Donna Brazile rode the Clinton express for decades, parlaying the ride into fame and possibly fortune. Now that the one-time express is a stalled local, Brazile has hopped off, and will make a pretty penny for her expose of that train.
As Steve suggests, Brazile isn’t just hopping off the Clinton train and trying to sell her book. She also wants fellow passengers to disembark with her.
It suits this purpose that Bernie Sanders not be portrayed as the only victim of Hillary Clinton’s takeover of the DNC. Many of those who’ve ridden with Brazile on the Clinton express don’t particularly like Sanders and aren’t entirely comfortable with his brand of leftism (more on this below).
Thus, Joe Biden has been cast as Sanders’ co-victim. Poor Uncle Joe understood that the fix was in, and thus wouldn’t take the plunge. If only the process had been open, he might have entered the fray and perhaps delivered a third Obama term.
The unfair squeezing out of Joe Biden is all the more reason to abandon the Clintons.
Frankly, though, I don’t think at this point that Democrats need any new reason to abandon them. The devastating fact that Hillary lost is sufficient. Had she won, most Democrats would be praising her hardball tactics.
Personally, I don’t find it shocking that a presumptive nominee would use the DNC to squeeze out opponents and potential opponents. I assume, for example, that when an incumbent president seeks a second term, the National Committee becomes his tool.
Hillary wasn’t an incumbent president. She’s the wife a former president and was the choice of the then-sitting president to be his successor. Maybe that’s close, but it’s clearly not the same as being president.
In principle, though, control of the DNC by an incumbent president is no more fair to opponents and potential opponents than control by someone whom many fancy as incumbent-like. Hillary’s sin doesn’t lie in unfairness. It lies in presumptuousness. She behaved like an incumbent. She presumed she was an express, when she was really a local.
That’s why Democrats don’t need anyone to tell them to hop off the Clinton train. What they can use is advice about which train to hop on.
I haven’t read Brazile’s book, but I suspect she’s signaling Democrats to hop on the shiny train on the left track. That, in any event, is the likely effect of her tale.
Brazile’s tale will stoke, and is probably intended to stoke, strong grievances not just against the Clintons, but also the “establishment.” Hers is a “stab in the back” narrative, the kind that always fuels one form of populism or another.
The Democrats can now have their “drain the swamp” moment. This, I think, is the true significance of Brazile’s book.
Brazile almost certainly is not a “drain the swamp” populist. Rather, she probably recognizes (1) that left-wing populism is where it’s at right now and (2) that the grievances that fuel it can provide the energy needed to pull the Democratic party out of the doldrums.
The big question is who, ultimately, will conduct that shiny train on the left. Will it be those who are already aboard — the Sanderists — or those who are scurrying aboard.
David Azerrad of the Heritage Foundation has identified two strands of the Democratic left that, it seems to me, correspond more or less to the two sets of “riders” I’ve just described. They are “class-based redistributionism” and “identity politics.” He writes:
On most days, class-based redistributionism and identity politics co-exist within the Democratic Party. The run-of-the-mill Democratic stump speech will cater to the grievances of the various identity groups that compose the rainbow coalition, but also include promises of various middle-class entitlements and a higher minimum wage.
The two ideologies see the country differently, but both are redistributionist: Sandersism wants to distribute money more evenly between the classes, identity politics wants to distribute power and honor more evenly between the identity groups. Politics, for both, is about advancing the interests of those deemed to be least-advantaged — whether they be the lower and middle classes (according to Sanders), or women and minorities (according to the identitarians). Victimology is at the root of all leftist politics.
But the tension between the two strands is apparent:
[I]dentitarians. . .are much less critical of corporate America and Wall Street. All they really demand of companies and banks is that they hire and promote enough women and minorities. Corporate America is generally happy to oblige, as its CEOs also worship at the altar of diversity and fear the identitarians more than they do union bosses. But these token gestures do not satisfy the Sandersists.
The Democratic Party. . .confronts many questions, chief among which is what should matter most: the needs of ordinary Americans — including those who do not have the privilege of having their identity recognized — or the demands of preferred groups? Should we give all Americans in need the same entitlements or should we give preferential treatment to favored groups? And what happens when the views of the people — on immigration or trade, for example — do not align with those of big business or of the elites who claim to know best?
David sees identity politics as the likely winner of this clash. But the demise of the Clintons, who were much more comfortable with identity politics — and, of course, with corporate America — than with serious class-based redistributionism, may give Sandersism (but not necessarily Sanders) the upper-hand for a while. Those who switch trains will have to speak the language of redistributionism and anti-corporatism more loudly and more consistently than before.
When things calm down, Brazile and other refugees from the Clinton train may be able to direct the new train in a more identitarian, less populist direction. But things don’t look like calming down soon.