A Primary in Review: Was the Democratic Primary Rigged?
A Primary in Review: Was the Democratic Primary Rigged?
Hillary Clinton celebrates in Brooklyn on June 7.
By Conor Smyth / dailykos.com

Throughout the Democratic primary, many raised doubts as to the impartiality of the process. These doubts stemmed primarily from grievances regarding systemic issues like superdelegates and closed primaries as well as concerns surrounding the Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who had co-chaired Clinton’s primary run in 2008. The media’s seemingly slanted coverage only added to suspicions. After the close of the primary, I think it is proper that we examine the evidence of election rigging in a thorough and comprehensive manner. By doing so, I think we will arrive at the conclusion that the primary was in fact rigged against Bernie Sanders and in favor of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. In the following sections, I will outline the general rigging of the election, the compliance of Democratic officials in the face of the rigging, and even the involvement of Democratic officials in the rigging.


First I think it is proper to examine the faults of the Democratic primary process in general terms, terms which could apply to a race between any two candidates, not just Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The most well known criticism of the system pertains to superdelegates.

Superdelegates are, of course, different from normal delegates. Normal delegates, or pledged delegates, are sent to the party convention by and cast the vote for the people of their state at roll call. They are bound to the will of the voters of their state. Superdelegates, on the other hand, are not bound to the will of the voters of the state they are from. They are free to vote for whomever they choose when roll call comes along. Out of the 4,763 delegates who attended the 2016 Democratic National Convention, 712 of them were superdelegates. This means that about 15% of the vote was left to the will of undemocratic officials who followed their own judgement rather than that of the voters.

In a segment from April, Joe Scarborough discussed the primary in Wyoming, where while Bernie Sanders won the popular vote 56% to 44%, the delegate count including superdelegates left Bernie with seven delegates and Hillary with eleven. Scarborough commented, with evident disgust, “Here is a party who sends their activists out and have people chattering on tv and chattering on talk radio about voter disenfranchisement if you make someone show a picture of themselves. This same party tells voters to go straight to hell when they select somebody by twelve percentage points and end up letting the other candidate, who lost by twelve percentage points, win the most delegates. That, by definition is voter disenfranchisement… It is a rigged system.”

Overall, superdelegates favored Clinton by a margin of 570.5 to 44.5.

While the superdelegate system was already in place before the election, the Democratic party leaders’ reluctance to address their presence as a real problem reveals their favoritism for this type of system and for the inevitable result it would bring. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for example, eagerly defended superdelegates, nonsensically citing the need for “party leaders and elected officials” not to “have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.” Thus, although superdelegates had been put in place long before the 2016 election, the accepting, and even supportive, attitudes of Democratic party officials towards superdelegates shows that they accepted such a system and leaves blame for the disproportionate influence of superdelegates on the election, in terms of both vote count and the media narrative, at least partly on the shoulders of the current Democratic establishment.

The Media

In terms of media coverage, favoritism towards the Clinton campaign and against the Sanders campaign was especially pronounced. Up through December 2015, as Media Matters reported, on ABC News, out of “261 minutes devoted to campaign coverage [in 2015]… less than one minute… [had] specifically been for Sanders.” And, “in terms of stand-alone campaign stories” in 2015, there were “234 minutes for Trump, compared to 10 minutes for Sanders.” In addition, according to a New York Times study, Clinton got more than twice the amount of “free” coverage from the media than did Sanders. To add to that, an especially stark example of media bias against Sanders came on March 7th, when the Washington Post published a total of 16 anti-Sanders stories in 16 hours.

Coverage that Sanders did receive at the start of his campaign mainly brushed him aside as a possible thorn in the side of the inevitable nominee, but nothing too serious. Media figures deemed him “a long shot,” “a loon,” and “a socialist for God’s sake.” Such little and insincere coverage early on was clearly detrimental to his campaign’s start. Despite being able to amass quite a following on social media, Sanders could attract little attention from the mainstream crowd. As a recently published Harvard studydetails, “Less coverage of the Democratic side worked against Bernie Sanders’ efforts to make inroads on Clinton’s support. Sanders struggled to get badly needed press attention in the early going… Clinton got three times more coverage than he did.”

The media, it seems, certainly played their part in slanting the electoral process in Clinton’s favor, and, more notably, against Sanders’ efforts.

