Recently, Russian hackers released several thousand pages of hacked content to WikiLeaks for the purpose of aiding Trump who has been fairly complimentary to Putin. Trump’s rise to power would be quite beneficial to Putin, as Russia’s international conflict has led to strict sanctions and strained international relations. WikiLeaks publicly disbursed about 20,000 of the emails provided by the hackers, all from within the Democratic National Convention. Their intent simple, to implicate and utterly vilify the DNC’s organizational bias toward presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. A bias that many presume began even before the early stages of primary campaigning. Some have even accused that this partiality may have incited more than inequitable treatment toward both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but also a plethora of illegal actions that include: voter fraud, deregistration of Bernie voters, purging of ballot boxes, limiting available ballots, etc.
Who is WikiLeaks?
WikiLeaks is a vigilante journalistic enterprise. They often attain, through various means, (illegal often) private information and release it to the public; their communicated intent, ironically, being to expose unethical, illegal, and corrupt actions. Their more obvious goal is to add public accountability to infrastructures that lack ethical oversight. WikiLeaks struggles to maintain its moral patriarchy as their questionable and illegal methods invite many of their own criticisms. The manner in which they release exhaustive and comprehensive bodies of discovery, lacks discretion. Their efforts have a tendency of exposing more than what is necessary to accomplish the altruistic agenda they confess.
For example, the classified messages (diplomatic cables) WikiLeaks publically released in 2010 included: State Department profiles, secret communications between 274 consulates, embassies, and diplomatic missions, many of the files were classified confidential and secret. It seems this behavior is more destructive with the intent of destabilizing pertinent government systems and key world leaders. For shock value, infamy, or anarchy; that is the question. The founder and chief-editor of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has faced many legal consequences and has subsequently sought and been granted asylum within Ecuador’s London embassy, where his departure would certainly conclude with imminent arrest. Assange faces extradition to Sweden for rape allegations and also to the United States for questioning about his compromise of American secrets that have certainly put key operations and those involved at risk.
What was in the DNC Leak
Regardless of their intentions, WikiLeaks has found undeniable success in acquiring the public’s interest concerning matters of ethics and human rights. The DNC Leak is no exception. One would assume that the WikiLeaks team, having access to the leaked emails for an extended period of time before releasing them, would have carefully combed through the text in search of something indisputably incriminating. Instead, WikiLeaks, most theatrically released all of the content, and the findings were most underwhelming. The greatest revelations of this leak include:
- Strategizing Around Sanders’ Religion – Sanders has used ambiguous language around his spiritual beliefs seemingly as an attempt to connect with an electorate that includes people of all and no faiths. A DNC staffer supposedly mentions the value of pressing Sanders to speak more specifically on his beliefs as a way of alienating him from faith based-voters.
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz – The DNC Chair was found to have called a Sanders staffer a “damn liar” and accused Sanders of not understanding the party.
- Clinton’s Lawyer – Clinton’s lawyer made a recommendation to the DNC on how to rebut accusations that her and the DNC were violating FEC rules through use of joint funding.
- Various attacks on Sanders – On multiple occasions DNC staffers were found communicating their bias against Bernie in saying he needed to end his campaign and plotting the communication behind his pending primary loss.
Why this is Not a Big Deal
The more conspicuous issue with information the DNC leak revealed is that there was bias toward Hillary and against Sanders with some of the staff at the DNC. Though, this should come as no shock to anyone. Sanders’ campaign found greatest traction within its grassroots movement by characterizing his party as status quo and out of touch. Sanders’ message at times was quite hostile toward the Democratic Party as he felt they were a complicit antithetical of progressive values. He self-identifies as a party outsider, which openly communicates he isn’t a part of the party he wants to lead. He called Hillary, the primary frontrunner unqualified, criticized President Obama’s strategic supreme court nominee, and associated the primary process with rigged practices. He had gone as far as to say he would replace the DNC chair as president and roused such a mistrust for the Democratic Party within his campaign that violent and hostile interactions began to erupt at party and campaign functions, incited often by his supporters. Video footage began to surface of Donald Trump and Hillary supporters being attacked regularly by Bernie supporters, and a surrogate referred to Hillary as “whore” during his introduction to Bernie. It should come as no surprise at all that Sanders’ Cannibalization of the Democratic Party further fueled the tension between his campaign and the DNC.
It seems safe to assume that there were many people at the RNC who were very hopeful that Trump would not ascend (or descend) to such heights (or depths). Humans are and will forever be creatures of preference. Our inclinations for trust, belief, and support are not equally proportioned between candidates. Having a preference and communicating your opinions about that preference do not make you exceptionally biased. One is potentially implicated by what they do with that preference. It appears to be the pinnacle of juvenile hypocrisy to take such great offense at the realization that some people (possibly most and even all) within the DNC preferred Hillary.
