Dirty politics is nothing new.
Negative campaign adds, spreading false rumors, jamming the other party’s telephones, sabotaging opponents, stealing an opponent’s debate playbook, staging fake riots even sabotaging peace talks to help an incumbent.
Historically, we’ve seen all this and more during presidential campaigns from politicians on both sides of the aisle.
But even with that said, the Hillary Clinton campaign is finding new and more unsavory ways to wage political warfare against her challenger Bernie Sanders.
The race for the 2016 Democratic nomination has been marked by some of the most underhanded and repulsive moves we’ve seen in years.
When the dust clears, Democrats will be asked to support the winner, but given the scorched Earth policy of Clinton, it may be very difficult to put the base back together if she eventually comes out on top.
Here are five ways the Clinton campaign has sunk to new lows in its race against Sanders:
1) Voter Suppression in New York
In numerous general elections across the nation, Republicans have gleefully passed voter ID laws they admit were designed to keep down Democratic votes.
However, in this year’s primary election, we may be seeing Democrats working to stop other Democrats from voting.
Consider this: Sanders has won seven of the last nine Democratic primaries. The two won by Clinton were marked by massive “voter irregularities.” And in the overwhelming majority of cases, these problems affected Bernie supporters and not Hillary devotees.
In New York this week, 126,000 people were mysteriously dropped from the voter roles in Brooklyn, where Bernie was born and raised. They were registered in October, but on election day they were gone.
Another 60,000 Brooklyn Democrats had their registrations mysteriously changed to Republican so they couldn’t cast a ballot for their native son. What’s more, these changes were made after the April 1 deadline for voters to make these modifications, themselves. Someone else had to alter registrations in secret without voters’ knowledge.
This fraud wasn’t limited to one Sanders stronghold. According to various reports, approximately 30% or more of the Democrats throughout the Empire State who went to vote found their registrations had been changed, making those Democrats (invariably Sanders supporters) ineligible to vote. Had these people been counted, the state would probably have gone Bernie.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer – both Hillary supporters – have each called for an investigation. But the results won’t come until after the election. By then, there will be nothing we can do about it.
Is this just a coincidence? Given the stakes at hand, could someone have specifically targeted these people?
Yes. Someone could. Read on.
2) The DNC is Taking Sides
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is supposed to be working to help both Clinton and Sanders coordinate their campaigns. The party is supposed to be impartial. It is not supposed to favor either candidate, but it clearly does.
It is staffed by Clinton supporters like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party’s national chair and a former Clinton campaign manager. Moreover, the company hired by the DNC to collect campaign information for both parties, NPG Van, has its own ties to Clinton.
This is significant because NPG Van was shown in at least one instance to having exposed privileged campaign information to both sides.
Facts about who supports each candidate and where they live is kept in a database run by NGP Van. The data helps each side figure out phone banking schedules, where to effectively campaign, etc. So when the company experienced a brief “glitch,” it exposed all this information to both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.
A Sanders staffer was fired for looking at Clinton’s data to determine the scope of the leak. However, the DNC and the Clinton campaign spun this so it looked like the Sanders campaign was stealing the information when the staffer knew perfectly well everything he was doing would be traceable back to him. The DNC even cut off the Sanders campaign from accessing its own files until Bernie took the party to court.
Let’s say the situation had been reversed. Let’s say Clinton staffers had accessed Sanders information about who supports him and where they live. What would they have done with the data? Who knows? But it would have given them the exact information necessary to pull off the voter suppression we saw in New York – which communities need to have “voter irregularities,” and which voters to disenfranchise in order to ensure a Clinton victory.
But if Clinton activists had accessed Sanders information, the DNC would have gone public about it just as the party did about the Sanders staffer, right?
Would they? Would a party that has shown such favor to one candidate, staffed in large part by supporters of that candidate, would it be entirely transparent and forthcoming about improprieties from that campaign? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fact that SOMEONE clearly had access to Sanders information and used it against his campaign in New York leaves us with many unanswered questions.
3) Voter Suppression in Arizona
Voters in Democratic districts of Arizona went to the polls to exercise their civic duty only to find lines literally miles long and wait times of several hours.
The most populous county in the state, Maricopa County, reduced polling locations from 200 during the last election to just 60 this year. That amounts to over 20,000 voters for every location.
The reason given was financial. The Republican administration was trying to save money.
But in retrospect two other explanations seem worthy of consideration. First, this may have been a dry run for the general election. The GOP may have been trying to gauge how well it was suppressing the vote in the highest democratic districts.
Or this may have been an attempt to hurt one specific candidate – Sanders – and help another – Clinton. Once again these “voter irregularities” disproportionately affected Sanders supporters more than Clinton advocates.
