Propping up the Cadaver-in-Chief.

A body in a morgue locker. Feet are sticking out and a toe tag reads, 'Biden, J.' Image Description: A body in a morgue locker. Feet are sticking out and a toe tag reads, 'Biden, J.'

Summary: After Joe Biden’s historically bad debate performance, many Americans were left wondering how the Democratic Party could allow him to remain in the race. The answer is a corrupt and wholly inept corporation called the DNC Services Corporation—Democratic National Committee or DNC for short. This essay looks at the DNC’s failures over time and how they’ve worked with the RNC to rig the system against third party candidates. And it pulls back the curtain to reveal the tragic ineptitude that continues to deliver wins to the Republican Party.

Crisis made the DNC believe it was good at its job. Two crises, actually. But before we get there, let’s talk about where we are at this moment.

After Biden’s historically poor debate performance, Democratic leaders were buzzing. The whole country saw what insiders already knew: The President is sundowning. Reports began to leak from the White House that the debate wasn’t an isolated incident; that the President has only passable days and terrible ones. He loses his train of thought during meetings. Can’t keep up with the agenda in meetings with foreign leaders. Is prone to fits of misplaced anger. Wanders quite frequently, both physically and mentally.

The donor class hit the phones and demanded answers. According to the Associated Press, “DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison and Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez held a Saturday afternoon call with dozens of committee members across the country, a group of some of the most influential members of the party.” What’s the plan? Does he step down now? Just back out of the race? What do the polls say? Who’s in line? How do we pass over Kamala Harris? According to the AP, “They largely ignored Biden’s weak showing Thursday night or the avalanche of criticism that followed,” with many on the call, “feeling like they were being gaslighted.”

In the midst of it all the establishment media turned on the President abruptly. Step aside, the pundits on MSNBC said. The New York Times editorial board didn’t equivocate either, saying “the greatest public service Mr. Biden can now perform is to announce that he will not continue to run for re-election.”

The polls were harsh and immediate as well. Across the board Biden got hammered. Even the Times/Siena poll this past week had him down six points and in certain swing states down by almost double digits. That’s well past the margin of error. And while we were all breathlessly discussing the cadaver-in-chief’s performance, the Supreme Court was delivering body blows to the Constitution like Glass Joe in “Punch Out!!” Bad enough that Biden effectively delivered Trump the presidency four minutes into the debate but the SCOTUS was in the middle of doing away with all those pesky checks and balances at the same time.

And then came the leak. A leak to the New York Times from “an ally” of the President that he was seriously considering dropping out of the race.

Usually, that’s how this shit works. Rule of thumb—when something is “leaked” to the Times by Democrats, it’s messaging. As a practical matter, if anything appears in Politico about either side of the aisle it’s also messaging. And, of course, Fox might as well place its studio in RNC headquarters.

Anyway, for a second it seemed like the White House was preparing a graceful exit. All of the Biden minions were saying the President is strong. He had a bad night. And a cold. He’s aware and apologetic about his performance but there’s some fight left in old Scranton Joe. Also, here’s an anonymous tip to the establishment mouthpiece of the DNC to lay the groundwork for Biden stepping aside on his own terms and for the sake of us all. ‘Magnanimous Joe’, the headlines will read. The most consequential one-term president in history. Stepping aside like his hero LBJ. No ego here, folks. Just a man who loves his country.

Welp. That euphoria didn’t last long as a day later the fundraising emails resumed and a recalcitrant Biden declared to his staff and a meeting with the nation’s governors that he’s in it to win it.

I can’t stress the timing enough here. We’re six weeks out from the convention. And the DNC does not like chaos. Call it PTSD from 1968 or whatever, but the dems can ill afford to look unprepared for the moment. A nominating convention as opposed to a coronation convention, which is what most of us have been living with for our entire lives, has the potential to implode. Of course, it might also be exactly what the Democrats need to reinvigorate the race and demonstrate that they can be a party of and party to the future. But Biden officially missed the window to look magnanimous. Every passing day he refuses to step aside is another day the jackals in the Democratic Party are held back from stripping away the carcass.

It’s all such a shitshow that one must wonder, “who the fuck is in charge here?” And that, my friends, brings us to the question at hand.

What is the DNC?

Democratic National Committee (DNC) is a private, nonprofit organization officially named The DNC Services Corporation. Its sole purpose is to elect Democrats to public office. Sometimes you’ll hear about the “D-Triple-C” (DCCC), which is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a subcommittee of the DNC. There’s actually a subcommittee for every level from Attorneys General and governors to state legislators. This is a story about the DNC, but the same structure holds true on the Republican side with the RNC.

It was established in 1848 to coordinate the presidential campaign of Lewis Cass, the Democratic nominee. Of course, back in this day, up was down and black was white. The Democratic Party was the party of slavery. The closest thing they did to the modern day Democratic Party was to back James Buchanan, probably our first gay president. Don’t be mad. Look it up.

A few generations later and the Democratic Party was transformed into the New Deal party under FDR and we’ve been living with this more familiar left/right dynamic since then.

