If You Want to Know What the Democratic Party Is, Just Ask Their Lawyer

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers will note that in the headline I’ve written “Democratic Party” out of deference to those who recall the Republicans of forty years ago deploying “Democrat Party” as a smear. However, I’ve come to prefer “Democrat Party” regardless of past party wars, on the grounds that Democrats have to earn to moniker “Democratic,” and not merely claim it. The ongoing class action lawsuit by Bernie Sanders supporters against the Democratic National Committee is giving me ample grounds for that view. (The case is Wilding et al. v. DNC Services Corporation, D/B/A Democratic National Committee and Deborah “Debbie” Wasserman Schultz, Case No. 16-cv-61511-WJZ (S.D. Fla. The plaintiffs maintain court-filed documents available for download at this link.)

I’m inspired to write this post by some wonderfully clarifying arguments made on behalf of the Democratic [sic] National Committee (DNC) at a motion hearing held in the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division, before the Honorable William J. Zloch on April 25, 2017. (A PDF of the transcript is here.)

Now, I have no expertise in class action law whatever (though I recall from my landfill activism that they are not easy to bring, and that standing to sue, and how the class on whose behalf the suit will have been brought is to be defined, are high hurdles. For some reason, it seems that the court system does not encourage people to act together collectively as classes). So I’m not going to evaluate the legal arguments presented at all, assess the likelihood of any outcome, or even present the theory of the case[1]. Rather, I’m going to quote some of the amazing statements made by the advocate for the defendants (the DNC, represented by (Bruce V. Spiva, Esq). They really speak for themselves.

The Democrat Party Has No Obligation to be Democratic

Page 36 of the transcript:

MR. SPIVA: [W]here 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.

That’s exactly “the way it was done”, as the Podesta mails and the Guccifer 2.0 documents show.

Nobody Knows What a Fair Election Means

Pages 27 and 28 of the transcript:

THE COURT: So, are you suggesting that this is just part of the business, so to speak, that it’s not unusual for, let’s say, the DNC, the RNC to take sides with respect to any particular candidate and to support that candidate over another?

MR. SPIVA: Well, I’m not suggesting that that is par for the course, your Honor. But what I am suggesting is to have those kinds of allegations is the rough and tumble of politics….

[T]hat’s for the party to decide. The Court’s not gonna get into that. Here, you have something far more inchoate, your Honor, which is this purported — this claim that the party acted without evenhandedness and impartiality. That — even to define what constitutes evenhandedness and impartiality really would already drag the Court well into a political question and a question of how the party runs its own affairs.

The party could have favored a candidate. I’ll put it that way.

Because we can’t define “evenhandedness and impartiality” — and here I think Spiva represents the views of the Democratic nomenklatura quite faithfully — the Party can do whatever it wants, including rigging an election, and there’s no form of redress!

Nobody Knows Who a Democrat Is, or What the DNC Is

Pages 70 and 71 of the transcript:

MR. SPIVA: What is DNC’s special relationship with the members of the party? … You know, it’s kind of a misnomer even to speak in terms of members of the DNC. There is no national registration. Some states don’t even have party registration. Many states, in fact. I mean Virginia, when you register to vote, you don’t register as a [D]emocrat or a [R]epublican or whatever. So, as far as the party’s concerned, they are trying to encourage people to vote for democratic candidates and to support democratic policies and values. But that’s not a class of people that can be defined by the Court. And that changes with every election and possibly, and probably, more frequently than that.

I corrected the (computerized) transcript on “D]emocrat or a [R]epublican or whatever,” but I wasn’t sure what to do about “vote for democratic candidates and to support democratic policies and values.” I suppose the “D” in “democratic candidates” should be capitalized, but what about “democratic… values”? I know what that means when the “D” is lowercased, but — at this point — what can “Democratic values” possibly mean, given that they are very explicitly not based on lower-case democratic processes? Pure tribalism?

The Courts Can’t Hold the Democrat Party Accountable for Anything, Ever

Page 104 of the transcript:

MR. SPIVA: And so this is very common to have these kind of inter/intraparty squabbles about doctrine, about policy, about rules, about selection of delegates…. [And] these eally these are matters for the parties. They are private associations.[2] Yes, they play a big role in the election of the president of the United States. But they are still private associations. They still have a right to order their own affairs. If someone’s not happy with the party that they’ve been aligned with, their choice is to start another party, or to give to the other party, or to give to a candidate that they think will shake things up within the party.

So we have an association whose membership is indeterminate, yet nonetheless can order its affairs by whim. Seems odd. And why the heck are we entrusting the election of any public official to these guys if the public can’t hold them accountable for how they run elections?


It seems to me that a party that brands itself “Democratic,” even if a private association, ought to “order its own affairs” in a democratic fashion. The Democrat Party lawyer disagrees. Again, I find this wonderfully clarifying.[3]

Oh, and if we have any readers who have the necessary expertise to comment on the case, that would be great!

UPDATE Assume all the DNC”s arguments as prevented by Spiva are true. What then would a hostile takeover of such an entity look like?


[1] One prong of the plaintiff’s case is based on consumer fraud law: The DNC represented itself as being neutral and people donated money to it on that basis, when in fact (as shown by the Gufficer 2.0 documents) the DNC had its thumb on the scale for Clinton the whole time. I’m not sure I’m comfortable thinking of citizens as consumers.

[2] Rather like homeowners’ associations that enforce segregation or anti-semitism through covenants?

[3] The Democratic Socialists of America are a membership organization. I think that makes a lot more sense (though I can’t testify to the democratic character of the DSA’s rules and bylaws).

