The Transactional Democratic Party Revealed

election-image-800x530New Orleans   This has all the makings of one of those shaggy dog stories: 19000 emails hacked from the staff of the Democratic National Committee, dumped on the eve of the convention, maybe by crazy commie Russians and Vladimir Putin for whom Donald Trump is supposedly a current fanboy, all showing a bit of favoritism towards the Demo-establishment’s main candidate, Hillary Clinton, forcing Deborah Wasserman Shultz, Congresswoman and party chair, to dive on the spike of her heels and resign. Finally, this really seems like the kind of chaos and clamor we all associate with a Democratic National Convention! The Republicans were stealing the show with their earlier dramarama, but now the Democrats are catching up. Is anyone really surprised, I mean really?

What interested me much, much more were the crassly cold and calculating emails at the intersection of politics and money and the cashbox transactional demonstration of the inner workings of the party, or as reported in the Times:

the leaked cache also included thousands of emails exchanged by Democratic officials and party fund-raisers, revealing in rarely seen detail the elaborate, ingratiating and often bluntly transactional exchanges necessary to harvest hundreds of millions of dollars from the party’s wealthy donor class.

Ok, none of this was a surprise either, was it? We all knew in our hearts that this was probably the way big time politics worked at the confluence of big, rich donors and party fundraising staff charged with fueling the tank with mega-dollars, but still having it displayed in all of its gory and inescapable details is pretty disgusting.

Reading the emails was a bit like what you imagine life with the “mean girls” is like or any high school popularity contest: who’s in, who’s out, who’s going to be standing closest to the star, and pretty much who’s who and what’s what among the rich and famous in a world usually and thankfully obscured from the view of most of us joe and jane sausage heads out there. More seriously it reminds all of us of the venal nature of money and the rich and Lord Acton’s maxim that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We might ask what these rich donors get from all of this body rubbing. Is it just access, as some would argue? Perhaps, but even if that’s all that is bartered in the exchange, it also seems undeniable that many, many of these donors hope for more, and undeniably some must get enough of it to make the investment worthwhile in some shape or form.

I’m past mourning Sanders’ loss, but I still rue the fact that he was not able to pivot his amazing grassroots, small donor fundraising machinery in such a way that it would create a new paradigm to replace the seamy, transactional system now put on full display. What a tragic loss that could have re-established the Democratic Party – or at least some party – with an apparatus that guaranteed that the rich and insiders are not calling the shots but regular folks with their hard earned dollars are driving the train.

Even worse, and this is perhaps a confession too jaded by too many years in the vineyard, if any other party might be built in the alternative universe that defines all levels of politics, if it depends on big donors, how many would resist the impulse to respond in the same transactional manner to the beck and call of purchased entitlement no matter the rest of the politics and program? We have to create a new and better way to make sure we are certain of how that question would be answered.

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