The modern era of the DNC begins with Bill Clinton. Aside from a quick interruption by Jimmy Carter, the Republicans had been running the table since LBJ left office. As we’ve said before, the Clinton years were bad. The pinnacle of neoliberalism. A right-wing, fuck-the-little-guy administration masquerading as bleeding heart liberals. Stripping welfare benefits. Criminalizing immigration. Gutting affordable housing. Private prisons. War on drugs. Charter schools. NAFTA. Repealing Glass-Steagall. And a surplus on the back of the working class that plunged us into a recession.

That’s Bill Fucking Clinton. Don’t worry, he still feels your pain, even if he caused it. And the DNC was all about it. They made the cynical calculation that the Democratic Party had to turn right to remain competitive as it sidelined voices like Jesse Jackson.

Then along came 2000. Al Gore won the presidential election but it was George W. Bush who was seated. Why? Because the lawyers for the DNC lost in court. The unelected Supreme Court called a halt to the counting of ballots in Florida and ruled 5 to 4 that George W. Bush should become President of the United States. The Dems had incumbency. They were running against (at the time) the dumbest person to ever run for the highest office in the land. They had the absolute majority and they fucking lost to the RNC’s lawyers. That’s how we came into this inglorious century.

Now the reason why the DNC is filled with such hubris is because they point to the pendulum. Two for Clinton, two for Bush. Two for Obama, one for Trump. One for Biden and now who knows? But dig this… Republicans have controlled the House nine out of the last 13 Congresses since the end of Clinton’s term. Republicans have also controlled the Senate seven times but the Democrats needed independent Bernie Sanders to hold onto two of them and relied on Jim Jeffords to switch parties at the end of Bush’s second term. Republicans today also control 55% of state legislatures. Don’t get me started on the Supreme Court.

Now consider this:

  • Nearly 2/3 of U.S. adults think abortion should be legal.
  • Nearly 90% of Americans support background checks for firearms sales.
  • 20% of the country is now Hispanic.
  • 70% of the country supports Medicare for all.

Imagine running a political party against an organization that repealed Roe v. Wade, is in the pocket of the gun lobby, wants to gut Medicare and is led by a man who repeatedly calls Hispanic people murderers and rapists. Slam dunk, right?

Yeah, but the pendulum. How about that Obama? And we did beat Trump the second time to save Democracy!

Most people focus on the perils and anti-democratic nature of a two-party system, but let’s work through that for a minute. We need to really understand what this implies in terms of our democracy because, in all fairness, it’s not as though parliamentary systems are delivering stellar results for people or the planet right now. In fact, we’ve made the argument here before that we expend too much energy worrying about this structure rather than influencing the policies of the established parties themselves.

Either way, let’s dig into how the duopoly fixes the game in its favor.

Third parties haven’t held significant influence over presidential elections in more than 100 years. Two things happened way back then that convinced party bosses to put their thumbs on the electoral scale and we’ve been living with the fallout ever since.

The first was the performance of socialists under the multiple candidacies of Eugene Debs. While Debs never cracked anywhere near the margin required to win a national election, his momentum was substantial enough to impact outcomes and win hearts and minds along the way. Of course, this became a non-starter for the monied class in the United States as a wave of socialist governments crashed over the European continent and Russia fell to the Bolsheviks.

The other major factor was the Bull Moose himself, Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy created the first national progressive ticket when he was upset at the direction of the country under his hand-picked successor William Howard Taft. There’s enough literature to support the idea that Teddy just missed being president and this was more vanity than substance, but his candidacy was a third-party triumph as he shellacked his former Republican ally by a substantial electoral margin.

To make a long story short, the wheels were set in motion from this point forward to minimize the potential impact of third parties through anti-socialist smear campaigns and by erecting barriers to entry for presidential candidates.

Even still, third parties made true protest showings over the next decades and sometimes influenced the outcomes. In modern times, people point to the Perot and Nader campaigns as spoilers because they took disenfranchised voters away from the main parties. The duopoly apparatus had successfully blocked third party candidates from making too much of an impact before Perot’s bid in 1992.

Over years they worked to increase the number of signatures required to get on the ballot in each state. Just gaining ballot access became a numbers game in terms of signatures and money. It’s enormously expensive. But Perot was extremely wealthy and so he set up a separate operation entirely dedicated to acquiring and certifying signatures. This had two major effects: The first was that it created a de facto grassroots movement. The second was that it gave Perot access to the American people because he qualified for the presidential debates.

In the end, Perot won 19% of the popular vote. Even though he failed to earn a single elector, his performance sent shockwaves through the American political establishment as it was the largest third party showing since Teddy Roosevelt.

The key to his success was his ability to connect with people through the medium of television. His direct and no nonsense responses connected with blue collar voters from both parties. He famously ran long infomercials explaining fundamental aspects of the U.S. government in plain language, using charts, graphs and a pointer. But it was his debate performances that really put him on the map because he appeared alongside George Bush and Bill Clinton. It’s impossible to overstate how huge this is in terms of optics. The debate stage, as we’ve all just been reminded, can serve as the great equalizer.

So the RNC and the DNC upped the ante and worked both the access and visibility angles.