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Disturbed Voter

    This is why George Washington opposed party politics, that we should all be Federalists. Republics often degenerate into political violence, it happened in Athens, it happened in Rome. The reason why there are rules, and why we should follow them, is so that the assignment of authority, and its implementation, is the least violent we can make it, given that the issues of political economy are life/death issues.

    1. Deadl E Cheese

      This is why George Washington opposed party politics, that we should all be Federalists.

      The current Democratic Party is the apotheosis of this elitist, yet hilariously naive idea that political parties should be devoid of interests and factionalism and instead should subsume its interests towards the greater good of post-ideological technocracy.

      Obama and the Clintons ran the Democratic Party as close to this idiotic, bathetic Washingtonian ideal as any major party leaders in American history, including the actual Federalists. And the result? An ineffectual, purposeless clique of weak, psychologically tormented, elite freaks who value comity and careerism more than engaging in political struggle — and who can’t even beat a corrupt clown rapist despite having most of the establishment on their side.

      Gaze upon the synthesis of Washington’s ridiculous dream, and despair.

      1. Yah Dingus

        Just a minor nitpick: as far as I am aware, Donald Trump has not been accused of rape by any clowns.

        1. Deadl E Cheese

          Assuming that the GOP doesn’t return the favor and prop them up like the Democratic Party foolishly did in 1938 and 1968, they have about 4 years left of digging.

          The Whigs in 1848 were relatively stronger than the Democratic Party is right now and that’s about how long they lasted.

        2. witters

          Doesn’t matter. They’ll never stop. Their motto: “(We May Be In A Hole, but) Keep Digging!”

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        You know that, and I know that, but the seething masses think what they are told to think and do what they are told to do. Better to fight for the heart and soul of the media and of Facebook than of a useless appendage of apparatchiks. These days that’s not too hard, if you got to Zuckerberg, Bezos, and maybe one or two from the old-style media you’d have a running start.

        1. ambrit

          The problem is, how far can one trust a traitor, even if a traitor to an “odious” association?
          There are opportunists, “true believers,” and Rationalists. Can we trust any of them?

      3. sufferinsuccotash

        Worth noting that by the time he was in his second term GW was admitting that it was political suicide to choose subordinates on the basis of anything other than loyalty. In other words, forget about merit. Welcome to the future.

  2. redleg

    IIRC, the DNC bylaws explicitly stated that the DNC was to be neutral until a candidate won the primary. Gabbard stated this when she resigned to endorse Sanders.
    The DNC has an uphill climb to remove itself from that point as this bylaw is in writing, was used or enforced, and was clearly violated by their own admission in testimony and in their emails. Now I’m not an attorney, but on its face this is a strong case for fraud if I’ve ever seen one.

    1. Octopii

      It would be helpful if you could provide a citation (and the text) of the bylaw you describe.

      1. LifelongLib

        Are “private associations” even legally obligated to follow their own bylaws? Or is the members’ only recourse to just leave?

        1. Tom

          That descends to contract law, and if the remedy is either leave or request that the contract is ‘made good’ I have no idea how you would manage that

        2. P

          Yes, they are. Just like businesses. If it is in their advertising and if there is money passing hands, they can not falsely represent their “product”. It is fraud and false advertising.

          Imagine, for example, a VFW post that didn’t allow in veterans from the first Gulf War. That, again, would be false advertising and the national organisation would be accused of accepting donations based on a false premise.

          Or, imagine a non-profit for cancer research that is not really looking for a cure. They would be sued without question.

      2. redleg

        Gabbard’s own words

        Article 5 Section 4 of the DNC Charter and Bylaws. Look it up yourself next time.

        “Section 4. The National Chairperson shall serve full time and shall receive such compensation as
        may be determined by agreement between the Chairperson and the Democratic National Committee. In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process. ”

        As I understand it, if you have a set of rules and people submit money based on those rules, those rules are binding. Failure to follow those rules is either fraud or breach of contract. The rules do not necessarily need to be written down, but it’s easier to make a case if they are.

        1. Vatch

          Thanks for posting that. Here’s another place where the bylaws can be found:


          The text of Article Five, Section Four looks the same — there’s an obligation to be impartial.

          The Democratic Party appears to have an extremely weak case, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll lose. It’s really important that people provide support to candidates who will be opposing the establishment candidates in the 2018 Democratic primaries.

          1. where4art

            Well, look at that… this version is from 2015; most of the links I’ve seen are to the 2009 version. Good to have!

            Clarification: there are two separate documents posted together here, the Charter (which forms the Party) and the Bylaws (which are adopted by the DNC pursuant to the Charter). Article Five, Section 4 is in the Charter.

            The DNC’s lawyer, remarkably, appears to think that “bylaws” is another word for “charter;” see page 7 of the hearing transcript. This confusion is appalling for a partner at a major law firm.

          2. Carl

            You’re right, the courts are reluctant to get involved in party political disputes like this, and it’s not hard to see why the lawyer for the DNC argued the way he did. He was pressing the courts buttons to get that case thrown out. They probably will shitcan it.

          1. DorothyT

            Your original comment saddened me. Thank you for giving it a second thought. And the information you and others provided is appreciated.

          2. Glorious Bach

            I second Dorothy’s “thanks, because next to a blog’s content, the quality of comments is what keeps me devoted to superb blogs likes this and Moon of Alabama and a handful of econ blogs. The richness of the comments here and elsewhere–so, again, thanks for your mea tiny culpa.

        2. redleg

          The judge refers to this section in the motion hearing. So the judge is considering it regardless of the online documents.

