Watching Nina Turner’s defeat at the hands of the Democratic establishment’s games felt eerily familiar. Many observers have noted the role played by the various lies promoted by establishment Democrats in the weeks leading up to yesterday’s special election. Having faced a similar-- frankly, even more vicious and unapologetically racist-- set of lies in our race, I offer a warning based on a pattern that has repeated itself from Massachusetts to California in the last year alone.
In OH-11, attack ads funded by establishment Democratic PACs, and even GOP donors, flooded the airwaves in Akron and Cleveland making false claims about Nina Turner’s policy positions. The ads didn’t take issue with the policies she supported, such as universal healthcare or climate justice, but they did affirmatively mischaracterize her positions and attack her as a disingenuous voice based on her (entirely legitimately) critiques of Joe Biden.
This pattern of weaponized lies fabricated to punch left is not new, however. I had the unfortunate chance to experience it last fall, after compelling half a dozen policy concessions from Nancy Pelosi that ultimately shifted the House of Representatives by passing the Protecting Right to Organize Act, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the bill that funded the U.S. Postal Service, a war powers amendment constraining presidential unilateralism, and each of the two impeachment resolutions.
In July 2020, one week after the San Francisco Chronicle ran a front page story with the headline, “Pelosi Ignoring Calls for a Debate,” it maliciously and recklessly published a series of stories about allegations from a person who had for years accused me and many other people (including an 80 year old peace activist in North Carolina) of a long litany of cartoonishly implausible crimes including murder, human trafficking, and various conspiracies.
The Chronicle not only published the stories, but refused to ever correct or retract either of them, doubled down on its false narrative, ignored whistleblowers entirely in its first story, and then actively misrepresented them in its second. Last month, we filed a federal lawsuit against The Chronicle to defend election integrity, vindicate press ethics, protect voters from disinformation, and challenge the white supremacy that its malicious & reckless publications perpetuated.
The defamatory Chronicle stories were planted by Democratic Party operatives who I had hired in 2019, and then replaced in 2020 after we won the top-two primary that spring. In addition to bringing the false accusation of sexual misconduct to the press, the same voices also hid from journalists the further facts about my accuser that they knew, and then added false claims of their own, based on never-specified behavior that no one else beyond them ever witnessed, lacking any evidence.
Multiple whistleblowers emerged, some wielding documentary evidence that the Democratic loyalists I had hired had been conspiring to sabotage our campaign even while ostensibly working for it. More than one was recruited to participate in their scheme, yet when they came forward to expose it, were ignored first by grassroots organizations and then by journalists.
One of them, herself an elected party official, has continued blowing a whistle over the past year. After being ignored by the clubs and silenced by the journalists, she chose to write her own story. Then she faced bullying, then threats, then harassment, then she was hacked, before then facing smears herself from some of the same voices that smeared me & our supporters last year.
The lies about Nina Turner may have been about a candidate, but were ultimately attacks on the democratic process, as well as Democratic Party members and voters. I’m all too familiar with that pattern.
Pretending that the problem is candidates & campaigns choosing to run within the Democratic Party does a disservice to the issue. Any candidate, organizer, or journalist who draws blood from the establishment should expect these kinds of fabrications. Running under the banner of a third party offers no insulation from lies and smears.
Meanwhile, observers should grow more aware of these patterns, before being co-opted yet again by weaponized lies punching down and left. Whistleblowers deserve to be heard, as much as those who fabricate accusations in the crass service of their political patrons while outrageously reducing important social movements to political weapons of convenience.
In Ohio, we see Shontel Brown’s election through the tattered legitimacy of an election subverted by right-wing money, lies in public, and attacks on voters intending to mislead them. But the same dynamic is apparent from western Massachusetts, where Alex Morse was smeared by party loyalists defending incumbent Richie Neal, to San Francisco, where Nancy Pelosi herself relied on loyal party operatives recruited from political organizations to contrive a false narrative and mislead the public.
The Democratic Party has repeatedly shown its willingness to undermine the democratic process. Accordingly, we advise movement candidates & campaigns to anticipate political sabotage and prepare for it. We meanwhile encourage voters, journalists, party members, and other candidates & campaigns to demand a more sincere commitment to democracy, starting by replacing the incumbents who have relied on lies to evade public accountability.