WASHINGTON, July 22, 2016 — The DNC emails released by hacking collective WikiLeaks has hit the news at an awkward time for Democrats and for Hillary Clinton. The message in the run-up to the Democratic convention should have been unity, not the dirty dealings of the DNC.
Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Clinton earlier this month, telling his supporters that the important task at hand is to defeat Donald Trump. While many of them agree, there was an undercurrent of resentment. Many felt that the nominating contest was rigged.
It turns out they were right, and the confirmation of that will have consequences.
A Bloomberg poll in late June showed that only 55 percent of Sanders supporters intended to vote for Clinton; 22 percent favored Trump, and 18 percent Liberarian candidate Gary Johnson.
A Pew Research poll earlier this month, when it was clear that Sanders would endorse Clinton, found more Sanders voters on board for Clinton, 85 percent, but found that her support was mostly negative. Fifty percent of those planning to vote for her said their vote is a vote against Trump; only 48 percent considered it a vote for Clinton. The poll did not break down the negative-versus-positive support for Clinton among Sanders voters, but the percentage of negative voters is likely to be higher.
The WikiLeaks revelations will weaken support for Clinton among Sanders voters. It is one thing to believe strongly that the DNC was, against the rules, supporting Clinton; it is another to have it in the words of key DNC staff: Communications Director Luis Miranda, National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan, Finance Chief of Staff Scott Comer, Finanace Director of Data & Strategic Initiatives Daniel Parrish, Finance Director Allen Zachary, Senior Advisor Andrew Wright, and Northern California Finance Director Robert Stowe.
WikiLeaks released over 19,000 emails and 8,034 attachments from those seven staffers. And the group has announced that more are coming. 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.
The DNC directly and consistently worked to build Clinton’s lead over Sanders.
City officials in Philadelphia expect between 35,000 and 50,000 demonstrators to show up for the Democratic Convention. Nine of 28 permits for official rallies have been issued to protest groups supporting Sanders. They were already unhappy about Clinton’s nomination; now many of them will be furious.
Clinton gave them another cause for grievance this week with her choice of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. Kaine is a moderate who has supported the Obama trade agenda, which is anathema to Sanders, and who signed a letter on Monday in favor of Federal banking deregulation. He is more likely to appeal to moderate Republicans unhappy with Donald Trump than to the Democratic base.
Kaine is a safe pick, with broad appeal in the party. He won’t hurt Clinton with moderate and independent voters. But he is not the choice of the Sanders faction, and his selection does nothing to smooth the waters for Clinton.
Clinton will be walking a high wire this week. She has thousands of angry Sanders supporters at the doors of the convention, and hundreds more inside. Her non-indictment by the justice department over her emails left her an FBI-certified liar, and the DNC emails are enough to convince those Sanders supporters that the entire organization is corrupt.
On top of that, Clinton will want her convention to appeal to Republicans who don’t want Trump. That will require some conciliatory moves to the right, which will further enrage the angry mob to her left.
Donald Trump and his supporters told Ted Cruz and his supporters at their convention, “go away; you’re fired.” Trump later told the press that he wouldn’t take Cruz’s endorsement even if he offered it. He said in May that he didn’t need a unified GOP, that he’d win over disaffected Sanders voters and other Democrats.
Clinton will have to decide whether she values those Sanders Democrats more, or whether she wants to pick off disaffected Republicans. In the wake of the WikiLeaks revelations, she might find it easier to lurch rightward. The left doesn’t trust her, and WikiLeaks may have burned her bridges.
Clinton makes safe bets and knows when to cut her losses. Kaine was a safe bet; turning her back on the Sanders camp might cut her losses. If she wants to rebuild a bridge to them, she’ll to sacrifice something that she cares about.
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is already on her way out, and she’s the dispensable symbol of the party’s corruption. Sacrificing her won’t be sufficient, but it might help. Look for Clinton’s priests to be sharpening their knives and polishing the altar for Debbie.