      3. Michael C.

        The following is taken from the 2009 bylaws of the DNC.
        From Preamble:
        Recognizing that the vitality of the Nation’s political institutions has been the foundation of its enduring strength, we acknowledge that a political party which wishes to lead must listen to those it would lead, a party which asks for the people’s trust must prove that it trusts the people and a party which hopes to call forth the best the Nation can achieve must embody the best of the Nation’s heritage and traditions.
        Bound by the United States Constitution, aware that a party must be responsive to be worthy of responsibility, we pledge ourselves to open, honest endeavor and to the conduct of public affairs in a manner worthy of a society of free people.
        Article One, Section 7:
        Section 7. Encourage and support codes of political ethics that embody substantive rules of ethical guidance for public officials and employees in federal, state and local governments, to assure that public officials shall at all times conduct themselves in a manner that reflects creditably upon the office they serve, shall not use their office to gain special privileges and benefits and shall refrain from acting in their official capacities when their independence of judgement would be adversely affected by personal interest or duties.
        Article Four, Section 4
        In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns.
        ARTICLE Eight Full Participation Section 1.
        The Democratic Party of the United States shall be open to all who desire to support the Party and who wish to be known as Democrats. Section 2. Discrimination in the conduct of Democratic Party affairs on the basis of sex, race, age (if of voting age), color, creed, national origin, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic identity or physical disability is prohibited, to the end that the Democratic Party at all levels be an open party.

        Article Nine, Section 8
        To assure that the Democratic nominee for the office of President of the United States is selected by a fair and equitable process, the Democratic National Committee may adopt such statements of policy as it deems appropriate with respect to the timing of Presidential nominating processes and shall work with state Parties to accomplish the objectives of such statements.
        Section 9.
        The Democratic National Committee shall maintain and publish a code of fair campaign practices, which shall be recommended for observance by all candidates campaigning as Democrats.
        Section 12.
        All meetings of the Democratic National Committee, the Executive Committee, and all other official Party committees, commissions and bodies shall be open to the public, and votes shall not be taken by secret ballot.

    2. funemployed

      This is, in fact, the argument the plaintiffs are making for standing. They are saying that donors to the DNC have standing to sue because they have a reasonable expectation that their money would be used by DNC Services Corporation d/b/a elitist toadies according to their own bylaws, and therefore violating them constitutes fraud. I don’t know that being a lawyer is required to realize that “they said they would use donors money to conduct impartial primaries, then did the opposite” is cut and dry fraud. Not being a lawyer might actually help with grasping this, IMO.

      1. redleg

        The complaint was filed before the DNC email leaks.

        I don’t want the DNC to lose this case. I want them to lose it in a way that is undeniably, irredeemably humiliating.

        1. Pavel

          I’m glad to see the online outrage over the DNC’s “defence” though I haven’t seen much MSM coverage yet (might be my fault as I don’t watch TV, am boycotting WaPo and only skim the online NYT each morning ;)

          redleg, I’d like not only to see the DNC humiliated but to see it bankrupted as well and DWS thrown in the slammer. A boy can dream…!

          1. redleg

            Wouldn’t it be delicious if triple damages were awarded, and HRC’s contributions were the amounts that pushed it into Chapter 7?

  3. Mel

    “any readers who have the necessary expertise [ … ]”

    Yeah. I’d like to see a brief explanation of just what U.S. political parties are and do. I know there’s no Constitutional reason to have them; that they’re legally private clubs that have assembled to coordinate their members’ political actions (“members” perhaps being left legally undefined here.) I know the two parties are dug deeply in to the processes for administering elections, to the point where alternative clubs can be frozen out. Just what are the rules here?

    1. Oregoncharles

      The states administer election law, so reality varies from state to state – interesting that the above is a federal case. I can only speak for Oregon, based on Green Party experience:

      Political parties are legally non-profit corporations. Our constitution, bylaws, and officers are registered with the Sec. of State, who is responsible for corporate regulation in general, as well as for elections. The PRACTICE, I don’t know the letter of the law, is that they mostly leave us alone. The registered info is for public information. Years ago, there was even a lawsuit over the outcome of a convention, and the courts basically brushed it off (the party is well supplied with lawyers).

      Would they do the same with a “major” party, or would they intervene on the ground that it actually matters? I know several people I could ask, but I think they’d take the same attitude. Private organization, even though it benefits from state law and money (in the primaries), so their internal squabbles are not the state’s business.

      I’m surprised the plaintiffs got standing in the case above.

      OTOH, actually administering elections, including the primaries, is very much the state’s business and a matter of state law (hence the many variations.) State laws on ballot access are the biggest single legal barrier to alternative parties, especially in a few states that make it essentially impossible. That involves discrimination among private organizations, so it should be subject to a lawsuit, and in fact the Georgia Green Party was able to win a lawsuit that knocked down the draconian ballot-access provisions. Unless you could get it into federal court, that would require state-by-state legal action.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      “… the two parties are dug deeply in to the processes for administering elections, to the point where alternative clubs can be frozen out.”

      And that is precisely the problem. If the DNC wants to pick its candidate in a biased manner in a smoke filled room, well that’s their right according to the current rules, despite the hypocrisy of such an action conflicting with the party’s own bylaws which suggest impartiality. Those who don’t like it could set up their own club with their own candidate and level the playing field, except the two major parties have completely frozen out the competition. There is no alternative, don’t you know, and it’s all for our own good.

      Parliamentary democracy is much preferred to the current form in the US IMNSHO, however the conventional wisdom continues to pretend the US invented democracy and its incarnation here is the epitome of governmental perfection, despite the fact that it has been improved upon by many other nations since 1776.