Some of the accusations that have been propagated by Sanders loyalists, including fraud resulting from Clinton’s campaign and DNC collusion is so serious that they in a sense minimized the severity of the leak. When Sanders’ campaign marketing strategy includes voicing concerns of polling practices and deregistration as irregularities targeting his campaign; it makes taking the DNC Leak seriously, difficult. As a general rule, his campaign team should have never alluded to such serious allegations, even those that fueled his movement, unless he was full prepared to expend the resources necessary to follow through. Accusations must be paired with an interest in finding a resolution to ensure future accusations are given the credibility of more than simple paranoia.
How to Determine Wrongdoing
The questions any defender of integrity must ask in this scenario are:
- What unfair advantage was given to Clinton and what was the impact?
- What unfair disadvantage was given to Sanders and what was the impact?
- Has bias within the DNC positively impacted Clinton’s success or/and negatively impacted Bernie’s success? How?
- What laws, if any, were broken?
- What are the organizational expectations for bias and treatment of candidates? Were those rules broken? Should they be updated?
Answering these questions is the first step in articulating wrongdoing. Unfortunately, so much ambiguity has encompassed this topic without being held to the standard of any legal expectations. The burden remains for someone to articulate an offense that can appropriately be adjudicated.
The Real Disappointment
What is most disappointing about the DNC Leak is the realization that many Bernie supporters are willing to turn the most diluted issues into fuel for a fading fire. The accusations against Hillary and the DNC have ranged from criminal to outlandish. Since no major resources have been consolidated and put toward validating or even investigating the truth; one may come to the conclusion that goal has always been to sling as much mud as possible and hope that something sticks.
The resignation of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has also been an unfortunate concession resulting from the DNC Leak. While the move may be good for the party, especially ahead of this week’s convention; it implies that she was at fault for something the evidence does not affirm. President Obama supported Schultz despite this resignation, saying
“For the last eight years, Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had my back… This afternoon, I called her to let her know that I am grateful. … And no one works harder for her constituents in Congress than Debbie Wasserman Schultz.”
Hillary also reached out to Debbie, the same day of her resignation, offering her a role as Honorary Chair of her campaign. This move was risky, but it also conveys a necessary narrative that she believes the DNC Leak does not implicate or undermine the Democratic Party’s integrity. Hillary communicated very affirmingly:
“I want to thank my longtime friend Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her leadership of the Democratic National Committee over the past five years. … There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie — which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states.”
Another major disappointment resulting from this leak is the precedent it sets on privacy. The American public has become severely anesthetized to their right to privacy. 20,000 emails have been publicly leaked, and there has been little to no criticism of the illegal invasion. At what point will it be acceptable for the common man’s email to be exploited? What about their text messages and private conversations? This is a major issue that has lost necessary concern and care. Should someone’s illegal invasion of your privacy give cause for your resignation or malign your credibility, and if so, to what extent?
Hillary Takes Moral High Road
Hillary has chosen not to employ the same negative tactics many of her opponents have relied on during the course of her career. In 2008 Hillary rivaled then Senator Obama attaining more popular votes in the Democratic Primaries. She lost the race due to delegate rules. With more votes and experience, she could have taken the fight to Obama and the DNC much harder; but she relinquished her 2008 presidential ambitions and threw her support and resources behind Obama’s campaign. Sanders experienced a much more significant defeat, losing the popular vote, delegate count, and super delegate count. There are no proposed rule changes that would have positioned him for success during this primary, yet many of his supporters make the case that the system was rigged.
The FEC released a 639-page report outlining the various campaign financing violations that have taken place within the Sanders campaign. Such a report would have been heavily emphasized by the Sanders campaign had the context been against Clinton. Still, very little chatter of these violations has taken place in a public platform with anyone in Clinton’s campaign. It is also true in the instance of Bernie’s staffer who was discovered by the DNC for accessing DNC data unique to the Hillary campaign. This staffer was fired because of his actions, and still, there was very little mention of actions by the Hillary campaign. This could have easily been used as leverage to discredit the integrity of his campaign.
While Sanders and his supporters have legitimate plaints against DNC bias, they must assess and determine whether they will choose to move on and align with the Democratic Party or break away. Since Bernie used DNC resources to fund and grow his grassroots movement; an honorable outcome would be to work with the party his revolution benefited from to assure the path toward his vision is not usurped and intercepted by conservatives who seek to defame Democratic Party. If Sanders truly cares for the party he ran to lead, he must want what is best for it, even if it is not himself. Trump’s campaign has been all but overcome with controversy and his one saving grace may be a DNC scandal that sticks. Sanders must vehemently reject claims of fraud and unethical conduct and work to stabilize the rhetoric much of his expressed sentiments have contributed to.