Today, conservatives, populists, and Republicans will gather for CPAC, and the media will likely focus on every potential conflict and difference between the competing factions on the Right. Last night, though, the Democrats put their divisions on full display in a CNN debate between candidates running for DNC chair. Without a doubt, the DNC faces a crisis of confidence, not just because they lost the 2016 elections from the local level all the way to the presidency, but also because Wikileaks exposed the extent that Hillary Clinton corrupted the DNC and used it to kneecap other potential nominees, including Bernie Sanders.
Not long ago, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez called that process “rigged,” which at this point hardly even qualifies as opinion. When it came time to reaffirming the obvious, however, Perez dodged … and dodged … and dodged, even after one of his competitors tells Chris Cuomo that of course it was rigged:
CUOMO: Secretary Perez, recently you said that the primary was rigged against Bernie Sanders. Later the same day you said you misspoke when you made those comments. Which is it?
PEREZ: Well, you know, here are the facts. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary. Hillary Clinton also won the popular vote. At the same time because of the absence of transparency in the Democratic primary, there was a crisis of trust that ensued. And what we need in the chair of the Democratic Party is to make sure that in fact and in perception, every single day, you are fair and neutral. That’s why when you asked question before about primaries, you have to let that primary process go. If I were the chair — if I have the privilege of winning, for instance, one of the things I would recommend would be that we set the primary debate schedule long in advance of when we know who the candidates are. We have to do everything to make sure we’re fair and transparent. And it’s not only in how we set the primary process, the DNC is black hole. And we have a crisis of confidence because it is. And that’s why the leader of the DNC needs to make sure —
CUOMO: All right.
PEREZ: — needs to make sure that we are investing —
CUOMO: Hold on a second. Secretary, 10 seconds, was it rigged or not?
PEREZ: Again, the process, because of the absence of transparency, it created that crisis of relevance and it created the distrust that people didn’t trust the outcome.
CUOMO: All right. Mr. Ronan, was it rigged or not?
SAM RONAN, U.S. AIR FORCE VETERAN: Thank you. I was going to interrupt anyway. The point is — not only was the primary rigged but also rigged across the country because the DNC has never allowed outsiders or brand new people to rise through the ranks. And it’s always been insider game and it has been that way for a very, very long time. That is where the lack of trust has come into play because not only was Bernie Sanders snubbed, not only did it look like Hillary Clinton had bought or muscled her way into it, then those supporters were denied the chance to speak at convention, and that was final straw. If people don’t have a voice, an equitable voice like alluded to earlier, then people are not going to trust the system and they are going to go out of their way to break it.
CUOMO: Secretary Perez, is Mr. Ronan wrong?
PEREZ: Well, again, you know, we meet every single day as leader of the Labor Department, leader of the Civil Rights Division and I hope to be leader of the Democratic Party, we have to do everything in transparent fashion and when you do that, you earn trust. Trust isn’t something you’re given. It’s something you earn.
Ronan got in the last word:
RONAN: I would like to say that, I think that’s a long way of saying no.
It’s a very long way of saying no … and denying reality, too. What’s the point of going the long way around the truth at this stage? The Wikileaks publication of internal DNC e-mails made it very clear just how far in the tank the DNC went for Hillary, up to and including Donna Brazile passing along debate questions to disadvantage Bernie Sanders. Then-chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz scheduled the debates to ensure as few people tuned in live to see them as possible. Perez seems to want to eat his cake and have it too — talk tough about rigged systems in some venues while not offending those who rigged it in more visible events.
What’s mostly fascinating about Perez’ explanation is that he doesn’t address the institutional rigging of the Democratic primary system: the use of superdelegates. Both parties have superdelegates, but the RNC only has three per state, who by rule must cast their votes in accordance with the popular vote in their state. Democratic superdelegates make up almost 15% of their convention and are entirely unbound. The topic of superdelegates did come up in the debate, but addressed only by the second-tier candidates, all of whom called for reform; Jehmu Greene called it “tainted … and it was tainted before 2016.” Perez and Keith Ellison got a pass on that topic. Perhaps someone might want to follow up on that point with them.