      1. Synoia

        Parliamentary democracy is much preferred

        By whom, pray? In the UK it is called “dictatorship by parliament.”

        Perhaps you are referring to proportional representation with publicly funded elections?

        1. hunkerdown

          Under a republican (aka “liberal democratic”) system, representatives are principals, not agents. That’s a fatal blow to the fictions that legitimize the elective aristocracy and the notion of voters as citizens, or worse, “consumers”, rather than subjects.

        2. animalogic

          The “dictatorship of parliament” depends on having a good majority in the lower house. The moment a government has to rely on independents to govern they are anything but a dictatorship. Add on an upper house in which they lack a majority & you have a government that must wheel & deal to get anything but supply (basic money to run day-to-day government) bills through.

      2. Katharine

        How do you figure it’s their right if it conflicts with their bylaws? Those don’t just suggest impartiality, they mandate it.

  4. Oregoncharles

    ” the Party can do whatever it wants, including rigging an election, and there’s no form of redress!”

    Right here, I want to remind everybody that I forecast (1) that Bernie would lose (47% in the primaries) and (2) that the Democrat Party would cheat, if need be. Granted, that reflected my priors; it also happened to be correct.

  5. TheCatSaid

    Thanks for highlighting this, Lambert. It’s deeply disturbing, and an accurate reflection of the non-democratic, non-representative nature of our political parties that control our election mechanisms (e.g., the political debates).

    For those with great hearing, there’s a lengthy street interview with the plaintiff’s lawyer, reflecting on the lawsuit’s events of the day. Some of the most interesting content is in the latter half. Unfortunately the microphone quality is poor & there’s lots of street noise, but the lawyer talks about the things said by the defendant’s lawyer (which this post highlights) and that he found them shocking and outrageous. He says he felt his team made strong rebuttals–it would be interesting to know more about what was said.

    1. different clue

      Non-democratic non-representative nature of our political parTIES? Only the Democratic Party committed a non-democratic non-representative nomination process.

      The Republican Party ran a democratic representative nomination process which resulted in Trump winning their nomination even though the Republican Party’s equivalent of the Democrats’ DNC did not like or want Trump.

      1. Carl

        Excellent point. Until last year, I never considered the thought that the Rs were more democratic than the Ds, but they proved it to me in spades.

        1. Propertius

          The last time the Democratic Party conducted a democratic nomination process, it picked George McGovern. Something like that must certainly never be allowed to happen again.

          1. Richard Musser

            Actually, the 1976 process was relatively “democratic”. The Party didn’t want carter, and though it helped to bring him down later, when he assumed office, there were no elite superdelegates, and no anointed “frontrunner” removing the need for pesky democracy in the first place. He won fair and square.

      2. sid_finster

        To be fair, Team R tried to deny Trump the nomination. They even cancelled primaries in states Trump was likely to win.

        However, Team R did not have the MSM to breathlessly cheerlead their every move, thr RNC were not united behind a single candidate, and the RNC were not a ruthless as their Team D counterparts.

        1. Vatch

          They even cancelled primaries in states Trump was likely to win.

          I was not aware of that. Is it possible those were caucus states, and people mistakenly assumed that the primaries had been cancelled? Can you point us to a list of states where this happened?

        2. stockbrokher

          Most importantly the R’s did not have (deliberately create) “Super Delegates” to act as an impenetrable firewall against a grassroots candidate.

  6. roadrider

    Well if they are “private” clubs then how come their primary elections are conducted and paid for by state and local governments? Why are they and the other “private” club allowed to have an effective monopoly on the presidential debates through their privately owned corporation which makes rules that effectively exclude the participation of any other private clubs or individuals? The answer is, obviously, that they have enough members of their clubs in elected offices meaning that their “private” clubs have effectively taken over government and are skewing the rules for their own benefit. That’s one reason why I don’t buy into this “reform the Democratic Party” bullshit. They will never let it happen.

    1. Denele Campbell

      States are required to hold primaries and general elections. Anyone can run whether they have an organized party behind them or not. Organized parties such as Dems and Repubs have worked hard for decades to represent certain core beliefs that are then reflected in the candidates that run under their banner for local, state, and national elections. This works well because voters want a track record of what a candidate stands for. Sure, if you know someone personally and think she’s a great option for county judge, then you don’t need party core beliefs to explain where she stands. But historically, there’s a record of what Dems and Repubs stand for and what voters should expect from their candidates. As for reforming the Democratic Party, you need to realize that parties are made up of people. Those people have jobs, families, and personal lives yet they VOLUNTEER time to try to make the country better by helping elect people to office who share their beliefs. If there is nothing within the Democratic Party core beliefs that you care about, then by all means you don’t belong in any local or state Democratic Party chapter. Do you even know what those core beliefs are?

  7. Kris Alman

    D leadership can’t seem to understand that independent voters are crucial to winning elections. Doubling down, as they are doing in this lawsuit, they will further provoke their “base.” A sufficient number of minority, low income and union voters smelled a rat in 2016. They didn’t vote for Hillary or didn’t turn out to vote, but got blamed for voting against their best interests.

    Wake up Democratic Party! The mid-terms are looming.

    1. Deadl E Cheese

      The Democratic Party has shown that it thinks that it can regain power without having to change one bit. All they have to do is wait for Trump to screw up enough with a recession or war, then the Clinton-Obama liberals will just assume its position in government without having to make any concessions to people outside of their elite cliques.

      As someone who strongly believes in the hypotheses of “The Politics That Presidents Make”, especially the prediction that Trump is Jimmy Carter 2.0, one thing that gets left out of discussions of that book is that when a reconstructive President finally shatters the old regime, the newly triumphant regime looks little like the ones that previously battled the vanquished regime.