First, they increased the thresholds for signatures and the nuances to acquiring them in the states they controlled respectively. As importantly, in 1987 they started a new corporation to control the debates, which had been run by the League of Women Voters independently for the entirety of the modern television era. Immediately, this new corporation called the Commission on Presidential Debate—owned by the two major parties—set the terms of the debate and turned them into a media circus. They also created arbitrary rules for who qualified to debate.

Having learned from the Perot fiasco, by the 2000 election the commission went into full swing to prevent third party candidates from participating in the debates. Both Pat Buchanan, who was running on Perot’s Reform Party ticket, and Ralph Nader on the Green Party line, were barred from the debate for failing to meet the arbitrary thresholds of the commission. To illustrate what a joke it was and still is, one of the criteria is national poll performance averages but the polls themselves are often conducted by entities controlled by the Democratic and Republican Parties. That’s why you haven’t seen a third party candidate on the debate stage since Ross Perot.

When people talk about a rigged system, that’s a bit of what they’re talking about. The sheer amount of money required to platform a third party bid for the presidency is out of control. It’s why the only people who can make a real go of it are people like RFK Jr. who can trade on a famous name and woo billionaire donors. And even he doesn’t have full ballot access and was kept out of the debate.

So in terms of the DNC, or the RNC for that matter, they’re really good at exercising control over the political process. In this way, they are extremely undemocratic entities. But our story is about how the DNC is bad at its actual job. And here’s why: Crisis made them think they were good at their jobs.

Since 2000 they’ve been delivering a flaming bag of shit on the doorsteps of democratic voters and telling us it’s roses. They won the election in 2000 and lost it in court. How fucking bad at this can you be? They won with Obama in ‘08, the most charismatic public figure since JFK, largely because of the financial crisis. Their popular vote margin was halved by the very next election and then they decided to put up a historically unpopular candidate in Hillary Clinton and lost to a reality television star. Let me ask you this: In 2020, if not for the pandemic, do you really think Joe Biden would have beaten Trump?

The financial crisis and the pandemic have given cover to the DNC. With all of their vaunted fundraising committees and battery of lawyers, they’ve been outhustled in the courts, the state legislatures and Congress. And then there’s the rampant corruption in the ranks.

Take Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for example. It was discovered in the famous Wikileaks dump that Shultz and her team were actively working against the Sanders campaign. The text of email exchanges led Wasserman Schultz to step down from her position and she was replaced by former acting chair, Donna Brazile. And then Brazile had to step down after Wikileaks revealed that she shared debate questions with Hillary Clinton ahead of her primary debate with Bernie Sanders.

Today the chair of the DNC is a fella named Jaime Harrison, a protegé of Jim Clyburn from South Carolina and the nail in the Bernie Sanders’ campaign coffin in 2020. Harrison is the one who orchestrated the move to make South Carolina the first primary state knowing that Biden would perform well there due to Clyburn’s support. That and the DNC made it nearly impossible to even hold primaries in key states like Florida.

The DNC thinks they worked some sort of magic with the victory in 2020. But I’ll submit the following: If not for the Pandemic, Trump runs the table and wins a second consecutive term. If there’s no financial crisis in 2008, Obama may still have won because McCain was a wildcard and Palin was a national joke. But Obama is a one-off—the once-in-a-generation candidate that in practice ran the country like a perfect Republican. That’s for another episode.

The DNC has foreclosed on all options inside the Democratic Party and still has the nerve to shame progressives for not supporting their mission to destroy democracy, all the while claiming it’s Republicans who are the real enemies of democracy. Look away. Nothing to see here.

I’ll close by quoting the formidable former state senator from Ohio and grassroots progressive activist Nina Turner.

“Meanwhile, any of us advocating for debates were met with the criticism that we were somehow ‘helping Trump.’ This is someone else’s problem. Pushing for Biden to be replaced is not our fight. The Democratic establishment has made clear that progressive voices are not listened to, which means the predicament establishment Democrats find themselves in is of their doing and is theirs to fix. Our fight is to make sure that those who put us in this position, who nominated a historically unpopular president whom 72 percent of voters do not believe has the mental or cognitive health to serve as president, are held accountable. It is on progressives within the Democratic Party to take power away from those who say that Medicare for All and tuition-free college are impractical—then believed it was practical to nominate a candidate who most Americans believe is unfit to serve, as a potential second President Trump term looms.

“It is not on progressives to fight for a different candidate; it is on us to fight for a party that centers the people over the donor class.”

And so, my friends, if you’re wondering who’s to blame for the cadaver-in-chief staying in the race, look no further than the corrupt private corporation that is the DNC. Under their guidance and despite the will of the people, Democrats have lost the majority in Congress, the states, the courts and we’re about to lose the presidency again. Hubris thy name is DNC.

Here endeth the lesson.

Max is a basic, middle-aged white guy who developed his cultural tastes in the 80s (Miami Vice, NY Mets), became politically aware in the 90s (as a Republican), started actually thinking and writing in the 2000s (shifting left), became completely jaded in the 2010s (moving further left) and eventually decided to launch UNFTR in the 2020s (completely left).