Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Privilege vs. Electability

As of 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, there are three camps in the Democratic Party. There are those who will soon disappear, doggedly defending President Biden; individuals, such as Jim Clyburn, who believe that the presidential nomination should be handed on a silver platter to Vice President Kamala Harris; and individuals who believe there should be open competition for the top spot once Joe Biden bows out.

In the latter category are who could be characterized as democratic Democrats. Most clearly representative of this group is longtime U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas. He has it exactly right:

Doggett notes that Joe Biden has been an effective President and that "our overriding consideration must be who has the best hope of saving our democracy from an authoritarian takeover by a criminal and his gang." Having emphasized "too much is at stake to risk a Trump victory," the congressman proceeds logically to "he has the opportunity to encourage a new generation of leaders from whom a nominee can be chosen to unite our country thorough an open, democratic process."

This is, after all, the Democratic Party, which makes ironic to hear voice(s) which believes it should be transformed into the Undemocratic Party:

Leave aside (for now) the race-mongering. In the midst of an occasional insight, it is just something you have to put with in Elie Mystal. More importantly, though a lawyer, he is not a campaign finance attorney nor possessing of any particular credentials in campaign finance law. And despite the highly misleading title of this article, it is not at all clear that Kamala Harris would inherit Biden campaign funds.  Reportedly, the money could be refunded to donors, "who could in turn donate to a new candidate. Further, two experts in the field

noted that if Biden steps aside, the funds could be transferred to a charity or a super PAC, which would not be able to coordinate with the campaign. The funds could also be transferred to the national party.

Campaign finance law is (in)famously complex and arcane. However (or therefore) the bottom line is that no one knows for sure what would become of the funds already collected for the campaign. Practically, that means that the Party could do whatever it wishes. In the worst case scenario, it does what is later deemed illegal and is eventually fined. And no one, aside from perhaps the then-chairperson of the FEC remembers the time in 1993 that

Senator Bob Dole's 1988 campaign for President has agreed to pay more than $120,000 in civil penalties for election law violations, the largest settlement for any Presidential campaign organization, the Federal Election Commission said today.

In the settlement, Dole campaign officials admitted that they had committed several serious violations in raising and spending money for the 1988 presidential primaries.

In an extensive article following Dole's death in December, 2021, The New York Times made no mention of the campaign violation.. Neither did The Washington Post. Few if any people paid attention at the time of the infraction; ditto when the fine was levied, and at the time of his passing, no one noticed, let alone cared about it. 

If privilege is to reign supreme, the Party vey likely could transfer the campaign funds to Kamala Harris. Mystal may be only the first, or close to the first, of well-known individuals to imply that race must be his party's primary concern in choosing someone to replace Joe Biden, and that to overlook her would be racist. (My "leave aside for now" meant only for the moment.) 

Political pundits have understood for many months that the election would turn on whether it is viewed by voters as a choice or a referendum, the latter obviously a welcome scenario for Donald Trump. If Kamala Harris is nominated for President, Mr. Trump would delight in excoriating what would become known as the Biden-Harris administration, an albatross no candidate other than Harris or Biden would have to bear.

In response, the Party should do as Lloyd Doggett suggests and recognize that keeping Donald Trump from returning to the White House is the greatest priority. The shattering of glass ceilings is far less critical, especially now that the US Supreme Court has decided in TRUMP v. United States that the President of the United States of America may assume the powers of a king.


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