On Advantages and the “Unfairness” Thereof

I woke up to a bunch of “But Clinton had an unfair advantage in the primaries because of the decisions she was able to make.” The thing is, though, I don’t care. Not one tiny little bit.

I care that Donna Brazile characterized all this so very badly. I care that she was left hanging by her publisher and Politico. Both should have done substantial fact-checking on a claim this contentious, and neither seems to have done any. Politico in particular had published accounts of the joint fundraising agreements in 2015 that at least needed to be addressed and which were the starting point of unraveling Brazile’s account of hidden skullduggery.

I care that the DNC was left in such a sorry state. I’m disturbed that I haven’t seen any outlet reporting that they reached out to Obama and Biden for comment on that. Bankrupting the DNC is not just not a small thing in itself, but it created the opportunity for an ethical quagmire that, from reports, it took the party and the candidates months to work through.

I care that fundraising is such a central part of our campaigns. I hate that two-year-long campaigns require professionalization of staff (even as I know we can’t do the short campaigns of a parliamentary system). I hate the constant message inherent in fundraising appeals that you have to have money to spare to support candidates. I hate what the need to not scare off money does to our political speech.

But I don’t remotely care that Sanders may have screwed himself by opting out of fixing the party he wanted to have back him. I care that he had the option to participate in party decision-making once he declared his candidacy, which he did from the contemporaneous and current reporting. I don’t care that deciding not to may have had repercussions for him.

Photo of an array of screws balanced on their heads.
“Screw City” by Pascal, image in the public domain

Decisions about political alliances are one of the things that are supposed to differentiate candidates. Does Candidate A make better decisions on these matters than Candidate B? Great! Now we know Candidate A is likely to be more effective in enacting their agenda. As long as we agree well enough with that agenda, we have a good idea who we want to vote for.

Sanders was well within his rights to decide that money is dirty and political parties are dirty and he wanted as little as possible to do with either. I don’t agree with him, but aside from the part where he sought a party’s nomination, it’s a decently coherent position. But it comes with consequences that he had to deal with during the election and would have had to deal with afterward. He didn’t do that very well.

That’s not unfair. That’s not anyone screwing Sanders over. That’s the outcome of valuing purity in politics. That’s why even many of us reformers aren’t big on purity. It’s a great way to see the people you care about continue to lose. It takes an incredibly skilled politician to make progress while staying relatively “pure”.

It was the DNC’s job to make sure Sanders wasn’t preemptively shut out of their processes. Everything we have now (and for the last 2+ years) says they did that. It was Sanders’ job to show us he could succeed if he wanted to stay outside that process. He didn’t. I’m okay with that.

On Advantages and the “Unfairness” Thereof

4 thoughts on “On Advantages and the “Unfairness” Thereof

  1. 2

    Another Democratic circular firing squad just before elections and just when Mueller’s closing in. So very convenient to Trump and Putin. I don’t see how the heck they could have got Donna Brazile to work for them, and I don’t see how they could have fooled her into seeing something that’s not there, but I can see them jumping on it with great glee and blowing it out of proportion and playing, “Let’s you and them fight over this.”

  2. 3

    I don’t want to hear a single person claim that, after spending decades supporting the Democratic Party and working her ass off to get to the front of the line, it was unfair that Hillary Clinton had structural advantages over a man who joined the party just to run against her.

  3. 4

    “… that Sanders may have screwed himself by opting out of fixing the party he wanted to have back him. …”

    Brazile claimed in interviews (although not in the Politico piece) that the Clinton campaign had an additional memorandum to their fundraising agreement with the DNC that was not part of the standard agreement offered to the other campaigns. The other four campaigns did not have the party-fixing option, Brazile claims.

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