The New York Times digs into the DNC email dump:
Last October, a leading Democratic donor named Shefali Razdan Duggal emailed a sweetly worded but insistent list of demands to a staff member at the Democratic National Committee.
Ms. Duggal wanted a reminder of how much she had raised for President Obama and the Democrats (the answer: $679,650) and whether it qualified her for the premium package of hotel rooms and V.I.P. invitations at the party’s convention in Philadelphia. She asked whether she could have an extra ticket to Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s holiday party, so she could bring her children. But most on her mind, it seemed, was getting access to an exclusive November gathering at the White House.
“Not assuming I am invited…just mentioning/asking, if in case, I am invited :),” wrote Ms. Duggal, who was appointed by Mr. Obama to oversee the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and is married to a San Francisco financial executive. “Might you have an intel?”
Too bad that we now have to depend on leaks from Putin moles to know what’s going on in our country, but the donor stroking industry revealed in these emails is anything but secret. Thousands of prominent people are involved, either as strokers or strokees. Many of these people are extremely well known to journalists at major newspapers, and not a few of them are married to journalists.
Yet here is the NYT treating these leaked emails as a window into an unknown world. The unwillingness of the press to delve into the Vanity Fair at the heart of modern progressive politics (there is no such reluctance to peer into the mysteries of Republican finance) is a real problem.
Actually, what the hack tells us about the money and politics nexus is better than some fear. Most of what goes on is that there are a number of wealthy people in this country with outsize egos but not much common sense. These people are willing to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns if politicians and staff will pretend to take them seriously, even for a few minutes at a time. “Thanks for your insights on China, they will help me plan our national strategy.” No, they won’t, and 99.999% of the things that rich donors tell politicians will be laughed at, ignored and trashed—though staffers will be assigned to write letters maintaining the illusion that the donor’s half-educated ramblings have somehow been incorporated in something official.
Pompous wealthy wannabes aren’t all that much of a direct threat to the republic, and indulging their vanity is not the worst way to fund our political system. The people that pay the highest price, psychically at any rate, are the politicians who have to flatter and stroke. Since the politicians are the ones who gain and keep high office, it seems only just that they do the bulk of the bowing and scraping and toadying involved.
It’s the indirect costs that are high; if anyone wonders why so many of our career politicians are cynics with deep contempt for the public they serve, years of fawning over dumb rich people, pretending to take their silly ideas seriously, assuring each of them that you aren’t like the other stupid rich people, no, you are special, you are smart, and our ten minutes a year friendship punctuated by check writing is deep and sincere—all this tends to corrode the soul. Having a political class who subsist on exploiting the character weaknesses and insatiable narcissism of dilettante plutocrats isn’t the best way to cultivate an ethos of responsibility and patriotism at the highest levels of government.
The fatheaded stupidity of rich liberals is the subtext of the hacked emails: how easily they are exploited, how gullible their vanity makes them, how pathetically eager they are for the hollow satisfaction of a seat next to the powerful. In one sense it’s refreshing: great wealth does not in fact make a nincompoop powerful. Also, it suggests that the real problem with our republic is that what should be our leadership elite is soul-sick: vain, restless, easily miffed, intellectually confused, jealous…
The sense that people like this—a mix of knaves and fools—are running both parties has a lot to do with the anger that fueled both the Sanders and the Trump campaigns. There’s a spiritual disease at work in this, and over time it has the ability to wreck not just individual souls, but our free institutions and the rule of law itself.