DNC tells court: Who says life is fair?

Give the DNC full marks for honesty about their dishonesty. In response to a lawsuit brought by supporters of Bernie Sanders, the DNC argued in court last week that they have no responsibility to remain neutral in primaries. In fact, the Democratic Party’s attorneys said, they’d be well within their rights to return to the proverbial smoke-filled back rooms to choose their nominee — even though their own rules state that the DNC chair and staff have to remain neutral in primaries:

Throughout the hearing, lawyers representing the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz double down on arguments confirming the disdain the Democratic establishment has toward Bernie Sanders supporters and any entity challenging the party’s status quo.

Shortly into the hearing, DNC attorneys claim Article V, Section 4 of the DNC Charter—stipulating that the DNC chair and their staff must ensure neutrality in the Democratic presidential primaries—is “a discretionary rule that it didn’t need to adopt to begin with.” Based on this assumption, DNC attorneys assert that the court cannot interpret, claim, or rule on anything associated with whether the DNC remains neutral in their presidential primaries.

The attorneys representing the DNC have previously argued that Sanders supporters knew the primaries were rigged, therefore annulling any potential accountability the DNC may have. In the latest hearing, they doubled down on this argument: “The Court would have to find that people who fervently supported Bernie Sanders and who purportedly didn’t know that this favoritism was going on would have not given to Mr. Sanders, to Senator Sanders, if they had known that there was this purported favoritism.”

In other words, it’s not a fraud if no one acted differently than they otherwise would have. That’s a dangerous argument, however; there may well be thousands of people who wouldn’t have bothered contributing at all if they knew the DNC had its thumbs on the scale for Hillary Clinton. Those supporters might have pushed Sanders to abandon the Democratic primary and shift over to the Green Party had voters known of the efforts at the DNC to crown Hillary over Bernie.

On the other hand, wasn’t the DNC’s tilt to Hillary rather obvious all along? Then-chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz did everything she could to limit viewership of the Democratic debates short of having them shown exclusively on Public Access Channel D at midnight on a North Dakota cable system. The superdelegates almost immediately lined up behind Hillary, all but guaranteeing Sanders of a defeat. Anyone under the impression that the DNC had set up a fair and impartial primary system simply wasn’t paying attention. And that might be the DNC’s best defense: they made their corruption too obvious to ignore in their obsession with Hillary’s coronation, despite all the evidence possible that she was a terrible candidate. The later exposures of internal DNC e-mails only confirmed the undeniable.

As David Freddoso notes, the DNC’s legal team didn’t put it as baldly as that, but it’s not too far off:

[I]f you had a charity where somebody said, Hey, I’m gonna take this money and use it for a specific purpose, X, and they pocketed it and stole the money, of course that’s different. But here, where you have a party that’s saying, We’re gonna, you know, choose our standard bearer, and we’re gonna follow these general rules of the road, which we are voluntarily deciding, we could have — and we could have voluntarily decided that, Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way. That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right, and it would drag the Court well into party politics, internal party politics to answer those questions.

Freddoso also points out that the DNC will likely win this one anyway:

This lawsuit’s merits are dubious, it should be noted from the outset. The courts would set an unfortunate precedent if they started dictating how the political parties are governed and how they choose their candidates — it veers dangerously close to the political question doctrine.

It would be even worse if they bought into Sanders’ supporters arguments that the party has a “fiduciary duty” to its contributors. If the false appearance of a fair primary process represents some kind of fraud on Bernie Sanders supporters who contributed to the DNC, then surely we’re going to see a rash of lawsuits against the RNC after Mexico fails to pay for the Trump border wall, or President Trump fails to fulfill any of the other unrealistic promises he made during the campaign.

There’s also the question of accessibility. Did the DNC have a duty to provide completely impartial access to a primary candidate who did not identify as a member of the party until after he jumped into the race, and who abandoned the party after he lost? The Democratic Party is in the business of promoting Democrats, not independents, and not (necessarily) self-professed Socialists. Shouldn’t non-Democrats vying for a Democratic nomination while criticizing the leadership of the Democratic Party expect a little pushback from the party establishment? If independents and Socialists don’t like that, they can find their own way to the general-election ballot, along with their own cash and organization. The DNC and RNC are not public utilities — they are private associations, and can certainly focus their resources on their own people if they so choose.

Sanders’ contributors should have understood all of this before backing his play in the Democratic primaries. In this case, caveat emptor applies.

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