      The Jacksonian Democrats weren’t defeated by the Whigs, they were defeated by the Lincolnites. The Lincolnites weren’t beaten by the Bryan-Wilsonian Democrats, they were defeated by the New Deal Dems. The New Deal Dems weren’t defeated by the Clothcoats/Rockefeller Republicans, they were defeated by the Reaganites. If this historical pattern holds, I don’t think the Reaganites will be defeated by the New Democrats; they’ll be defeated by something different.

      To that end, I say let the Democratic Party die in a ditch. The Whig Party didn’t need to be reformed to break the back of the Jacksonian Democrats.

      1. animalogic

        Quite right about death in a ditch.
        Hard to imagine any kind of US renewal in the absence of the destruction of one, or preferably, both major parties.
        Few people of independent mind can now deny that both parties are the exclusive representatives of a corrupt Oligarchy. An oligarchy which sees Subjects rather than citizens. An oligarchy which believes the nation & it’s government exists only to benefit it’s own narrow selfish oligarchic interests.
        Too cynical ? Maybe…but not by much.

      2. Tully

        Each of those party realignments is associated with an “event”. The Lincolnites ascended because of the issue of slavery expansion culminating in the Civil War. Their 70 year reign (of giving free rein to big business) ended with the ’29 crash and Great Depression, which ushered in the New Dealers. The Reaganites ascension is largely the result of the Dixiecrat backlash to the 1964 Civil Rights Act (“southern strategy”) and the war in Vietnam. History suggests that “something different” will be the result of an “event”. You mention “a recession or a war”. I’m thinking a depression (the Great Recession wasn’t ‘great’ enough) or a war. Or both.

    2. stockbrokher

      Yes this blindness to the Independent vote – especially by D’s – is mystifying to me. In several crucial states the Independent vote in 2016 represented the deferential or more than the deferential between Trump and HRC. I blame the media mostly who focus only on the D v R race and rarely even mention the Independent vote count or strength in any given state.

      For example, in AZ voters are registered unaffliated with D or R are the biggest block – 36%.
      Independent (34%) Libertarian (1%) and Green (1%).
      That compares to Democrats 30%, Republicans 34%. And yet unaffiliated are shut out of the primary.

      We saw how well that worked in 2016 – Bernie won almost every open state- HRC won the closed states. So DNC got the Party the nominee IT wanted – the least popular one.

      Most stunning – not only did the D’s try to pretend the Independent voters didn’t exist in the primaries – they actively shunned them in the General.

      1. Deadl E Cheese

        If you stop trying to analyze the Democratic Party as a normal political party that wants to win elections to implement a center-left agenda (which is what liberal Democrats in public swear up and down they want to do) and more of a consulting firm that employs Ivy league grads too untalented to make it in marketing and too lazy to make it in corporate law its apparently suicidal behavior makes a lot more sense.

        Activating independents and drop-off voters would mean moving in a more economically left direction. This would help them win elections, but would infuriate the donors; all of the hanger-ons could only look forward to four-figure speaking fees, tops.

        However, if the Democratic Party does things like TPP and immigration reform and MIC-humping, even if the Democratic Party gets destroyed the people who helped make it happen during those fitful eras they had power could look forward to lucrative careers as lobbyists and consultants.

        True, this strategy is risky in that if the Democratic Party can’t win elections at ALL, no one is going to hire most of them. But a permanent detente where the Democratic Party is guaranteed to have a federal presence, a strong presence in cities, and the golden goose of the executive branch is enough to secure these parasites’ futures. Hence why these Democrats weren’t bothered at all by the fact that even if Hillary Clinton did get in, she would have no governing coalition to enact a non-reactionary agenda. They’d still get their rice bowls filled. They probably get them filled even a little more than if they had a unified government, since they wouldn’t have to make even token gestures towards their base.

        This is why the Democratic Party has to die and the failed attempts of reform by Sanders/Women’s March/Ellison have me rubbing my hands with glee. It’s not just cliquish, clueless, and co-opting, it’s also completely corrupt. It’s at the point where its leadership has a strong incentive not to actually succeed too much.

        1. different clue

          If your analysis is correct, that means that the Democratic Party is the faithful political expression and representative of The Ten Percent . . . the Elites’ happy little helpers. In which case, it has been and remains a very powerful and dangerous tool and weapon of Ten Per Center Class warfare against the Bottom Ninety Percent.

          And if that is so, then it ( The Democratic Party) will not die on its own. It will have to be overtly and pointedly killed. But how? The Ten Per Centers mostly-all support it and so do the tweedy NPR innalekshewals and so do the vast masses of Black Voters.

          I would suggest that the Democratic Party is too dangerous a weapon in the hands of its Ten Per Center Owners to be ignored. The attempt to take it away from the Ten Per Centers ( “reform” it) must be made, and it must be made in such a way that if it doesn’t succeed, it leaves the Democratic Party so shattered and destroyed that The Ten Per Centers no longer have it either, there being no Party left to have.

          1. Marina Bart

            I think the confusion comes because people like me refer to taking over the party in a purge, and others translate that as “reform.”

            It’s not reform. As Lambert has said numerous times, it’s a hostile takeover. It’s like those animals who take over a completed nest by killing the creatures that built it.

            If the Ds and Rs hadn’t put so much effort into blocking new parties, we wouldn’t have to do this. But they did, so we have to eradicate them all and take over their nest. Being nice, we’re just forcing them out of power in the party. They’ll all be just fine. They’ll get the same universal citizen benefits the rest of us get.

