Debbie’s debate disaster: we’re letting Trump win

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 1.30.03 PMThere’s a conversation I’m having with my husband that goes like this. He’ll say, “There’s no way Donald Trump will ever get elected.” I roll my eyes. He continues: “He’s going to destroy the Republican brand. He’s not a threat, and in the end he’ll help the Democrats.” Then, as my youth flashes before me, I’ll say, “Yeah, but — Reagan.”

At this point, we look at each other and say, “you don’t even have to go back that far.” George W was elected — twice, if you count 2000, which I don’t.

The American electorate is quite capable of electing someone like Donald Trump. We’ve seen the White House occupied by dumb, mean, loud and dangerous types for most of our lives. There’s no magical force is keeping us safe from the know-nothings.

What’s so infuriating about Trump, is that regardless of his chances of winning, he’s getting traction with a segment of voters that should be ours. These folks are attracted to Trump because he talks about the tax code and how he’ll address wealth inequality.

These voters imagine that a predator CEO will govern on their side. That’s a leap of reason the Dems should be able to counter in robust, empowering tones. Imagine if we had matched both their debates to enlarge this narrative and start a national discussion around wages and tax fairness, to push back on attacks on Planned Parenthood, and let scientists compare our positions on climate. We might have reaped the benefits of an American public who could see the Democratic brand shine, while the Republicans make asses of themselves.

Instead, the American public senses we have something to hide.

That’s why I was glad this week when the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida called for Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC to expand the presidential primary debate schedule. “Chair Wasserman Schultz not only made the decision to limit debate among our candidates, she scheduled the debates during weekends and holidays when television viewership is known to be low,” said DPCF President Susan Smith in a statement. “What was she thinking?”

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 1.16.18 PMOf course, many people believe they know what Debbie Wasserman Schultz is thinking, which is that the party has its thumb on the scales for Hillary Clinton. She’s not a graceful debater. Her style is that of a corporate lawyer whose instinct is to set up the prey, and then go in for the kill. She seeks to delegitimize and disqualify her opponents. In 2008 she suggested that Obama smoked weed, and that he might be a Muslim (you’ll have to ask him). How will this approach look on stage in 2016? 

We’ve already seen some ideas road tested on Sanders, with Clinton surrogates using his ideological roots as a movement progressive and democratic socialist, as well as his Jewish faith as a disqualifications (see the old canard of the “dual-loyalty Jew”). Diane Rehm of NPR fell for this, saying she had his name “on a list.” These are ugly rhetorical strategies that divide the party and make enemies of those who she’ll presumably need to win back after the Primaries are over.

Regardless of Wasserman Schultz’ motives, though, back-benching the entire Democratic party during the Primaries for any reason is a scorched-earth strategy that hurts everyone.

Limiting debates makes Clinton appear afraid to debate Sanders. It also makes the DNC and party establishment appear unwilling to provide all Democrats an equal stage to be heard with the DNC’s favored nominee which, we’ll recall, they’re not supposed to have. Rank-and-file Democrats see this lack of equity with their own two eyes, and it’s hurting the candidate it’s meant to help.

In the current environment it becomes necessary to avoid the appearance of being an “insider.” That’s why Hillary gave herself a makeover on Face The Nation last weekend, when she claimed that she was the real outsider in the race.

“…and I’m an outsider, and I’m Rosicrucian, and I only have one leg…”

It’s an understandable tactic. Right now the American public wants an outsider so bad they’re willing to take it in the form of a mugging Donald Trump, who Frank Rich astutely points out, casually ripped the mask off the Clinton Foundation’s wink-wink/nudge-nudge quid pro quo, by claiming his donations obligated Hillary to come to his wedding.

As Secretary of State, First Lady, and the recipient of massive amounts of PAC money, Hillary is without question an apex insider; the top of the pyramid. What sets her and Trump apart with regard to outsider status is that she takes PAC money and he self-funds. Trump is making the case that that cozy relationships among the monied elite amounts to bribery no matter how you slice it, and the American public is nodding, “Yeah. We know.”

On a deeper level, I think there’s another issue driving the DNC’s bizarre stinginess with debates in this cycle. In 2008 all the candidates sang the same neoliberal tune. But this field of candidates features a real contender who questions the entire neoliberal political frame. Sanders stakes his political brand on being a movement progressive rather than an establishment neoliberal, and backs it up by shunning PAC money.

Sanders is not just a threat to Clinton, but a threat to the entire current approach of the Democratic Party. He’s even questioning what what it means to be governed, and how involved we need to be in order to see the change we demand. ‘We have to fight for these things together,’ is a standard Bernie stump theme, and he makes a convincing case that a national coalition he develops won’t eventually be veal-penned.

