Difficult Technicalities in Pro-Bernie DNC Lawsuit
If you’ve read my previous post about the class-action lawsuit against the DNC filed on behalf of Bernie Sanders voters, you’re probably pretty irritated about the whole affair. After all, it seems the DNC believes that their right to free speech means the ability to interpret their commitment to “impartiality” and “evenhandedness” in the primary to mean whatever they want, whenever they want it to. It also seems that the DNC believes in the right to make backroom deals to nominate whichever politician they desire to represent the Democratic Party. While this didn’t literally happen in the 2016 election, the fact that they boldly stated this as an example of their political rights showed a grave lack of care for the input of left-leaning independents and Progressive Democrats alike.
As a Bernie supporter, I’m pretty irritated about those things too. I want the DNC to pay back every penny of the money raised under their supposed commitment to fairness, and I want them to be an example to any other party that would brazenly wave around the right to lie to their voters as the hallmark of political freedom.
Unfortunately, these things are easier said than done.
You see, judges aren’t moral arbiters who get to decide how the law should read. Instead, they are interpreters and enforcers of the law who at most are tasked with applying the spirit of the law when settling disputes.
In the case of this class-action lawsuit, the task before the plaintiffs is large. Here are 5 obstacles they’ll have to overcome in order to hold the DNC accountable.
1. Proof of standing to sue.
As in any civil lawsuit, we need standing to sue. In English, standing means proof that we were personally harmed by something the DNC did. The public interest isn’t enough.
In my mind, donating money to a party whose charter promises “impartiality and evenhandedness between the Presidential candidates and campaigns” constitutes a personal stake through the loss of money incurred by donating to either the DNC or one of their candidates.
On page 14 of the transcript Mr. Beck, a lawyer on behalf of the plaintiff, cites the long history of money loss as a standing to sue to bolster this argument.
2. Determining who exactly “we” are.
Who did the DNC tangible harm by breaking the rules of their own charter? This question is important to answer if we want to hold them accountable.
According to the Court Transcript, the three “classes” of people that constitute “we” are anyone who donated to the DNC during the primary, anyone who donated to Sanders during the primary, and all registered members of the Democratic Party.
Here comes the roadblock. Do most people who donated to the DNC actually consider themselves harmed? The official DNC primary vote count says more voted for Hillary, and though there were a lot of shady operations going on, there’s been no evidence that over 3 million votes were fabricated out of thin air.
Further complicating matters is the definition of “Democrat”. Do we consider every card-carrying Democrat as a victim? What about left-leaning independents? Or registered Republicans who switched over to support Bernie in the primary?
These questions are important because if we can’t establish who the DNC owes money to, we can’t get them to compensate for their collusion with Hillary in the first place.
3. The meaning of the DNC’s rules.
While “impartiality and evenhandedness” seems pretty straightforward, it also comes with an obfuscating lack of measurable guidelines.
Does impartiality mean managers can harbor no public preference for who gets the nomination? Does evenhandedness mean an equal amount of assistance from the DNC? Is it a judge’s place to interpret not the meaning of a law, but the meaning of an internal rule? If we’re going to win this thing, Mr. Beck needs to convince the judge that questions like these have answers. Otherwise, there is no standard for the judge to evaluate damages by.
To be clear, allowing the DNC to retroactively apply their own special definition of “impartiality’ would definitely set a dangerous precedent for other organizations to follow. That alone, however, does not help us set a definite legal standard for “impartiality” or “evenhandedness” in a political organization.
In my humble opinion, solving this problem requires more than a lawsuit. It requires a national standard for what a “fair” primary looks like. That’s a debate in which Berniecrats need to be loud, proud, persistent and steadfast. You can look at this article (Link to DNC Cheating 3) to see my proposal for a fairer primary system going forward.
4. Foreknowledge of the DNC charter.
Let’s be honest. How many donors actually knew that the DNC explicitly promised “impartiality and evenhandedness between the Presidential candidates and campaigns” before giving to Bernie Sanders?
Though we can’t know the answer for sure, I’d venture to say the number is small, primarily because Sanders dominated much more heavily with Independents than with registered Democrats. As a whole, I think it’s fair to say that Independents are less likely to be aware of the DNC’s rules than card-carrying Democrats.
Even if that weren’t true, it’s a tough sell to say that Independents wouldn’t have donated without the DNC’s explicit dedication to fairness in Article IV, Sub-Section 5 of their official charter.
If we want to prove otherwise, it’d be good for us to constantly and publicly reaffirm the importance of this lawsuit and what’s at stake for the donors to Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
5. Sanders’ Endorsement of Clinton.
If Bernie Sanders’ campaign was colossally and unfairly screwed over by the DNC, why did Sanders endorse Clinton at the end? The common sense answer is that he didn’t want to pull a Nader and get Trump to win because of a split on the left. Legally, though, the common sense answer may not be enough.
If Sanders knowingly endorsed the DNC’s defrauding of his donors, he was complicit with their actions and could be held liable.
It’s possible that the plaintiffs can hold the DNC accountable without addressing this issue. If they do, however, it may paint the case in a negative light for those Democrats who weren’t on board with Sanders in the first place.
In our two-party system, a divided Democratic Party is more easily targeted by the Republicans. While party unity in of itself can’t be our sole end goal, failure to apply our values consistently could needlessly lower our credibility as we try and create real progressive momentum in the future.
In the present, though, I suggest you share this article as well as Berning Media’s homepage with as many receptive people as possible because if we don’t keep this lawsuit in the public eye, it will be buried in history forever.