Donna Brazile’s revealing look at what was going on within her beloved Democratic Party in the days leading up to Donald Trump’s victory over party favorite Hillary Clinton last November has finally forced media pundits to realize that the hated Republicans aren’t the only dysfunctional family in town.
Ms. Brazile’s revelation in her new book “Hacks” that the party leadership was not only pro-Clinton but, to use a popular Washington term, colluding with her and her campaign to make sure she would win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination didn’t come as much of a shock. Every semi-conscious follower of national political goings-on already knew this, but few would have guessed that party leaders would have formally rented the party apparatus to a prospective nominee and then lied about it to the press, members of the party’s governing committee and to her rivals.
It turns out that as 2016 approached, the Democratic Party was not just broke, but deeply in debt, thanks to President Obama’s belief that everything was about him and him alone. His handpicked party chairman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was no Bob Strauss and, as Ms. Brazile puts it, not much of a fundraiser. In desperation, she and her cohorts went to Mrs. Clinton for help and got a lesson in what it’s like to borrow from loan sharks. The Clinton campaign was more than happy to help, but for a price. The “vig” included control over party strategy, veto power over personnel and even final say over press releases that Ms. Brazile discovered, after taking over as acting chairman, had to be passed by Clinton operatives in New York before they could be released.
The deal was formalized in a contract put together for the Clinton campaign by Washington lawyer and campaign general counsel Marc Elias — when he wasn’t busy eliciting what turned out to be a largely fictional anti-Trump “dossier” by channeling campaign and party funds to former British and Russian intelligence operatives with vivid imaginations. Later, like a true Clintonite, he offered a similar contract to Sen. Bernie Sanders absent the control features in the agreement with the Clinton campaign and described it as essentially the same agreement offered others.
Supporters of Mr. Sanders, who emerged as Mrs. Clinton’s greatest pre-nomination challenger, always suspected the contest was being waged on something less than a level playing field. They see the deal as proof that they were robbed. But one suspects that even if the Democratic National Committee had played fair, Mr. Sanders would have lost anyway, just as even if the Russians had stayed out of things, Mr. Trump would have beat Mrs. Clinton in November.
Ms. Brazile touches on the real problem the Democrats faced in 2016 and continue to struggle with today. Their candidate and her campaign could remember neither the words nor the music that led them to success after success in an earlier day. Successful political campaigns must utilize all the analytical data available, but data-driven campaigns without heart are almost always doomed to fail. The young analysts Mrs. Clinton put in charge of her operation had performed well for Mr. Obama earlier, but while they provided the data, he provided the vision and heart that propelled him to the White House in 2008 and 2012. Mrs. Clinton could provide neither.
The folks running Mrs. Clinton’s campaign weren’t much interested in real voters, but in numbers. They didn’t see it as crucial that their candidate go to places like Wisconsin to actually ask for support because their data said she wouldn’t have to visit places like that. These are the sorts of people who would rather text their friends than talk to them over a cup of coffee or waste time chatting on the phone. They were the ones quick to dismiss the energy and numbers of voters showing up to hear Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump as irrelevant.
The Houston Astros won one of the most exciting World Series in history this fall after a rebuild that almost didn’t work because, as their star pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, told a Wall Street Journal analyst after the series: “There was a disconnect. Every player was a number instead of a person.” The Astros, prior to this year, relied on data and the analytics that have come to dominate many of today’s sports, but learned ignoring the heart for the head was not the answer,
This year things changed and the new team, while relying still on analytics, developed the chemistry so essential to winning. The atmosphere in the old Astros locker room may have resembled the “sterile hospital ward” Ms. Brazile found when she visited the Clinton campaign headquarters last fall, “but all that changed this year with the Astros’ realization that numbers aren’t everything.”
As Ms. Brazile notes between almost every line of her book, that’s something Mrs. Clinton and those around her never realized.
• David A. Keene is editor at large at The Washington Times.