In an email sent out yesterday Sanders quoted the Pope, whose own anti-establishment leanings have been the hallmark of his papacy:

 “If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”

This is just the opposite of the kind quid pro quo, establishment neoliberalism from which Clinton draws her power.  Many in the Hillary camp are likely contemplating the uphill battle they face trying to sell her DLC, Third Way, New Democrats style of politics in the new environment of the “disruptive electorate” that’s full of pissed off independent voters not beholden to either party.

Meanwhile, there’s a chance that if the Democrats get anyone to tune in to their debates, Bernie Sanders could become the anti-Trump. I think this is what keeps Wasserman Schultz awake at night. If she were truly concerned with countering the Republican narrative, she’d make sure Democratic candidates had equal, prime time with Republicans rather than competing with weekend sports or holiday family gatherings. But as it stands, the American public will see about twice as much of the Republicans than the Democrats before voting. This is not to the party’s advantage.

It’s frustrating because the Democrats have a clear opportunity to make hay of a shockingly weak Republican field. But to do so we must present a credible counter-narrative. A return to the NAFTA, dot-com bubble, Glass-Steagall-repealing politics of the 90s will be a hard sell in the present environment. If Clinton does get the nomination, she’ll likely need more than a few whacks at it to get her feet under her. So even if we believe that Clinton is our only hope for the general election in 2016, we still need more than a handful of debates on weekends and holidays.

Since 2008 many voters have seen the American Dream completely evaporate. We need real solutions, and real fighters who aren’t afraid to stand in front of us and compete for our votes at least as hard as the Republicans are competing. To do any less is bad strategy, bad faith, and we have to be mindful of how hubris could very easily hand the general election over the other side.




Brook Hines is a writer, photographer, activist and former alt-weekly publisher, as well as an award-winning advertising creative with more than 20 years’ experience crafting strategy in “words + pictures” for clients ranging from banking and financial services to radical nuns. She’s the Senior Political Correspondent for Progressive News Network, the Communications Chair for the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Outreach Chair for the Orange County Democratic Party, and the 2015-2016 Co-Chair of New Leaders Council, Orlando Chapter.

 All opinions offered here are her own, delivered from the perspective of social theory and cultural criticism.

awesome dogs couchYou can easily find Brook Hines on Facebook and Flickr. Read all of Brook’s articles here. 

These are her Italian Greyhounds, Trouble and Daphne. Trouble is a rescue and according to some new information, he might be a Whippet. Having raised him as an Italian Greyhound I hope this doesn’t cause a schism within the community 🙂

(He claims he’s not a Whippet.)




  1. I’m still somewhat doubtful about Trump winning the nomination. He hasn’t been doing as well since the second debate, and it seems like Rubio and Fiorina are rising.
    Regardless of debate schedule, all candidates are going to have to prove themselves at them. Just hope that we get as big an audience as we do with GOP debates.


  2. Brook, you nailed it. The party cost us the Governor’s election by allowing Crist to run from debates. The Democratic Party needs new leadership.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ron Baldwin · ·

    From the President to the local dogcatcher who ever thought the current Democratic Party knows how to win elections? Obama won in 2008 and 2012 by staying far away from the party apparatus. Florida used to have about 700,000 more registered Democrats than registered Republicans. They still have a plurality but it is closer to 200,000 now. And look who controls the entire state of Florida, from the ex-CEO of a company that paid the biggest fine ever for thievery from Medicare to the “we didn’t gerrymander” Legislature.

    Talk about gerrymandering. Here in Pinellas County there are four County Commissioners elected by district. There are about the same number of Democrats as Republicans out of a total of about 600,000 voters. One of the four Pinellas Districts has about 40,000 more Democrats than Republicans. That means that the other three Pinellas Districts can have at least 13,000 more Republicans than Democrats.The last election saw the control shift to the Democrats because the Republicans shot themselves in the foot over flouride in the water. And what do we hear about gerrymandering from the soon-to-be-replaced Democrats on the County Commission? Crickets in a thunderstorm are making more noise that the Democratic Commissioners.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Millie Herrera · ·

    You’re fighting the wrong battle! Instead of going negative on Hillary and beating up “the Party”, how about organizing the Dems at the grassroots level which the Party won’t due because they think being “Republican Lite” is going to win us electionn (NOT!), and concentrating on getting your candidate’s message out.

