By Norman Solomon
Exactly 200 days before the crucial midterm election that will determine whether Republicans can maintain control of Congress, the Democratic National Committee filed a 66-page lawsuit that surely cost lots of money and energy to assemble.
Does the lawsuit target purveyors of racist barriers to voting that block and deflect so many people of color from casting their ballots?
Well, perhaps this ballyhooed lawsuit aims to ensure the rights of people who don’t mainly speak English to get full access to voting information?
Maybe it’s a legal action to challenge the ridiculously sparse voting booths provided in college precincts?
Not that either.
Announced with a flourish by DNC Chair Tom Perez, the civil lawsuit -- which reads like a partisan polemic wrapped in legalisms -- sues the Russian government, the Trump campaign and operatives, as well as WikiLeaks and its founding editor Julian Assange.
It’s hard to imagine that many voters in swing districts -- who’ll determine whether the GOP runs the House through the end of 2020 -- will be swayed by the Russia-related accusations contained in the lawsuit. People are far more concerned about economic insecurity for themselves and their families, underscored by such matters as the skyrocketing costs of healthcare and college education.
To emphasize that “this is a patriotic -- not partisan -- move,” Perez’s announcement of the lawsuit on April 20 quoted one politician, Republican Sen. John McCain, reaching for the hyperbolic sky: “When you attack a country, it’s an act of war. And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay, so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop these kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy.”
Setting aside the dangerous rhetoric about “an act of war,” it’s an odd quotation to choose. For Russia, there’s no “price to pay” from a civil lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. As the DNC well knows, any judgment against such entities as the Russian Federation and the General Staff of its Armed Forces would be unenforceable.
The DNC’s lawsuit amounts to doubling down on its fixation of blaming Russia for the Democratic Party’s monumental 2016 loss, at a time when it’s essential to remedy the failed approaches that were major causes of Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the first place. Instead of confronting its fealty to Wall Street or overall failure to side with working class voters against economic elites, the Democratic National Committee is ramping up the party leadership’s 18-month fixation on Russia Russia Russia.
After a humongous political investment in depicting Vladimir Putin as a pivotal Trump patron and a mortal threat to American democracy, strategists atop the Democratic Party don’t want to let up on seeking a big return from that investment. Protecting the investment will continue to mean opposing the “threat” of détente between the world’s two nuclear superpowers, while giving the party a political stake in thwarting any warming of the current ominously frigid relations between Moscow and Washington.
In truth, the party’s Russia fixation leaves significantly less messaging space for economic and social issues that the vast majority of Americans care about far more. Similarly, the Russia obsession at MSNBC (which routinely seems like “MSDNC”) has left scant airtime for addressing or even noting the economic concerns of so many Americans. (For instance, see the data in FAIR’s study, “Russia or Corporate Tax Cuts: Which Would Comcast Rather MSNBC Cover?”)
But even some of the congressional Democrats who’ve been prominent “Russiagate” enthusiasts have recognized that the lawsuit is off-track. When Wolf Blitzer on CNN asked a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jackie Speier, whether she believes that Perez and his DNC team “are making a big mistake by filing this lawsuit,” the California congresswoman’s reply was blunt: “Well, I’m not supportive of it. Whether it’s a mistake or not we’ll soon find out.” Speier called the lawsuit “ill-conceived.”
The most unprincipled part of the lawsuit has to do with its targeting of Assange and WikiLeaks. That aspect of the suit shows that the DNC is being run by people whose attitudes toward a free press -- ironically enough -- have marked similarities to Donald Trump’s attitude.