Election Fraud?

In early June, a paper was published by two students, one from a school in the Netherlands, the other from Stanford. They studied differences in results between states with paper trails and no paper trails as well as differences between exit polls and reported election results in a total of 31 states. Their conclusion reads as follows:

“Are we witnessing a dishonest election? Our first analysis showed that states wherein the voting outcomes are difficult to verify show far greater support for Secretary Clinton. Second, our examination of exit polling suggested large differences between the respondents that took the exit polls and the claimed voters in the final tally. Beyond these points, these irregular patterns of results did not exist in 2008. As such, as a whole, these data suggest that election fraud is occurring in the 2016 Democratic Party Presidential Primary election. This fraud has overwhelmingly benefited Secretary Clinton at the expense of Senator Sanders.”

In addition, they included the following two graphs:

In reference to these findings, the authors detail, “the potential for election fraud in voting procedures is strongly related to enhanced electoral outcomes for Secretary Clinton. In the Appendix, we show that this relationship holds even above and beyond alternative explanations, including the prevailing political ideology and the changes in support over time.”

While the supposed election fraud cannot be traced to any specific source, it appears to point to a slanted, unfair and, all in all, rigged primary election.

The Debates

At the start of the primary season, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the DNC at the time, had laid out a schedule of six officially sanctioned debates. The candidates were disallowed from engaging in non sanctioned debates if they wanted to be able to take the stage at the sanctioned ones. Schultz’s bias had already been called out by people citing her involvement as co-Chair of Clinton’s campaign in 2008. As a result, many saw her limiting the number of debates to six as clear favoritism towards Clinton’s candidacy. It was well accepted that, due to Clinton’s name recognition and celebrity status, fewer debates would give her the upper hand while playing to the detriment of lesser known candidates such as Bernie Sanders.

In stark contrast to the low number of debates in 2016, in 2008 the Democratic National Committee scheduled eighteen sanctioned debates at the start of the primary. By the end there had been a total of 26 debates. By the end of the 2016 primary, there had been a total of nine debates.

In addition to concerns over a lack of debates, many were frustrated at the DNC’s scheduling of the debates. Of the nine total debates, four were on weekends. The impact of the DNC’s scheduling was a sharp reduction in viewers for these non prime time debates. The first Democratic debate, for instance, took place on a Tuesday and drew 15.3 million viewers, whereas the second took place on a Saturday and drew only 8.5 million viewers. Thus, not only were there fewer debates than in 2008, there were far fewer viewers of the debates.

With regards to this form of primary rigging, the Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was certainly complicit and likely actively engaged. Here, a direct connection to the Democratic National Committee in the rigging of a supposedly democratic election can be reached.

DNC Email Leaks

The final straw hit the news three days before the Democratic National Convention was set to start in Philadelphia. On Friday, July 22nd, the whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks leaked nearly 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee and filed them in an online database. These emails confirmed the favoritism of high Democratic officials towards Hillary Clinton and her campaign and in several striking cases provided evidence of direct actions taken by Democratic officials to aid Hillary’s campaign and harm Bernie’s.

The first example, which Julian Assange discussed with Bill Maher on Maher’s program, was a Luis Miranda email. On May 17, shortly after the Nevada Democratic Convention, Walter Garcia, a DNC official, sent an email to Luis Miranda, the DNC Communications Director. The email’s body contained a section of an article by Jon Ralston titled, “Democrats need unity, but they’re getting mutiny.” The article was severely critical of Bernie Sanders and his delegates, blowing them off as “small-picture people” who refused to accept “the plain facts.” Garcia’s comment at the top of the email was, “Good read, particularly this section.” After receiving Garcia’s email, Miranda typed out a concise and clear response: “Let's get this around without attribution.” In this case, Miranda’s email was not a suggestion, it was not a maybe, it was not a what if. It was a direct order for Democratic officials to spread anti-Sanders propaganda to discredit and defeat the Sanders campaign.

Jack Vickers, the Acting Midwest Political Director for the DNC, also weighed in on the Nevada state convention in an email with the subject line “Nevada Narrative.” In the email, Vickers, after describing the peacefulness of the Ohio primary, relayed that Greg Beswick, the Executive Director of the Ohio Democratic Party, would be “happy to get people on the record to talk about how Nevada was an anomaly.” Vickers added, “I'm not sure if you're looking to shift the narrative in this way, but this could be helpful if so.”