          2. Charger01

            I believe that was one of the main points articulated in Listen, Liberal, that Team D refers only to the “professional ” class as their clients, anyone else is just along for the ride.

        2. sid_finster

          The Iron Law of Institutions and the Iron Law of Oligarchy tell us everything we need to know.

        3. stockbrokher

          It was clear from spring 2016 on that the DNC preferred Trump to Bernie.

          They are currently periously close to being unelectable at any level ( and so
          unable to deliver the goods to the “donor class”). Why any donors are still giving is beyond me, but the sooner that corrupt organization dies, the better.

        4. JTFaraday

          I largely agree, but I would not call this “technocracy,” even careerist technocracy. FDR ran a technocracy. What do we think “public servant” refers to?

          What you’re describing is more banana republic. Just plain old grift and corruption. The devolution of careerist technocracy maybe, but not the real thing.

      2. Katharine

        Excuse me, I think you meant difference, not deferential. I went off on a short tangent trying to recall any sign of deference on either side.

  8. JerryDenim

    Thanks for ferreting out these exceptional quotes Lambert. “clarifying” Indeed. Know your enemy. It will be very interesting to see how Judge Zolch rules and how he justifies it.

  9. Edward

    The parties are monopolies and need to be broken up. It seems to me the question here is when can the government intrude on a private association. This intrusion occurs in other situations; the application of environmental regulations or the fairness doctrine are examples.

    I think the U.S. would be better with a parliamentary system because third parties would not be shut out.

  10. Danellicus

    The Democrat Party Is Poorly Managed

    Many people in this organization knew well before the campaign that installing good IT and significant information security measures were necessary in today’s environment. They had minimal IT and clearly insignificant infosec. If they were a business they might have been plundered and put out of business. If they were a publicly traded company they would have taken a big loss in market capitalization. If they were a business their reputation would be ruined. They cannot be trusted to do IT and infosec right.

    This kind of failure goes to the top, and occupies at least the management layer directly underneath as well. This indicates a lack of awareness of the marketplace, and consequently a significant lack of competence in management. They cannot be trusted.

    1. John Wright

      I give the Democrats some credit for trying to influence people via public relations/media influence after their IT screw-ups.

      A corporation that had internal correspondence hacked would have probably been approached, very quietly, by wealth maximizing blackmailers.

      And the corporation would have tried to avoid publicizing the leak, if it did not involve customer information

      Blaming foreign hackers would not garner much sympathy from damaged and lawyered-up corporate customers.

      Amazingly, the Democrats attempted to deflect people from DNC IT incompetence by blaming it on the Russians.

      The DNC hoped to cast the Republicans as also incompetent in IT handling, implying the Russians likely hacked the Republicans.

      But the Russians chose only to harm the noble Democrats, not the evil Republicans.

      Where I work we now joke when something doesn’t go as intended, “it must have been the damn Russians again”.

      Perhaps the Democratic party will become a national joke and will become irrelevant.

  11. Susan the other

    So if our Constitution were to be democratic it would promote the will/whim of the people. Will if they are right, and whim if they are frivolous. In order to determine one from the other we need truth – in depth – in advertising and laws against consumer fraud – which looks like the tactic used here. Bec everything in a nation devoted to private property must be regulated to insure against fraud. There are very effective laws which deter fraud financially, for instance. In order to promote the public good which only government can do, where is the government when the government is absorbed into self-interested parties, and etc. Thanks Lambert. Interesting. Unfortunately we can’t have “freedom for all” when it is a free for all. And I’m not one bit surprised to learn how sneaky the democrats are/were.

  12. sharonsj

    You have raised an interesting question. I have been a registered Democrat for an unbroken 52 years. Presumably that would make me a member of the Democratic Party–but I bet they wouldn’t let me in the door if I showed up to take part in the decision-making.

  13. curlydan

    As I read the testimony, “anti-trust” was screaming in my ears. There is little opportunity to start another party when there is a duopoly controlling the tickets, debates, etc.

    Ds and Rs are entities explicitly trying to freeze out any other opinion or parties.

    Both parties ought to be treated like companies and either broken up or be forced to allow more debate participation.

  14. diptherio

    So the DNC’s argument boils down to “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown”? Clarifying indeed.

  15. BradK

    So if plaintiffs prevail, what is the worst penalty Debbie and Hillary could receive? Fines? Incarceration? I must admit the image of these two in matching orange jump suits a-la Orange Is The New Black would go a long way in the public eye.

    Of course it would run the risk of validating Trump’s “Crooked Hillary” sobriquet. And we can’t have that.

    Or, since Hillary is not mentioned in the suit, does she get immunity (once again)?

    1. funemployed

      Yeah. Hillary’s got nothing to do with this unless she happened to donate personal cash to the DNC, in which case…wait for it…she’d be de-facto a member of the plaintiff class suing the DNC and Debbie for making her the candidate.

      At least the beginning of the catastrophic collapse of global civilization is filled with irony.

  16. Tomonthebeach

    Is it not mind-boggling that our “bicameral” system of democracy, so casually referred to in Civics 101 classes across America of centuries, places so much faith in the DNC and RNC, yet these organizations apparently assert that they are not accountable to anybody – even registered Democrats and Republicans?

    It is unlikely that the courts will be motivated or able to fix our institutionalized corrupt system of democracy. But maybe the bad press will encourage at least a little post-Daily/Clinton era accountability.

  17. freedeomny

    TYT noted in an interview that they thought the court remarking that “Democracy demands the truth
    so people can make intelligent decisions” was fairly telling in how the judge was viewing the case and I agree. All in all I was somewhat optimistic after reading the transcript….