    The GOP now has 14 candidates and 6 more ridiculous, dumb debates left. The NPAs are watching their debates and frankly, not relating to their extreme, anti-American rhetoric. We have 6 debates with 6 thoughtful best quality candidates who are talking about raising the minimum wage, protecting the environment, reforming and funding public education, reducing student loan interest rates, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, improving the ACA, etc. Would I like more Dem debates? Sure, but it’s not happening, so let’s build a bridge and get over it! Let’s focus on what’s going to WIN us the White House, not attacks at our candidates or futile party politics that does not get a single VOTE out on election day


  5. Millie Herrera · ·

    Autocorrect got me: it’s not “due” but rather, “do” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Having run for U.S. House a couple of times I am well acquainted w/ FDP leadership. Debbie in particular endorsed my Republican opponent not once, but twice in the St Pete times in 2006. The current FDP Chair, Alison Tant-RICHARD, was a paid lobbyist for DBT Inc., later becoming Choicepoint hired by Kat Harris, Sec. of State under Jeb in 1999-2000. The eventual result, 57,000 African American voters scrubbed from the rolls setting up the appointment of George W. Bush to the Presidency by the SCOTUS. Alison Tant’s husband btw was the lead Atty for Team Bush in Bush v. Gore! THIS is who is currently in charge of the FDP! Recently, Barry Richard, Alison Tant’s husband was the lead attorney for FPL/Duke Energy in the fight against the Solar Energy Amendment. Remember that!!! The Richards are LIFE LONG DEMOCRATS btw!!!

    Clearly America is ready for Bernie, a modern day FDR. The “Corporatist” shills including Hillary, are all owned and operated by the benefactor class. As a candidate for U.S. House, Dist. 5 in 2006 I was approached by a D.C. lobbyist (Ken Freeman), for Big Pharma who in our final conversation made this offer to me, ” John if you are willing to work with/play ball with the pharmaceutical industry we will get you all the contributions you want.” I replied, “That is exactly what my opponent Republican incumbent Ginny Brown-Waite does so where would my credibility be if I did the same thing that she does? I am a Medicare for All advocate and so on…” so that was my final conversation with Ken Freeman lobbyist for Big Pharma.

    What I am saying is, all of the candidates are “Play’n Ball” except for Bernie, and the establishment lead by Lil Deb cannot stand it. Their worst nightmare is a Sanders Presidency or even nomination for that matter, because Bernie stands on principle that cannot be refuted. Bernie in a debate will show the voters where his opponents live including Hillary, and as Debbie is well aware that will not be good for Hillary. Debates provide transparency. Debates allow the public to see all of the strengths and weaknesses of their available choices. Transparency is the last thing that the heavily choreographed Hillary persona wants or needs.

    The inherent transparency of prime time debate will unmask the phoniness of the Hillary “Brand” allowing the Democrats and the rest of the voting public to become acquainted enough with the Democratic side to make an informed choice as to just who they would like to see leading this nation. The biggest problem for Bernie, is people not knowing him. Multiple prime time debates will alleviate that issue which is precisely the fear of the establishment on the Democratic side, much less the Republican and NPA cohort as well. .

    Again as a candidate and in fact Democratic Nominee twice against Brown-Waite in Dist. 5, Ginny avoided debate in 2008. Gus Bilirakis, did likewise in 2012. Weak candidates fear debate with a capable opponent. Irrespective of who you support in this race, it is political malfeasance to allow the corrupt establishment to “appoint” without meaningful contest, who will represent the Democratic Party in 2016 for President. However, as I pointed out earlier in this post, political corruption is not unheard of in the Democratic Party. (My website, is under construction.) Thank you, John Russell, Dade City


    1. The D.N.C. with Debbie, former campaign chair for Hillary, is playing from the same playbook that the F.D.P. did in the Crist-Rich governor primary with no debates. It’s called hide the competition in order to win by name recognition.


  7. Very interesting blog. Can you provide more information on “the antisemitism part” with Bernie. I find that totally unacceptable. I felt bad about whole email thing because I know in my heart its not as devious as everyone wants it to be and just kept alive by the press.
    A few things. I have no faith in Debbie. She is one of the highest takers of money from Big Sugar.
    The person Bernie has the most in common with is Papa Francisco. Both have good hearts. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Donald. But he actually denounced the Koch Brothers, was half right about autism and vaccinations, totally right about Rubio ( Don’t worry about it I’m not voting for him but he has done great things for the Republican party it would be entire different if he was there.) Rubio and Debbie work together on a lot of things and the two of them don’t listen as far as the water goes and could do more harm then good.
    The democratic needs to rethink everything. Hire Joe Trippi.


    1. Any time there’s a chance to play dirty with a candidate’s cultural background, the opposition will generally use surrogates (supporters, whisper campaign, etc) to spread the word. Then they can distance themselves when asked about it, but the ideas are still out there.

      Anti-semetic dog whistles work like any other cultural/religious slur. They are intended to create the notion that the person can’t be trusted b/c of their heritage. JFK wasn’t to be trusted b/c of his “dual loyalty” to the Vatican b/c he was Catholic — that was the structure of the classic Catholic slur in the 60s: you can’t trust a Catholic b/c they’re loyal to the Pope. This is what Diane Rehm was getting at with the internet rumor that Sanders has “dual citizenship” with Israel.

