Many of you aren't religious, so please forgive me for recalling my roots as a preacher and starting us off with a simple verse of scripture.
"The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."
- 1 Timothy 6:10, The New Testament of the Bible
While my practice and devotion to religion has waxed and waned across the past few years, I still very much believe that verse is true. When you find evil in the world, when you find corruption, when you find starvation and exploitation, when you find poverty and despair, when you find drugs, guns, and substandard housing, when you find evil — if you dig far enough, you will often discover the love of money at the root. Underneath so much of what is wrong in this country is the deep love of money and all that it brings. Sometimes the connection is obvious and undeniable - other times not so much, but like the huge glacier underneath the still water, it is there.
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Right now, the Democratic Party, which I have called home my entire life, is deeply in love with money. Consequently, its leaders have supported and advanced all kinds of evil, big and small, in devotion to this love affair.
My sweet mother, who worked in a scorching hot light bulb factory for over 40 years of her life, introduced me to the party. While I'm not so sure it was ever really true, she taught me that Democrats were for the poor and working class of America. We waffled between those two groups ourselves, so for me, I chose to be a part of the party that represented us.
As a senior in high school, I attended my first political rally in 1996 as President Bill Clinton spoke at the University of Kentucky in his reelection bid. He was amazing.
In 1999, Atlanta's first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, whom I loved and revered, recruited me to campaign for Al Gore and encouraged me to get involved with the party. As student government president at Morehouse College, I spoke at campaign events alongside Vice President Gore and his family and fought hard as hell for him to win. How he lost stung as much as the fact that he lost.
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I had never lost an election or contest in my life. I was student government vice president in middle school. I was elected President of the Future Business Leader of America in high school. I was elected dorm president my freshman year of college and student government president for all of Morehouse the following year.
Seeing Al Gore lose was a bitter pill to swallow. Three years later, Maynard Jackson had a heart attack and died suddenly. With George W. Bush as President, Al Gore out of politics, and my political mentor dead, I bowed out and decided that party politics just wasn't my thing anymore.
For me, and I think for millions of Americans, that all changed when we first heard Barack Obama. As a preacher, I actually loved that Obama came from Jeremiah Wright's church in Chicago. Dr. Wright was a legend in the Afrocentric and activist circles I walked in. When I learned that Obama was a bi-racial former community organizer with two young daughters, I was sold. At that time, I had two young daughters, was doing community work, and grew up as the mixed kid who never quite fit in.
I volunteered for his campaign in Atlanta, attended rallies and events, phone-banked for him, and began writing regular op-eds about his candidacy. On the night he was elected, I was in tears and spoke live on NPR about how monumental it was.
The optimism, hope and dedication to change that Obama campaigned with was authentic. To prove it, his transition team introduced what were called the "most far reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history."
They effectively banned lobbyists and their money not only from his transition process, but also put in place a 12-month-ban on when they could serve in the administration after serving as a lobbyist.
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Because he came into office with such momentum and a clear mandate, Obama also began to enforce similar restrictions on lobbyists with the DNC. If he could first change his administration, then change his party, he could change the entire game, he thought.
Did you know that Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was a co-chair of Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign against Obama, and is now the chair of the DNC, earlier this year did away with all of the restrictions on lobbyists that President Obama put in place?
According to the Washington Post,
"The DNC's recent, more sweeping reversal of the previous ban on donations from lobbyists and political action committees was confirmed by three Democratic lobbyists who said they have already received solicitations from the committee. The lobbyists requested anonymity to speak freely about the committee's decision, which has been otherwise kept quiet."
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Unless you are a political insider, it would be hard to know that such a thing had ever happened. No doubt, that was their goal. Why? Are they ashamed? It certainly appears so.
The article continued,
"For the most part, they (the lobbyists) said, the DNC has returned to business as usual, pre-2008. The DNC has even named a finance director specifically for PAC donations who has recently emailed prospective donors to let them know that they can now contribute again, according to an email that was reviewed by The Washington Post."
Campaign watchdog groups were furious. This is a disgusting and unnecessary reversion, but it gives us a real clue into how the Democratic Party sincerely sees money in politics. They love it. They certainly didn't do this for Bernie Sanders. His campaign does not accept donations from SuperPACs or lobbyists and he's won 21 primaries and caucuses without it. The Clinton campaign, on the other hand, is awash in this type of money.
In essence, Hillary Clinton and the DNC each wants us to believe that lobbyists and SuperPACs don't expect anything from them in return for their money. This is the most basic, foolish, offensive lie they could ever tell. Of course they want something in return. That's the business they're in.
On April 18, the Sanders campaign wrote an open letter declaring that Clinton's campaign was violating campaign finance laws through an unethical joint arrangement with the DNC. The Clinton campaign's response was that she was actually raising money for down-ticket Democrats. Two weeks later, though, Politico released an amazing investigative report which found that out of the $61 million the Clinton campaign was raising for state parties, the parties were only allowed to keep 1% of it. You read that correctly. I'll spell it out so that you know a digit wasn't missing. They got to keep one percent of the funds she claimed she raised for them.
It appears to be a money laundering scheme. Do you remember when George Clooney said that Bernie Sanders and his supporters were right to be disgusted by the fact that some seats at the fundraiser cost $353,400 per couple, but that he could live with it because the money was mainly going to help smaller candidates win local elections?