    1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

      It is fascinating that the founders could have imagined that political parties would not evolve in their newly won freedom. I doubt that they were so ill informed as to believe that human nature did not apply to them. Royalty was the brand recogition system of choice for thousands of years. When the royalty became a major drag on trade, the English business-men subverted royalty, keeping it on to provide a thin film of the kind of legitimacy that the masses could relate to. Policy wise, another system of branding took off – Tory and Whig.

      I believe that human cultures can only cope with a limited number of brands and that the early American politician quickly realised that the sure way to obtain power was to rely on name-recognition and hitch a ride on whatever wagon the voting public could recognize as a vehicle that was going somewhere.

      Add a couple of hundred years of gaming the system and you get to where you are now. Eyephone or Andrewoid: there are others – aren’t there?


      1. Oregoncharles

        This does not explain why most other countries have multiple parties, though there is a tendency to fall back on just 2. Note that France’s 2-Party just expired; Spain’s is not far behind.

        1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

          My view is that the number of significant political parties a country supports is related to how recently it has suffered under dictatorship. The newer democracies seem to me to have more electorally signifcant parties; coalition governments abound.

          The older democracies have evolved so that the few major parties are covert coalitions – uncomfortable aggregations of former parties and movements who in the past have conceded defeat in the brand/name recognition battle.

          Spain is a relatively new democracy, and France’s although older, was relatively recently under Nazi occupation – a truly poisonous interlude, which in my view has set the political evolutionary clock back somewhat. The French Right in particular is no less fractious than others, and are fond of rebranding around personalities -the Gaulists being the prime example.

          On vera!

          Pip Pip!

  18. ChrisPacific

    If the Democrat party is a private association, then who owns and runs it, and how is it governed? In theory, I mean (since we all know the answer to that question in practice). When Spiva says “we could have gone into the back room and smoked cigars” then who is ‘we’ in that sentence? How do we know who is part of that ‘we’ and who isn’t? If I joined, then stood up in a meeting and said I was now in charge and everyone needed to do what I say, what arguments would be deployed? Would they throw the book at me? If so, what book? Is it just a set of guidelines, or does it have contractual weight? If it’s just guidelines, what’s to stop me from coming up with a new set of guidelines and claiming that they are better and should be used instead? Is there a formal process for changing the rules?

    “Private association” does not equate to “above the law,” especially if said private association makes use of the law in order to safeguard the principles that matter to them (and I’d be amazed if the Democrat party didn’t do that). Spiva is being disingenuous. If he’s right, then let’s start a movement to declare that Sanders is now leader and all the corporate Dems are expelled from the party effective immediately, and see how they react.

  19. human

    This is a civil action. The resulting decision could be interesting. The USPS does not take kindly to mail fraud.

  20. Barbara

    Not mentioned here – unless I missed it – is the parties’ (both R and D) role in or connection to the administration of elections. We had voter registration purges; we had claims of fraud in the handling of ballots; claims of spontaneous switches in electronic/computerized voting. When you connect the dots between the various Board of Elections personnel and the two major parties, it logically – and legally? – connects the parties to the actual apparatus of the elections – and that is not private, that is public.

    1. hunkerdown

      Should the case proceed to discovery, electoral misconduct would start to out, assuming it hasn’t been BleachBitted. The symphony of gored oxen and broken rice bowls will be a beautiful, beautiful thing.

      human (just above), I keep hoping this proceeds to a RICO action, but I don’t think Sessions is up to it. If he really wants to stick it to the Democrat Party and not just make amends to his rich buddies in pharma for opposing TPP, I believe he would do that.

  21. LT

    In light of the court docs, it will be more true to just call them “Dems.”
    And the other half of the duopoly “Repubs.”

  22. scott s.

    I think you will find the Party Chairman is answerable to the DNC (or more particularly, the Executive Committee). The actions of the DNC in turn are ratified by the National Convention. Individuals who declare themselves to be “democrats” or contribute money to candidates don’t really have any say or direct interest in the party. If you think the party is not doing what you want, you should join the local party and run for delegate or local party office. Then you can attend local and state conventions and elect your members to the national committees. Alternatively there are many affiliated organizations which have a “seat at the table” through which you can express your opinions and desires.

    1. witters

      So that’s how a democratic process works! And if there is any problem whatsoever with that, then it is Up to YOU to”join the local party and run for delegate or local party office. Then you can attend local and state conventions and elect your members to the national committees. Alternatively there are many affiliated organizations which have a “seat at the table” through which you can express your opinions and desires.”

      So easy, so fair, so democratic! Such real choice!

    2. sd

      Hahahaha. The “local” party doesn’t even let the public know when or where their meetings are. This impenetrability of the local party is well enough known at the national level, that there’s a network that kicks in to support Presidential campaigns.

      1. Denele Campbell

        BS, sd. The local party is eager for folks to show up and participate. But there’s not much glory in it, so you might not be interested. It’s hard work organizing rallies, soliciting donations for yard signs and newspaper ads, and trying to find qualified people willing to run for office.

    3. Marina Bart

      If you think the party is not doing what you want, you should join the local party and run for delegate or local party office. Then you can attend local and state conventions and elect your members to the national committees. Alternatively there are many affiliated organizations which have a “seat at the table” through which you can express your opinions and desires.”

      You realize that’s fiction, right?

