Opinion

Robert Reich: The Democratic Party Needs Root and Branch Reform

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Supporters watch Hillary Clinton campaign with vice presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine at East High School in Youngstown, Ohio, on July 30. Robert Reich writes that the Democratic National Committee has become a giant machine to suck up big money from wealthy individuals, lobbyists, bundlers and corporate and Wall Street PACs. Aaron P. Bernstein/reuters

This article first appeared on RobertReich.org.

The shake-up at the Democratic National Committee after an embarrassing breach of its email system continued on August 2 with the departure of three senior officials.

But purging the DNC of top officials won’t remedy the DNC’s problems. Those problems aren’t attributable to individuals who didn’t do their jobs. To the contrary, those individuals probably fulfilled their responsibilities exactly as those jobs were intended to be done.

The DNC’s problems are structural.

The Democratic National Committee—like the Republican National Committee—has become little more than a giant machine designed to suck up big money from wealthy individuals, lobbyists, bundlers and corporate and Wall Street PACs.

As long as this is its de facto mission, the DNC won’t ever be kindly disposed to a campaign financed by small donations—Bernie Sanders’s or any others. Nor will it support campaign finance reform. Nor will it be an institutional voice for average working people and the poor. It won’t want to eliminate superdelegates or support open primaries because these reforms would make Democratic candidates vulnerable to non-corporate interests.

What’s needed is structural reform. The DNC has to turn itself—and the Democratic Party—into a grassroots membership organization, with local and state chapters that play a meaningful role in selecting and supporting candidates.

And it has to take a lead in seeking public financing of campaigns, full disclosure of all donations and an end to the revolving door between government and the lobbying-industrial-financial complex.

Unfortunately, I doubt this will happen. Which is why no number of purges of individuals will make the DNC the kind of organization that serves the public interest. And why we’re going to need a third party, or a third force, to pressure the Democratic Party to do what’s right by America.

Robert Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary Inequality for All.