      Here’s a link to a good (okay, long) post about different kinds of anti-Semitic dog whistles.

      There’s another vein of this coming from the far right. In this form of anti-Semitism the RWer equates Sanders’ economic policies with Nazism. That’s called out and explored here –>

      Lastly, there’s an odd strain of anti-semitism that comes out of black nationalism. Some of the best writing on this that I can find is from the mid-90s in the academic controversies surrounding multiculturalism. This article from 1993 is notable for mentioning Cornel West as one of the early critics of this strain of anti-semitism, which rests on a book that was researched/published anonymously for the Nation of Islam called “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” and claims that Jews were responsible for the Atlantic Slave trade. Cornel West writes, “In our present moment, when neo-Nazi like David Duke can win 55 percent of the white vote (and 69 percent of the white ‘born-again’ vote) in Louisiana, it may seem misguided to highlight anti-Semitic behavior of black people – the exemplary targets of racial hatred in America. Yet I suggest that this focus is crucial precisely because we black folk have been in the forefront of the struggle against racism. If these efforts fall prey to anti-Semitism, the principled attempt to combat racism forfeits much of its moral credibility – and we all lose.”


      1. wow. i’m going to read all this right now. I’m surprised at Diane for even asking that question.


  8. here is an article about Diane Rehm/ Bernie Sanders thing. She’s smarter than that.


  9. Hillary is currently being “REHABBED” WITH CHUCK TODD ON MEET THE PRESS! So when is Bernie going to get an hour on MTP????


  10. I can only write so much. The primary point of this discussion that is essentially unmentioned is that the Democratic Party at the local State and Federal level does not abide by its own bylaws that state that the Party is not to side with any one candidate. On every occasion that I have run for office, the Party has attempted to support an alternate candidate in the Primary.

    When I decided to run as an Independent in 2012, having had enough of the Democratic Party shenanigans, the Pinellas crowd lead by the Goens, persuaded a 25 year old Photo Development Specialist from Walgreens to run as their Democratic candidate for CD 12 in 2012… just to purposely muck up the race and in so doing, allow well known apparatchik and moron Gus Bilirakis to hide from his responsibility to meet the people, and face questioning/debate on his votes and positions in U.S. House District 12 as the basic tenets of democracy intended.

    Debbie is doing the same thing here in protecting Hillary from debate. Watch for Biden to jump in last minute in order to provide “White Noise” for Hillary in order to cloak Bernie. Watch for Biden and Hillary to be placed center stage and Bernie placed out of sight off to the side. We have seen this before… Bernie will be treated just like Edwards was .. before any of the revelations of a personal nature that ended his campaign.

    Don’t blame 25 year old Jonathan Michael Snow for this, as he was merely a pawn of the “establishment” in a candidacy formed merely to protect a weak and flawed opposition Democratic Party’s place in a flawed political paradigm. Please blame Janet Goen and her husband who were the “tools” for the establishment in 2012. Funny thing where was Jonathan Michael Snow in 2014 when I was NOT a candidate for the District 12 congressional seat?

    In 2004 the FDP pushed Attorney 32 year old Rob Whittle… out of Coral Gables and Delray Beach who filed to run for congress as a Democrat while still registered as a Republican… who had never before in his life voted in any election. Whittle was pumped by then FDP Chair Karen Thurman. Then in 2006, the FDP supported Rick Penberthy who had come in 4th of 4 candidates in the 2004 primary. In 2002, Thurman was widely reported to be publicly encouraging Democrats to vote for Gus’s father and predecessor, Republican Mike Bilirakis over Democratic candidate Chuck Koulianis.

    What can I say, other than to agree with my friend Clay Colson as he only echoes that which I have been saying about my personal experience as both a Democrat and a candidate over the past 10 plus years. There is plenty more to be told regarding the Parties, the Department of State in Florida and the media. The story will be told.

    Our political system if you care to call it that, is in terrible shape and can only be described as a faux democracy. A mere facade in that voting is only for show and matters little in the end as BIG MONEY$ controls our political system top to bottom. As Hillary craters, look for Joe Biden to come to the rescue for the Democratic side of “The Political Establishment ” in their drive to … PREVENT CHANGE! MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO!

    That is but one more reason why Bernie Sanders is the only candidate worthy of anyone’s support. Please send a small contribution… 5 dollars to Bernie. He will appreciate it and so will I. John Russell, Dade City

    Liked by 1 person


    New York Magazine: Bernie Sanders Becomes the First Candidate to Reach 1 Million Individual Donation!

    New York Magazine: Bernie Sanders Becomes the First Candidate to Reach 1 Million Individual Donation… See More

    Liked by 1 person

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