A faded starlet of the Democratic Party, Donna Brazile recently resurfaced from her post-election exile to salvage her name from the mammoth wreckage that is the DNC establishment. Brazile’s new memoir, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Break-Downs That Put Donald Trump in the White House, is intended to be a bold tell-all, which sees Brazile bravely uncover the corruption of Democratic elites in what should be her Deep Throat moment. Instead, Brazile’s role is more historical fiction than fact–effectively her 288-page “I am not a crook” speech.
Far from being an unwitting accomplice, Brazile was an active participant in the Democratic National Committee’s conspiracy to bestow Hillary Clinton with the 2016 presidential nomination. Before Clinton had even announced her candidacy, Brazile foretold of Clinton’s assured “coronation” by the Democratic party.
In fairness, Brazile added that she did not want to “handicap the race” by preemptively declaring a winner, but her invocation of a term synonymous with divine right served as a subliminal indicator of what she already knew—Clinton was in line to inherit the nomination, and no challenger would be seriously welcomed by the Democratic establishment.
At the outset of the election, Brazile was serving as vice chair for voter participation within the party. That changed, however, when former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was implicated in a Wikileaks email scandal in July 2016 and consequently stepped down amidst allegations that she had purposefully “coordinated efforts to help Clinton” secure the nomination.
That is when Donna Brazile stepped in as interim Chairwoman of the DNC.
Though there existed a bevy of emails all but proving Wasserman-Schultz’s guilt, Brazile maintained her faith, not in Wasserman-Schultz’s innocence, but in her credibility. After the former chairwoman’s ousting, Brazile firmly insisted that Wasserman-Schultz “deserved an opportunity” to preside over the Democratic National Convention because she had “spent a lot of time and effort in pulling [it] together.”
Once again, the more sordid imagery behind her words eluded Brazile. Wasserman-Schultz certainly acted as architect of the convention—designing not only its reception, but also its outcome. Yet, she did not act alone.
Brazile herself was later implicated in a separate email scandal for having provided Clinton with debate questions ahead of a town hall between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, which Brazile had acquired through her position as a CNN correspondent. Brazile subsequently resigned from her post at CNN and withdrew into relative reclusion, until now.
In her memoir, Brazile asserts that she “investigat[ed] individual conduct for evidence of skewed decisions” made by the DNC in favor of Hillary Clinton and, in a direct contradiction to her real-life role in the scandal, claims that she found no such evidence. Instead, she maintains that there was only one very large advantage levied towards Clinton: “In exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised.”
Brazile vividly details the horror and heartbreak she experienced in uncovering the truth about the 2016 Democratic primaries–painting herself as much a victim of this charade as all of America. However, this revelation was not as unforeseen as Brazile describes. In fact, in April 2016, the Bernie Sanders campaign raised “serious concerns” about the financial relationship between the DNC and the Clinton campaign based off of publicly available and widely reported filings from the Federal Elections Commission. The only explosive element of Brazile’s exposé, then, is her definition of the exact parameters of the agreement.
By feigning innocence and asking Americans to suspend not just disbelief, but also memory, Brazile is using systemic revelation as a bartering chip for individual amnesty.
For this reason alone, Brazile’s memoir is so novel.
In her unconvincing attempt at writing herself out of the broader DNC conspiracy, Brazile has consequently exposed a plutocratic network working to re-engineer democracy through public narratives. The DNC establishment did not yield control to the Clinton campaign, as Brazile suggests. Rather, the Clinton campaign was the DNC establishment.
The campaign was more than just Clinton, Robbie Mook, and John Podesta. It was Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Donna Brazile, the Democratic Leadership Council, and the wider body of centrist Democratic politicians who built their careers on shallow platitudes—betraying the progressivism that had long been the focal point of the Democratic Party.
The establishment needed a safe candidate—not for the purpose of electability—but for self-preservation. Such a candidate was not merely desired, but deserved. The DNC establishment felt entitled to a candidate that would put the needs of the party over those of the public, a candidate engineered to secure power not progress.
Brazile, in her hypocrisy, betrays this crucial point. She somberly describes the “anemic” atmosphere of the Clinton campaign which she claims wreaked of “the odor of failure.” Despite this internal malaise and the lukewarm public reaction to Clinton’s campaign, Brazile’s public advocacy for Clinton remained impassioned while her faith in Clinton’s success was unwavering.
In the memoir, Brazile weakly attempts to rectify this inconsistency through an anecdote regarding Clinton’s infamous fainting episode after a 9/11 memorial service. Brazile allegedly saw an opportunity to replace Clinton and running mate Senator Tim Kaine (D. VA) with former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Corey Booker (D, N.J.)—“the duo she felt most certain would win over enough working-class voters.”
Not only does this allegation demonstrate the establishment’s willingness to bypass the electorate and force their own candidates onto voters, but it also denotes an important deficiency in Democratic branding.
Brazile and the DNC were aware that the Democratic Party was not rising to the demands of the working-class who constituted their base, and yet, the establishment was wholly unwilling to meet those demands. Instead, Brazile was prepared to blatantly bypass democracy (perhaps because she knew it had already been done once before) only to supplant one establishment ticket with another.
Rather than proposing Bernie Sanders—an actual progressive presidential candidate who had garnered millions of votes and continued to inspire the base—Brazile propositioned the old guard of centrist Democrats in an effort to coerce the public into the dull complacency of a Biden-Booker ticket instead of the mired inertia of Clinton-Kaine.
To her credit, Brazile’s musings stopped at that, but they are emblematic of the problem at large.
The Democratic Party establishment has been a vacuous advocate for “hope and change” in the abstract with neither the backbone nor the desire to deviate from the status quo through revolutionary, progressive policy. This is why the 2016 election proved so cataclysmic.
The juxtaposition of a controversial, manufactured member of the Democratic elite whose platform was tailored to be tepid and universally palatable, against a life-long independent with clear, progressive policy initiatives, resulted in a wide-scale Democratic realignment. This realignment, though sponsoring a surge of progressivism, left the Clinton campaign bereft of even halfhearted support as progressives became so disenchanted with establishment control of the party.
Brazile’s memoir demonstrates the reigning tactic of the DNC: to espouse hollow platitudes, all of which belie a more insidious effort to breed complacency.
They go something like this:
The DNC wants our votes (but hearts and minds are secondary).
They want us to be active and inspired (only on election day).
The nomination belongs to us (so long as we make the right decision).
The DNC has reduced democracy to a case of “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”
It is time we activate our own agency, stop settling for generic politics, and, instead, demand the policy change for which we have, thus far, only hoped.
Thus, there remains not only an appeal, but also a value to Hacks, not as a life-vest for Brazile’s career but as a moratorium for the DNC establishment. Though she warped the reality surrounding her direct role in stealing the 2016 DNC primary, Brazile still managed to expose the infrastructure that demanded Clinton’s ascent. And so, it appears the greatest hacks of the 2016 election were not the emails, but the political hacks that had been right in front of us all along.