining our values and putting our security at risk.” He is “insulting” and violent”; he “undermines security” (highlight, goes a pointer, the danger of putting him in control of “nuclear codes”) and he is “untrustworthy”.

But the most interesting matter remains the effort against Sanders. One email exchange between Western Regional Communication Director for the Democratic Party Walter Garcia, and Miranda, involves the latter asking for an article to be freely distributed “without attribution” (May 18, 2016).[2]

Naturally, it has to be a wholly negative one. Authored by political reporter Jon Ralston, Garcia notes it as being a “good read”, rich in its attack on the Sanders group as “small-picture people” that presumably frustrate the efforts of big-picture Clintonites. Delicious to him is the pro-Establishment line. If the Sanders revolution entails directed obscenities at Senator Barbara Boxer, calling a state party chair corrupt and insist on being cheated out of something not theirs, then “give me the Establishment.”

A month prior, Jeremy Brinster reflects on aspects connected with the Panel on the Democratic path forward. Admissions are made about the Super PAC “paying young voters to push back online on Sanders supporters.” There is a prevailing irritation that Clinton finds herself having “to appeal to young liberals as opposed to pivoting back to the center.”[3]

One of the spiciest catches in the whole effort came from DNC chief financial officer, Brad Marshall. Ever open to that dirty swollen tactic in US politics of sniffing out the atheist (Freedom’s land is also God’s in exclusive ownership), Marshall suggested to Miranda in an email charmingly titled “No Shit” that the Clinton campaign focus on Sanders’ belief system.

While it might have made “no difference”, asking Sanders about his belief might have been relevant in the context of the contest in Kentucky and West Virginia. Poke the Bern, feel the result. “My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”[4] It was all a matter, he explained, of the “Jesus thing.” Following on from the trail, Amy K. Dacey, Chief Executive Officer of the DNC, spouted one word: “AMEN.”[5]

The email revelations have already claimed their first notable scalp. Chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, announced her resignation ahead of the Democratic Party convention. At best, this is mere patchwork stuff.

Sanders’ response might have been more vigorous, suggesting that the smallest of doors had been opened about throwing his hat into the presidential ring as a separate candidate. He already had a mountain to move on: Clinton’s patchy record, her genuine problems as a candidate. Instead, he returned to themes of an artificial unity that does not wash with many of his supporters. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party.”

Her departure meant that the party had a chance to have “new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people.”[6] Unfortunately, such a cleansing could do with vigorous scrubbing of the very leadership itself, something which Sanders has exempted himself. The scouring devices have been set aside. “What is most important is defeating the worst candidate for president that I have seen in my lifetime.”

Notes.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/24/clinton-campaign-blames-russia-wikileaks-sanders-dnc-emails

[2] https://wikileaks.org/dnc-emails/emailid/9423

[3] https://wikileaks.org/dnc-emails/emailid/8351

[4] https://wikileaks.org/dnc-emails/emailid/7643

[5] https://wikileaks.org/dnc-emails/emailid/11508

[6] https://berniesanders.com/press-release/sanders-statement-dnc-chair-resignation/

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Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

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