Hispanics and Latinos in the state leaned Sanders. They make up more than 40% of the population of Phoenix (30% state wide). Yet in these densely populated neighborhoods, there were few to no polling places open. Faced with such difficulties, many working class people didn’t have the time to wait up to 5 hours to cast a ballot – they had to get to work.
Why would Republicans help Clinton? In polls she is weaker against every GOP presidential candidate than Sanders. Moreover, even if she wins, she is much farther right than Bernie.
Add to that suspicious actions by the media. At roughly 8:30 pm, a little over an hour after polls closed, with less than one percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the winner.
In Democratic primaries delegates are awarded proportionally. It’s not winner take all. Delegates are awarded by the percent of the vote each candidate receives. If the race is really close delegates are split.
Prematurely declaring Hillary the winner while hundreds are still waiting to vote discourages Sanders supporters from staying in line and, thus, can reduce the number of delegates he receives.
The media is clearly biased in favor of Clinton, and she enjoys a cozy relationship with pundits and talking heads everywhere.
4) Hiring Social Media Trolls
On the Internet, Clinton supporters have been silencing dissent and lowering the conversation. A Super PAC headed by a longtime Clinton operative is actually spending $1 million to hire online trolls to go after Sanders’ supporters on social media.
Correct The Record (CTR) is operated by Clinton friend and new owner of Blue Nation Review David Brock. CTR just launched an initiative called “Barrier Breakers 2016” for the purpose of debating Sanders supporters on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms.
The “Barrier Breakers” also are tasked with publicly thanking Clinton’s superdelegates and fans for supporting her campaign. These paid trolls are professional communicators, coming from public relations and media backgrounds.
I may have come afoul of the group, myself. Until recently, I had been a member in good standing of the closed Facebook group Democrats Only. It was a place for fellow progressives to basically talk trash on conservatives and champion Democratic initiatives. However, in recent weeks it has become something else entirely. Posts started to appear that were nothing more than Clinton campaign press releases. For every pro-Bernie post, there were 99 pro-Clinton ones. Posts would appear calling Bernie and his supporters “assholes.” That’s how a site for Democrats talks about fellow Dems!?
And when I politely brought up these disparities, I was kicked out of the group!
This is not about convincing fellow progressives why Hillary is the best choice. It’s about silencing dissent and creating a false sense of Clinton’s inevitability.
5) Misappropriating Sexism
Clinton is clearly the most successful woman candidate in American history to date. She came close to getting the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 against Barack Obama. She has been a Senator and Secretary of State. If she is actually elected president, she will forever shatter the glass ceiling of the highest office in the land for women.
But that doesn’t mean that every criticism she receives is by definition sexist. Calling for her to release her paid speeches to Wall Street is not anti-woman. Demanding an accounting of her hawkish pro-war policies is not being a male chauvinist. Questioning her commitment to the black community given her support for the privatized prison industry is not a faux pas.
However, this is how the campaign, supporters and even the candidate, herself, talks. They call any male who oppose them a Bernie Bro – a loaded, nudge, nudge, wink, wink term implying that any male opposition to Clinton cannot be based on reason and logic but only on sexism.
On the one hand, this is politics as usual. The Clinton campaign is using the same coded language Hillary has always been so adept at – she knew the term “super predator” was a racist dog whistle.
On the other, this misappropriation hurts women everywhere. It devalues the concept of sexism. It cheapens it.
If simple opposition to a female candidate is sexism, then when real sexism rears its ugly head, we’ll be less apt to take it as seriously as we should. The fact that women make only 79 cents an hour for every dollar earned by men is sexism. The fact that women’s healthcare is under attack and so much harder to access than men’s is sexism. The fact that toy companies limit or refuse to market female characters that aren’t overtly “girly” is sexism.
Asking Clinton to explain her record is not.
When this election cycle began, I considered myself a strong Democrat.
No matter who won the primaries – Clinton or Sanders – I was pretty certain I’d support that candidate in the 2016 general election for President.
Now I’m not so sure.
Scaremongers say it may come down to deciding between Clinton or Trump. That’s not much of a choice: one candidate is a member of the 1% and the other is bought and paid for by the 1%.
What’s the difference?
If the Clinton campaign continues to disenfranchise voters, receive an unfair advantage from party leaders, silence dissent and misappropriate sexism, I may end up casting a write-in for Sanders or voting for the Green candidate Dr. Jill Stein.
Either way, I won’t be bullied into giving my vote to a candidate that’s done nothing to deserve it and has worked to make sure people like me often don’t get the chance to vote at all.