The Takeover of the Democratic Party
Thousands of journalists covered the Democratic National
Convention here. Almost all of them missed the biggest
The story wasn't missed because it happened in the shadows
of in some smoke-filled back room. It was bypassed because of
ideological binders worn by so many in the conformist press.
The big story was the takeover of the Democratic Party by
Of course, the Democratic Party has always included hefty
doses of corporate interests. But in past years, they were
one of many competing forces in the party, along with
representatives of labor, minorities, senior citizens, women
The significance of this convention is that corporate America
has taken undisputed control - at least for now - of both major
political parties, not just the GOP.
How did so many in the political press corps miss the story?
Most establishment journalists seem blind to the fact that
corporations are thoroughly political institutions, seeking
ever-increasing influence over parties, legislation and government
regulation. (These businesses are, after all, the folks who
underwrite the news with their advertising.)
In political reporting, corporations are treated as benign, neutral,
invisible. Their political maneuvers are generally not news.
It's not that journalists are oblivious to political wheeling and
dealing by various groups. In the days before the convention,
political reporters scrutinized teachers unions, black activists,
senior-citizen groups, feminists, gay-rights advocates - denigrating
them as ``special interests'' who could ruin ``Clinton's convention''
by ``alienating middle-class voters.''
With so much media focus on these relatively powerless grass-roots
groups, powerful corporations - the country's REAL special
interests - ran off with the party.
ITEM: Two days before the convention, a ``Victory Train'' carried
congressional Democrats from Washington to New York. Accompanying
the party elite on the train ride were corporate lobbyists who
paid $10,000 to $25,000 for the right to mingle and shmooze.
The Democratic National Committee has been raking in money from
virtually every corporate interest needing a government
favor. The message to anti-poverty or consumer-rights activists:
No need for you to come on board. You can wait at the station.
ITEM: The Clinton-Gore ticket represents the seizure of the
party hierarchy by the Democratic Leadership Council, which
is typically euphemized in the media as a group of
``moderate'' Democratic politicians who want the party to
``speak for the middle class.'' (Clinton and Gore were
founders of the DLC; Clinton was its chair in 1990-91.)
The problem is that the DLC has no middle-class constituents.
It is bankrolled by - and speaks for - corporate America:
ARCO, Dow Chemical, Georgia Pacific, Martin Marietta, the
Tobacco Institute, the Petroleum Institute, etc.
ITEM: Clinton became the media-designated ``front-runner'' in
large part because he raised so much money early in the
campaign. The cash didn't come from middle-class folks.
As reported by the weekly In These Times, most of it
came from conservative business interests; investment
bankers, corporate lobbyists and Wall Street firms which
fund both major political parties.
ITEM: Two of Clinton's key fund-raisers were Robert Barry,
a longtime General Electric lobbyist, and Thomas H. Boggs
Jr., who ears $1.5 million a year as a lawyer-lobbyist
for the Washington firm of Patton, Boggs, and Blow.
Boggs' parents were members of Congress; his sister is
media pundit Cokie Roberts. His law firm boasts a computer
program that matches corporate donors with Congress members
who seek his help in raising money; a match depends on what
legislation is pending before Congress.
ITEM: The Boggs law firm also boasts partner Ron Brown,
chair of the Democratic Party. Some pundits have suggested
that since Brown in an African-American, the Clinton-Gore
ticket has less need of Jesse Jackson to mobilize the
black vote in November. But Ron Brown is far more familiar
with corporate boardrooms and government corridors than
grass-roots organizing. His clients have included an
array of U.S. and foreign business interests, as well as
the regime of Haitian dictator Jean Claude Duvalier.
When Jerry Brown spent his campaign denouncing
``Washington sleaze,'' he was referring to these kinds of
cozy corporate-government relations.
But mainstream media have demonstrated far less animus
toward corporate influence than toward Jerry Brown, who
was routinely described by journalists covering the
convention as ``disruptive,'' ``egotistical'' and a
Aided by this media slant, corporate insiders are
laughing all the way to the bank.
This is the real problem with our "democracy" - the voters have
very little influence over the choices. Those decisions have
already been made for us. We should feel glad about it, now
we don't have to make the difficult decisions...