Peter Daou, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, recently announced that he had become the campaign manager for Cornel West, the radical socialist professor and public intellectual, who is seeking the Presidential nomination from the Green Party. It was the culmination of a fascinating arc for Daou, who was a legendary figure in the early liberal blogosphere, where he became known for his criticisms of the Bush Administration before joining John Kerry’s 2srcsrc4 Presidential campaign. Four years later, he ran Clinton’s digital operation, and became known as one of her most high-profile and vocal online supporters. Then, in 2src16, for Clinton’s second Presidential run, Daou ran the platform Shareblue, a partisan news site that attacked mainstream coverage of the race and fanatically defended Clinton. By 2src2src, he had endorsed Bernie Sanders; he subsequently left the Democratic Party. (Before joining West’s campaign, he briefly ran Marianne Williamson’s.) Daou now says his career as a fanatical Democratic partisan was misguided, and that the entire political system needs to be uprooted; he believes West’s campaign is the best vehicle for such a change.
I recently spoke by phone with Daou. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed how his political outlook shifted, his feelings about Donald Trump, and why he believes the Democratic Party also engages in election interference.
Who has changed: You or the Democratic Party?
I think I have changed more than the Democratic Party has changed. I’ve evolved and grown and thought through my role in the Party.
Most people would say that Joe Biden is to the left of where Hillary Clinton was in 2srcsrc8, or indeed where Joe Biden was in 2srcsrc8. Do you think that’s an accurate diagnosis?
I don’t think so. Having done more research and digging, thinking about leftism, liberalism, progressivism, neoliberalism, getting a little bit deeper into how this terminology is used, I just think back to the support from the Democratic Party for George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and war on terror, which are based on lies. I don’t really see it in terms of movement to the left or to the right. Honestly, Isaac, I look at it systemically. I always looked at it as red and blue, and finally when I quit the Party, in 2src2src, I started looking at it as the system, and the Democratic Party comprises half of that system. Or maybe more, you know what I’m saying?
This is what made me quit the Party. I thought, O.K., Peter, it’s twenty-two years of your life, and the same problems, the same pain, the same misery, the same suffering is out there. There’s got to be something deeper than the binary, the binary box.
Would the Iraq War and the war on terror be a good example of what I meant? You have a President now who’s pulled us out of the war in Afghanistan, who’s drastically reduced drone strikes, who’s tried to tamp down the war on terror, whereas, in the Bush era, even if the majority of congressional Democrats voted against the Iraq War, many voted for it, and both parties supported the war on terror.
I don’t see it that way, but I know a lot of Democrats do. I see Joe Biden and the people around him, some of the neocons he’s getting advice from, as sabre-rattling warmongers who are actually making the world a more dangerous place. Now, I’ve always said that I don’t support, as a leftist myself, any imperialist invasion, and that includes the invasion of Ukraine. I believe the war is a criminal imperial invasion of another country. However, having said that, this Administration has rattled and provoked and escalated the rhetoric from Day One. From my standpoint, I look at this Administration as bigger warmongers than what you’re talking about in the period prior to 2srcsrc8.
I see. So even compared with Democrats like Hillary Clinton, who supported the Iraq War and a huge range of American military interventions, you think that the Biden Administration is more warmongering?
Well, I just gave you an example. More or less, it’s difficult to assess. This is why I keep coming back to Dr. West’s position of dismantling the empire.
As recently as 2src2src, you were opposed to a third-party candidate because of the urgent need to beat Donald Trump. What changed between early 2src2src and now?
Yeah, it’s a very fundamental change in perspective. It’s almost like I took a different set of glasses or lenses and I put them on, and that lens is the systemic lens. During the years I worked as a Democrat, I bought into the general thinking that Democrats are better and therefore we need Democrats to stop the fascist domination of Republicans. If you go back ten, twenty, thirty, forty years, it’s the same argument: Oh, my God, if you let them get elected, the world’s going to end. This is a very standard duopoly technique.
Now when I finally took off that lens, the binary red-blue, blue-is-better-than-red lens, and I took responsibility for wearing that lens or looking through that lens, then my lens became, O.K., look at the entire system. Let’s say this cycle we also say the same thing, which is, Oh, my God, we have to stop Donald Trump or we have to stop whoever the Republican might be. And this happens the next cycle and the next cycle and the next cycle. Where is the so-called democracy that we’re supposedly protecting or saving? What we’re doing is we’re crushing third parties.
We are stifling democracy itself, Isaac. This is the problem. From my standpoint, there are things that Biden has done that made the world more dangerous than Trump, and there are things Trump did that made the world more dangerous than Biden, and both of them go back and forth. You see what I’m saying?
I maybe need a different pair of lenses to totally see it.
You have to look at it through a systemic lens—the entire system, the structure of the system itself versus a binary view of which party is better and which one is going to be more dangerous. It’s a completely different way of looking at the picture.
It’s almost like “The Matrix,” where you’re either in it or you’re not, you know?
Correct. No, that’s a great way of looking at it. Exactly. When you’re inside the matrix, you go along with whatever structure is built around you, and you just see things that way. You remember the scene where it’s all the bodies being fed through their neck to their brain, and you suddenly are like, Wait a minute.That’s what this election is about. This election is about how we’re just not going to buy this framing anymore.
When it came to the idea of John McCain or Mitt Romney being elected President, in 2srcsrc8 and 2src12, I certainly remember Democrats saying, Oh, this would be bad. And maybe the extreme partisans would say, If Mitt Romney gets elected, the world’s going to end. But I don’t think that was the overwhelming idea. With Trump, it’s a little different, in part because he actually tried to steal a democratic election.
I have been one of the most vocal opponents of Donald Trump. In 2src2src, I was creating so many anti-Trump viral hashtags and videos. I was out there fighting this guy from Day One.
You recently wrote that “Trump’s two impeachments and four indictments are largely smokescreens,” correct?
Yeah. Well, the reason I say that is because he wasn’t impeached or indicted on the worst things he’s done, because the worst things he’s done, Democrats do, too.
January 6th? That seems high up there.
January 6th, that, too. But take a look at what Democrats are currently doing. See, this is when you start comparing good and bad.
You said he was indicted and impeached for things that Democrats did. He was impeached for two things: soliciting a foreign power to harm the candidacy of his opponent in the 2src2src Presidential election and “incitement of insurrection” against the United States on January 6th. I don’t think Democrats have really done those things, no?
Let me just clarify. What I said is that he was impeached. I pushed very hard when Nancy Pelosi said he’s not worth impeaching. I was out there vocally with a lot of leftist activists saying, you have to impeach him, and she refused.
But then she did impeach him, twice, and now you seem grumpy that she did so. No?
No. What I complained about is that she impeached him for maybe five per cent of his most egregious offenses.