A Democratic National Committee staffer named Zach is reported to have screamed at Donna Brazile, acting DNC chair and regular contributor to CNN. Brazille was leading a pep rally with staff exhorting them to have hope for victories ahead.
“Why should we trust you as chair to lead us through this?” Zach asked…”You are part of the problem.” In a moment, in the midst of boos and catcalls from fellow staffers, Zach crystalized what happened to Democrats in the 2016 elections.
I know the Donna Braziles, Debbie Wasserman Schultzs and James Carvilles of the world. Where I grew up, we called them the runners and not the walkers. Runners chase the head of the crowd and the walkers do the hard work. Each of these folks paid some dues, no doubt, and earned that Democratic right of being an “insider,” the proper term that the media, among many things, gets wrong in opting for the term “elitist” instead.
Runners are pros at positioning themselves every four years to run everything or, at least, leave the perception that they know it all. They fix it so that the insiders get all of the work and all the credit. Running stuff is a big business, when you consider they ate up the majority of the $556 million from Hillary’s campaign and an additional $733 million spent by the DNC and Democratic Super PACs. That’s about $1.3 Billion dollars for our Democratic to run for leader of the free world.
Late in the race during her last successful run for Senate, I was asked by Senator Mary Landrieu to come help turn around her nose diving campaign. Although involved in many Democratic races, I was never allowed into the insiders’ tent in Washington because the runners always killed off any new blood. After squeaking out the victory, the Senator asked me to her home to “give it to” the pollster, her media team and advisors. With victory in hand, Donna Brazile was in the room spreading joy. Mary said nothing but nodded to me to talk about the faulty polling, the shoddy ad creative, and the poorly handled protocol in DC. At that moment, with the snide looks around the room, I knew that I had sealed my fate with the insiders, just like Zach has sealed his by telling the truth. After a few more campaigns, my colleagues and I were unofficially excommunicated from the biz, cast aside as naïve and not understanding the nuances of Washington, even though I had done fifteen hard years of time in DC.
I often whined to friends about this being a harbinger of things to come. These are the folks who named people the “working class,” not having a clue how offensive that is to someone who wants their kids to see them as successful. The runners never understood that pocket book issues are more important to women than “pant suits.” Insiders thought that was so cute while mom is holding down two jobs and cooking for dad and kids, too. Most of the runners are frauds when it comes to technology – many don’t know that WORD is a program and not a part of their run-on sentences. The runners usually know nothing about small business even though they have these weird terms like “the grocery store owner” or “the worker behind the counter,” or “those who clean up the hotels.” Let me let you in on a 2016 secret: Wal-Mart has long ago run half of the small businesses out of town and the folks behind the counter need immigration reform to keep working.
And the Democrats have stacked their institutions with a bunch of folks on the take. I was a donor to Patrick Murphy’s campaign for Senate in Florida. I received hundreds of frantic emails each week for months, to the point that I contacted the campaign and said they were scaring folks off. They had all of the big runners signing the letters, most of whom I find to be the problem, not the solution.
One signed by James Carville was titled, “WE’RE SCREWED – EARTH TO VAL,” extolling me to wake up because I was too stupid to know what was coming down. Then came one from Barney Frank, forced from the closet years ago and now seen as the voice of Gay America, telling me about my rights being taken away. I was marching in the streets of LA long before Barney jumped on the train. The point here is that the runners did big damage to the entire Democratic front, promoting themselves in arrogant and senseless ways. Of course, my suggestion to the Murphy campaign that the letterhead reading “DEFEAT MARCO RUBIO,” would never convey the message of inspiration was all too true in the end. The DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) had claws in Murphy’s promising campaign and the candidate was lost in their grasp.
Labor has runners and walkers; runners deliver the fat checks, walkers show up at the rallies with sweaty “I Believe” T-shirts after waiting in line or the rain for hours to see their runners introducing the headliners.
For years, we have seen African-American runners get ahead, while vast numbers of their population are unmotivated to vote and chastised if they don’t feel the Democratic love. How would you feel if your party talked to you more about the high incarceration rate rather than about rebuilding America’s infrastructure so that many could have high paying jobs? We just saw that.
Zach said to Brazile, “You and your friends will die of old age and I’m going to die from climate change. You and your friends let this happen, which is going to cut 40 years off my life expectancy.” Yes, Zach, there is a sense that we bury issues that the runners feel are not the “right” hot buttons. The runners always feel that, on the issues, there must be winners and losers. On this one, the message was that we have to get into a fight about jobs and environment rather than making the case that a strong environment is essential to a healthy economy.
And what about war and peace? It is rather absurd to young people and ‘Boomers’ alike to hear nothing about peace from the Democratic standard bearer. Trillions of dollars not spent waging war means a growing economy here at home and more harmony in the world. Is that too much sweet talk for the runners?
I learned at an early age about the runners and insiders. I was a Congressional staffer when asked to chair the Carter Campaign in my state. I was summoned to Chicago for an insider’s interview as this was Carter’s second race and the runners were firmly in charge. When I walked into the hotel room with the big shots, there in front of me were three very well known men, some we see on TV as commentators now. They were all sitting around in their boxer shorts, puffing on big cigars. At that moment, I knew I didn’t fit, but I also knew that I had a lot to offer.
I think that is the way millions of Americans feel today, that they have a lot to give to both parties, but that the insiders won’t allow them in to a system that is fixed. That’s right, It IS fixed! I can’t speak for Republicans but I know that the Democratic Party is rife with cronyism, payback is big, and comments like these move to file 13, save for a few posts on Facebook with my friends.
So, as a former candidate of mine would say, “Get off that whining bench and do something about it!” Okay then, here it is -- agreeing with Zach, we need to clean house, starting with the Democratic National Committee and especially the DCCC. Democratic donors were bombarded with the most negative and arrogant campaign tactics I have every witnessed by this group.
Clean house. Bring in some young blood. Okay, Bernie, we love you and your message is uplifting. But, it is time for some younger folks, like Martin O’Malley, to overcome the fact that he was never allowed the light of day by the insiders in cahoots with the cable networks. Let our people run. Don’t target people. Welcome all people and their ideas into the party. Do you like being targeted?
Change the rules so that the cronies are not in charge of everything. We lost the election because there was constant evidence of insider political trading: two heads of our party were caught in dirty email and secrets passing. How many points did that shave off of our candidates? Do you even care? Change your tired old language. We lost because too many labor, women, minorities and mainstream Americans were marginalized. Quit talking down to people. Get out of Washington and listen; quit always talking.
Many loyal Democrats who have been the walkers are tired of the runners who for decades have grabbed the banners at the head of the parade and posed for their close ups. You have had the stage and have burned it down. Enough, already. Clean House!
Valsin A. Marmillion is a former Democratic campaign consultant who now can be heard as the Peace Radio Man on Key West’s Pirate Radio