The DNC leaks revealed several other examples involving Miranda as well. In one chain, Miranda told Politico’s Daniel Strauss that he would point out “[s]ome of the issues” with Sanders’ DNC appointments “off the record.” Another email from Miranda to Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal reveals Miranda’s frustration with the Sanders’ campaign’s continued calls for fair representation on the DNC’s platform committee. Miranda writes, “Off the record, the only reason the Sanders camp even sent that letter is that [Debbie Wasserman Schultz] was courteous enough to reach out to give both camps representation, but the appointments – the 15 to the drafting committee – are at the Chair’s discretion. Again, she reached out to be inclusive.” In his eyes, then, the idea that Sanders should have fair representation based on the amount of votes he received is absurd. Wasserman Schultz’s gracious gesture to allow the Sanders campaign to suggest some committee members was simply that - a gracious gesture, not a concrete offer.

Another particularly damning email was sent by Eric Reif, a digital staffer for the DNC on April 26, with 16 primaries still to go. Reif’s email began, “Hi all - We are starting to plan ahead with messaging to our supporters for the end of the primary and transition to the general.” It continued by listing the items contained in the email, “

* Emails from DWS thanking Bernie (similar to what we did when MOM dropped out)

* Copy for unity-themed graphics

* Hillary emails from Amy (our first Hillary-focused emails)

* Hillary graphic copy

* Emails from POTUS for when he endorses.”

Again, this email was sent out on April 26, a full three months before the Democratic National Convention took place.

Mark Paustenbach, the DNC’s national press secretary, added to the anti-Bernie effort when he sent Luis Miranda an email with the subject “Bernie narrative.” The email outlined a spin that Paustenbach wanted to insert into stories that “Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess.”

One email, from Brad Marshall, the CFO of the DNC, even went so far as to suggest that the Democratic Party try to atheist shame Bernie Sanders. Here is the email in full:

“It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”

Finally, and perhaps worst of all, as Politico reports, “Leaked emails show the Democratic National Committee scrambled this spring to conceal the details of a joint fundraising arrangement with Hillary Clinton that funneled money through state Democratic parties.” The vehicle for this episode of money laundering was the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee between the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton. The money raised by the organization was supposedly going to the 40 state Democratic Parties involved in the organization’s efforts in order to fund down-the-ballot campaigns. However, of the fund’s $82 million raised throughout the primary election, state parties kept “less than one half of one percent.” By contrast, “The fund has paid $4.1 million to the Clinton campaign for ‘salary and overhead expenses’ to reimburse it for fundraising efforts. And it has directed $38 million to vendors such as direct marketing company Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey and digital consultant Bully Pulpit Interactive — both of which also serve the Clinton campaign — for mailings and online ads that sometimes closely resemble Clinton campaign materials.”

The DNC leak has provided us with the evidence we needed to turn what the liberal establishment has ridiculed as a conspiracy theory all along into solid fact. The Democratic Party not only favored Hillary Clinton but actually worked actively to thwart her opponent’s primary campaign.


In order to prove that the primary was indeed rigged against Bernie Sanders and in favor of Hillary Clinton, I must have provided evidence that the election was rigged generally in such a way, that the DNC was compliant in this rigging, and that Democratic officials were even involved in the rigging. I have done just that. First, the general rigging of the election was supported by the presence of superdelegates, the extreme bias of the media, and the possibility of overall election fraud. In respect to all of these factors, top Democratic officials and the Democratic establishment were either silent or compliant or, in the rare best case scenario, feigning disapproval. On the final point of contention, that top Democrats were actually involved in the rigging of the election, the leaked DNC emails and Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s debate schedule provide ample affirmation. Julian Assange, in his interview with Bill Maher, was thus entirely correct in calling out a “quite concerted effort through the chain of command at the DNC to make sure that Bernie Sanders didn’t win.” The primary seems to have simply been a process of legitimization of the establishment’s hand-picked candidate, Hillary Clinton. Maybe, then, the liberal elites were right all along. Maybe Bernie Sanders never had a chance. He certainly was never meant to.

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A Primary in Review: Was the Democratic Primary Rigged?