Another day, another bombshell allegation from former Democratic National Committee (DNC) interim chair Donna Brazile. Earlier this week, an excerpt from Brazile's upcoming book claimed that the DNC had cut an agreement with the Hillary Clinton primary campaign, re-inflaming familiar arguments about whether the committee had effectively rigged the primary for the former secretary of state. On Saturday, The Washington Post published another section from the book in which Brazile claims she considered replacing Clinton with Joe Biden as the Democratic presidential nominee after her public fainting spell at the 9/11 memorial in New York City, and it's drawn some serious scrutiny.
Back when footage emerged of Clinton wobbling and nearly collapsing on Sept. 11, 2016, theories began flying on social media (especially among Trump supporters) that she would be forced to withdraw from the race for health reasons, and additionally, that the DNC was holding emergency meetings to discuss replacing her.
In broad strokes, that's pretty similar to what Brazile claims in her book ― that after Clinton's health scare, she fielded calls from Vice President Joe Biden and Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager for Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who Clinton defeated in the primary, the implication being that they were inquiring whether she'd need to withdraw. Brazile also claims former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, who finished a distant third in the Democratic primary, emailed her.
But this raises a pretty basic, elemental question: can the DNC chair, as Brazile reportedly writes, initiate the removal and replacement of a presidential nominee? In simple terms, the answer is no.
In the first place, as Vox detailed fairly exhaustively after Clinton's health scare, the role the DNC chair plays in replacing an outgoing nominee would only conceivably come into effect if the nominee voluntarily agreed to withdraw from the ticket, or was left dead or somehow critically incapacitated, thus opening up what the DNC's bylaws call a "vacancy on the National Ticket." This was never true of Clinton, regardless of her politically inconvenient bout with pneumonia, which she rebounded from in relatively short order.
Furthermore, although Philip Rucker of The Washington Post reports that Brazile considered Biden and New Jersey senator Cory Booker her preferred replacements, that wouldn't be up to her either. In the event of a vacancy, the entire DNC ― comprised of more than 300 party officials and members ― would convene to vote on a replacement, a process required to be open to public view, and forbidden from occurring via secret ballot.
In other words, whatever plans Brazile may or may not have made bear little relevance to how the process actually would have played out. Furthermore, this story casts her previous allegations that the DNC cut an unethical side agreement turning over extensive control to the Clinton primary campaign (a heavily contested claim which hinges on whether the strict wording of the signed agreement was followed) in a new light.
Despite the fact that the decision would not actually have been left up to her, if Clinton for some reason had withdrawn from the race, there would only have been one democratically defensible possible replacement. Namely, Sanders, who finished in a competitive second place, and had an immense grassroots movement and voting base behind him.
Brazile choosing to prioritizing possible replacements like Biden and Booker ― neither of whom even ran for president in 2016 ― would itself have been a massive violation of the democratic process, one far more drastic and undermining than anything she's since accused the DNC of doing.
In short, it's fair to say that Brazile's recent assertions have whipped up a lot of tumult on the Democratic left, and some of the claims reportedly made in her book are consequently drawing a heavy amount of scrutiny. Her book, titled Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, is due out next week on Nov. 7.