      I say this as someone who helped elect party delegates at the local level. We got our slate through, but without an enormous amount of pre-existing organization and networking established by the Sanders campaign, it wouldn’t have happened. Even with that, party insiders worked very hard to stop anyone other than their little clique from even knowing when and where the meetings were. Insurgent but active members of the state party had to sue because a couple of the local elections were openly and illegally manipulated and stolen by insiders trying to maintain their control. Those same insiders thoughtfully made sure that having a majority of the elected delegates doesn’t give you control of the state party. Kind of like how lobbyist superdelegates get to overrule voting party members.

      We’ll get there — taking over the state party, that is. But you’re describing an open, democratic process that does not exist in reality.

      1. stockbrokher


        For heaven’s sake, look what they did to Bernie’s elected delegates.

        “Get involved at the local level” – right – that’ll fix it.

      1. Pavel

        Can we get them on RICO charges?

        Seems fitting given DWS is from Florida, home of drug smuggling and money laundering.

  23. Last Patriot

    The idea that parties are purely private associations was thrown out by the Supreme Court when it overturned the use of white primaries in 1944. The argument for white primaries used in the Jim Crow era was precisely the “private association” argument used by the lawyers here. The establishment democrats apparently feel very comfortable bringing back the ideas and legal defense of the Jim Crow racist South.

    So yes, the identity politics nonsense is also just a temporary ruse.

    1. jsn

      What the Reagan revolution was really about was using Jim Crow prejudices as an electoral tool to roll out JimCrow 2.0, a new and inclusive Jim Crow.

      Bill Clinton then went all in for it with the Dems, the historic party of the KKK.

      But now it isn’t any particular race the Dems want to keep down, it’s the entire working class.

  24. Steve Ruis

    Conservatives had a fear that government was in a position in our Republic to take the place of a single tyrant and instead of government by a single tyrant, it was tyranny by the mechanism of the government. Hence, the fear of “big government” and the promotion of “small government” by the Cs. But around the 1970’s the conservatives, fueled by money from very wealthy interests, decided that they were losing the battle over big government and that their best option was to take over the government and be the tyrant, as it were. Thus the transformation/usurpation of the GOP by its right wing and the somewhat later but similar usurpation of the DP by the neoliberal/corporatist wing. In effect some very rich people have decided to “ride the tiger” by capturing the government and running it for their own interests.

    Instead of attacking their fortresses (the RNC, DNC, etc. there are no “party” just elite rule and deal making apparatuses) we need to create our own. We need another party to break the lock the rich have upon the current parties and we need to limit the influence of the rich on that party.

  25. Katharine

    Spiva’s argument appears to amount to saying corporations have no obligation to follow their own bylaws. Surely if that were applied universally even shareholders might get upset.

  26. washunate

    Awesome post Lambert. I sympathize with the concern about turning citizens into consumers, but I think it’s already happened given the dual nature of the two major parties receiving public benefits engrained in the system yet being held as private associations whenever challenged with an obligation to serve the public.

    Personally, I have become a fan of taking the argument to its logical conclusion and using anti-trust law. Everytime the two parties use public infrastructure to exclude alternative views, they are engaging in anti-competitive behavior just as surely as any other ‘private’ parties colluding to screw over the public for their own private gain.

    1. Disgusted

      Why are we consumers? And when do they “serve” the public? If they are politicians, then we are constituents. That means we put them where they are to represent our best interests. If we abide by laws then they abide by laws- even the by-laws of their own making. If the court accepts the not accountable argument- why should the rest of us or anyone be accountable?

      1. washunate

        Why? I’d say it’s the two Ms: marketing and money. We can desire a different system, but that’s the current one we have.

  27. Scott

    I did not believe I knew all I needed to know to wield great power when I was young. I find it disturbing that youth are encouraged to go into politics when young and have entire careers in public service.
    Of course I am naive in my beliefs.
    It was like when working in the movies. “Movies are made by people that don’t know anything for people that don’t know anything.”
    More true for low budget independent movies than some of the great literary movies, I may admit.
    When I did decide to give it one more try with the Democratic Party, taking a seat as a Precinct Vice Chair, I found that as someone older with insights to offer, submitting speeches and asking for support for a challenge to Senator Richard Burr, nothing doing. Stuff this envelope. Very agist treatment.
    And I could tell there was no intention that the party do anything near thinking, but follow a script that meant all presidential aims were to fulfill whatever it was the Clinton Unit had in mind.
    If the Democratic Party had really been about winning they would have recognized that Bernie Sanders was a superior candidate. Some smart people would have sized the Clinton unit up as a risk, whereas Sanders was not.
    But there were none of these smart people. What there was were toadys.
    I resigned my seat when it was clear that I would be wasting my time with people who did not do things in order, did not do follow up, and lied about their failures, as if a failure was a success.
    Sanders knew something we didn’t is something I suspect for there was talk of him going to the Green Party.
    Never saw that photo of Jill Stein sitting at the table with Vladimir Putin & Michael Flynn till after the election.

  28. ckimball

    How can a Charter be revoked? If a corporate organization is in violation of its charter by
    being against its reason for existing, shouldn’t the charter be revoked. Who gave the
    Democratic party their Charter. Being ignorant about these things, I have wondered why this
    discussion is not common in public discourse. Is it because it is not possible?

  29. Phillip Allen

    “I’m not sure I’m comfortable thinking of citizens as consumers.”

    The entire project of replacing the citizen with the consumer is to disenfranchise the citizen from any power other than that of deciding how to spend money. Also corrosive of the notion of citizenship is the substitution of ‘the taxpayer’ for the citizen, which excludes those without property or sufficient income to be liable for taxes from civic conversation.

  30. Adamski

    Do states pay for carrying out the primaries? In which case the taxpayer has an interest in ensuring they are fair

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