WASHINGTON, July 25, 2016 – The leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee regarding support for Hillary Clinton come as a shock to no one, but a disappointment to many.
The latest episode in the 2016 election drama dropped last week, when Wikileaks released over 19,000 emails and more than 8,000 attachments from DNC staffers. The overwhelming message in the volumes of emails is that the DNC, under leader Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had the fix in for Hillary Clinton from the beginning.
Not only did the party want Clinton as the nominee, it was prepared to take whatever steps necessary to get her there.
From that trove of documents at least three important findings have emerged since Friday:
- The DNC colluded with media executives to shape the narrative away from Sanders and for Clinton and to stop stories critical of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz;
- There was extended discussion in the DNC about ways to discredit Sanders, including an attack on his religious beliefs and attacks on his campaign organization;
- The DNC joint fundraising efforts with the Clinton campaign laundered money to Clinton and away from down-ticket campaigns.
Bernie Sanders and his supporters likely were not surprised by the revelations, considering they had complained bitterly about the system that allocated super delegates to Clinton regardless of popular choice. They also lamented the DNC’s backing of Clinton from the very beginning of the primary contests, almost begging Wasserman Shultz to give them a fair chance.
Even so, seeing the words on the page will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Sanders supporters who were on the verge of following the Vermont senator into the Clinton camp.
The emails also are not surprising in terms of the DNC as a whole. The party was unlikely to back enthusiastically someone who was not only a party outsider, but was not even a member of the party until recently. Like the Republican establishment’s discomfort with Donald Trump, the DNC is wary over Bernie Sanders’ willingness to play nice with party rules. And that discomfort apparently sent the Democratic Party into Clinton overdrive.
If the intrigue of American political gamesmanship isn’t enough, there are also unsubstantiated allegations that Russian President Vladimir Putin is behind the leaks, as part of a plot twist to help Trump.
How those emails will impact the November election is now the real question. Even though no one on the Sanders side is shocked by the news of political insider trading, they still sting.
Protesters in Philadelphia ahead of the Democratic National Convention are angry and calling out the DNC for its inside politics games. Media reports suggest that some Sanders supporters are now refusing to back Clinton, with others saying they will even support Trump as a way to “get back” at the DNC.
For Clinton, there is likely some relief in the timing of the leak. A July release is far less damaging than an October or November announcement, giving the Clinton campaign time to rev the damage control into high gear.
The courting of Sanders supporters and emphasizing the number of Sanders ideas that made it into the platform combined with the demise of Wasserman Shultz, who will step down after the convention, and anti-Trump rhetoric may be enough to stem the hemorrhage.
However, for Clinton, votes from the Sanders camp are now far from assured.
The most important factor determining whether the latest email scandal remains relevant or whether it is a Melania-like blip on the radar screen is Bernie Sanders himself.
His speech tonight at the convention will likely set up the next episode of Election 2016.