As someone who supported Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, I’d rather not have to talk about my regrets. I’ve had a few, but not to few, or small, to mention. Clinton would have been a better president than Trump. Then again most of my high school students would have done a better job. Clinton may have also been more effective than Bernie Sanders. Our political support is, at best, conjecture. (I supported John Edwards for president once).
The emerging picture of Clinton’s campaign, however, is ugly. It reveals a stunningly bad disconnect with reality, and if Donna Brazile can be believed, actual cheating in the primary. Only an idiot would deny the fact that the DNC’s thumb was on the scale for Clinton. We’re now learning that the scale itself had been tampered with.
Stan Greenberg has a major takedown of her campaign at The American Prospect. Greenberg worked closely with John Podesta on Bill Clinton’s campaign, and he had more than a nodding acquaintance with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Astonishingly, the 2016 Clinton campaign conducted no state polls in the final three weeks of the general election and relied primarily on data analytics to project turnout and the state vote. They paid little attention to qualitative focus groups or feedback from the field, and their brief daily analytics poll didn’t measure which candidate was defining the election or getting people engaged.
The models from the data analytics team led by Elan Kriegel got the Iowa and Michigan primaries badly wrong, with huge consequences for the race. Why were they not then fired? Campaign manager Robbie Mook and the analytics team argued, according to Shattered, that the Sanders vote grew “organically”—turnout was unexpectedly high and new registrants broke against Clinton. Why was that a surprise?
Campaign chair John Podesta wanted to fire Mook, but Clinton stood by him. She rightly admired previous campaigns in which big data and technology were big winners, yet in 2008 it was the candidate and his appeal more than the technical wizardry that pushed Obama over the top. David Axelrod told me that analytics adds a “great field-goal kicker”—no substitute for a strategy and compelling message.
The entire piece is well-worth reading. Greenberg is the leading advocate for appealing to working-class voters; he’s done extensive polling and focus groups on their interests and how to appeal to them.
Brazile’s piece in Politico is bound to set off more revelations. The problem starts with President Obama, the guy who appointed the odious Debbie Wasserman Shultz to head the DNC and left the part deeply in debt.
Officials from Hillary’s campaign had taken a look at the DNC’s books. Obama left the party $24 million in debt—$15 million in bank debt and more than $8 million owed to vendors after the 2012 campaign—and had been paying that off very slowly. Obama’s campaign was not scheduled to pay it off until 2016. Hillary for America (the campaign) and the Hillary Victory Fund (its joint fundraising vehicle with the DNC) had taken care of 80 percent of the remaining debt in 2016, about $10 million, and had placed the party on an allowance.
If I didn’t know about this, I assumed that none of the other officers knew about it, either. That was just Debbie’s way. In my experience she didn’t come to the officers of the DNC for advice and counsel. She seemed to make decisions on her own and let us know at the last minute what she had decided…
To pay off the debt, the party had made a deal with the Clinton campaign. The
Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America… —signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and [the odious] Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.
It is typical to merge the party apparatus and the presidential campaign AFTER the primary. In exchange, Clinton paid off 80% of the DNC’s debt. The deal was struck between Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Robbie Mook. This quid pro quo is not illegal, according to Donna Brazile.
The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.
There’s probably more to this story. I doubt Clinton will come out looking any better, but she deserves to be able to defend herself. If any good comes out of this disgusting deal, it will be a better, more transparent DNC.
And when figures come out about the lack of money in the DNC’s treasury, you’ll know why big donors aren’t exactly interested in making contributions.