He was wrong.
According to Politico, "The victory fund has transferred $3.8 million to the state parties, but almost all of that cash ($3.3 million, or 88%) was quickly transferred (back) to the DNC, usually within a day or two, by the Clinton staffer who controls the committee, POLITICO's analysis of the FEC records found."
Who really got the money? The Clinton campaign pocketed almost all of it and state parties were left with one penny on the dollar.
The Politico report continued: "By contrast, the victory fund has transferred $15.4 million to Clinton's campaign and $5.7 million to the DNC, which will work closely with Clinton's campaign if and when she becomes the party's nominee. And most of the $23.3 million spent directly by the victory fund has gone toward expenses that appear to have directly benefited Clinton's campaign, including $2.8 million for ‘salary and overhead’ and $8.6 million for web advertising that mostly looks indistinguishable from Clinton campaign ads and that has helped Clinton build a network of small donors who will be critical in a general election expected to cost each side well in excess of $1 billion."
Of course, none of this is happenstance or coincidence. All of this is a well orchestrated plan. The American people are just now beginning to understand this ugliness. It's one of the primary reasons why 10 million people have voted for Bernie Sanders and why he has won 21 contests without even a smidgeon of support from the Democratic Party.
The thing is, though, the Democratic Party isn't really very democratic. It's sincerely just a machine for Hillary Clinton.
Van Jones, a former Obama administration official, said earlier this week on CNN, "Debbie, who should be the umpire, who should be the marriage counselor, is coming in harder for Hillary Clinton than she is for herself. That is malpractice."
"I wish Reince Priebus was my party chair. He did a better job of handling the Trump situation than I've seen my party chair handle this situation," Jones said.
"I'm ashamed to say that. Yeah, I said it."
Let that sink in for a minute. A man who has not endorsed a candidate, who worked for Obama, and is an award-winning leader said that he would rather the Republican Party chair be in charge of the DNC than Debbie Wasserman Schultz because of how hard she fights for Hillary Clinton. Forgive me for being repetitive, but please remember that Wasserman Schultz was a co-chair of Clinton's campaign in 2008. None of us should be surprised that she is so biased, but we should be disgusted that she is in charge of the entire party at a time when it required an unbiased presence.
I'll give it to her — Debbie Wasserman Schultz will say or do anything to get Hillary Clinton elected, even if it means completely ignoring the political reality that nearly half of the people who've voted in this primary have declared that they want to see lobbyists and SuperPACs out of politics. Her words and her deeds throughout this campaign have not only been unethical, but are out of step with the future of the party. Voters under the age of 45 prefer Bernie because they trust him and his principles. Wasserman Schultz and Clinton represent a brand of politics that they know well, but we're simply tired of it. Another op-ed was just released calling on her to be replaced.
Robert Reich, the famed economist who served as Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton, went so far on Thursday to suggest that a new party should be formed if Hillary wins the election.
Reich said, “Never, ever give up fighting against the increasing concentration of wealth and power at the top, which is undermining our democracy and distorting our economy. That means, if Hillary Clinton is elected, I urge you to turn Bernie's campaign into a movement — even a third party — to influence elections at the state level in 2018 and the presidency in 2020. No movement to change the allocation of power succeeds easily or quickly. We are in this for the long haul.”
Back in February, Michelle Alexander, the law professor and author of “The New Jim Crow,” made a similar declaration. Her words struck me to my core.
“The biggest problem with Bernie, in the end, is that he's running as a Democrat — as a member of a political party that not only capitulated to right-wing demagoguery but is now owned and controlled by a relatively small number of millionaires and billionaires,” she said.
“Yes, Sanders has raised millions from small donors, but should he become president, he would also become part of what he has otherwise derided as ‘the establishment.’ Even if Bernie's racial-justice views evolve, I hold little hope that a political revolution will occur within the Democratic Party without a sustained outside movement forcing truly transformational change. I am inclined to believe that it would be easier to build a new party than to save the Democratic Party from itself."
I am in full agreement with both Reich and Alexander. Whatever happens between now and the Democratic Convention - what's next is that we form a brand new progressive political party from scratch. It has never been more clear to me that millions and millions of us do not belong in the Democratic Party. Their values are not our values. Their priorities are not our priorities. And I'll be honest with you, I think too highly of myself, of my family, of my friends, and of our future, to stick with a party that looks anything like what Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are leading right now.
Clinton's refusal to release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. Her indignant and irrational excuses made no sense — particularly in light of the reports stating that the transcripts would ruin her campaign and made her sound like an executive at the company.
I'll start where I left off — the root of all of this is the love of money. In this campaign, Bernie Sanders, with a ragtag group of misfits, proved to the world that another way exists. He has created a blueprint for us on how we build a political movement without the money from billionaire class and their special interests.
In my heart, I believe we are on the brink of something very special. It isn't going to be the presidency of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump either. It's going to be what those of us who've seen a better way do next.
Don't believe what anyone tells you — the ball is in our hand and we have more power than progressive people have had in a very long time in this country. I will fight for Bernie Sanders until he is no longer running for president.
After that, this will be my last election as a Democrat. I'm moving on and hope you do, too.