Opinion: How WikiLeaks changed the 2016 presidential race for both parties

In past wars and presidential administrations, whistleblowers were seen as traitors who threatened national security, giving potential enemies an upper hand. Now, in the year 2016, we give praise to those willing to reveal classified information and expose the truth behind political and economic corruption. No greater bastion of whistleblowing holds a candle to the website WikiLeaks, which started in 2006 in order to publish confidential information, leaked news headlines and classified media. From secret files on Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, reports of civilian casualties and U.S. influence and armament of terror groups in the Middle East, to Hillary Clinton’s emails, WikiLeaks has exposed many documents government and political officials want hidden. For many years WikiLeaks was a powerful tool that the political left used to call out U.S. involvement in wars in the Mideast and the failed economic policies of the Bush era. In 2016, however, the political left that stood by WikiLeaks now do what many politicians and officials did before them: swept WikiLeaks under the rug, specifically for calling out the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton for what they swept under the rug.

WikiLeaks didn’t begin to creep into the public eye this election year until criticisms of the Democratic National Convention’s favoritism of Hillary Clinton seeped into the mainstream media. Shortly after the DNC began in July, WikiLeaks released around 20,000 emails and 8,000 files of DNC staffers and organizers, many of whom stated in these emails their criticism of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders for his socialist leanings. This information caused Debbie Wassermann Shultz, chairman of the DNC, to step down from her duties as it revealed her favoritism towards Clinton. Ironically, she later joined Hillary Clinton’s 50-state campaign for president and was thanked by Clinton for her “leadership” at the DNC, according to Hillary Clinton’s’ personal website. On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks revealed emails sent from Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, revealing payments toward the Clinton campaign and the Clinton foundation for doing speeches at private fundraising events. Most notable of the donors were larger financial institutions, banks, and businessmen from Saudi Arabia and other Arabian Peninsula countries. This drew considerable public concern, and the campaign received criticism for receiving money from big banks and countries whose laws concerning the rights of women and LGBT individuals were the far opposite of Hillary Clinton’s. The emails, as well as one private fundraising speech, also revealed private discussions concerning Clinton’s personal need for “both a public and a private opinion” regarding controversial topics, according to The Hill. These breaches of private information resulted in the Clinton campaign refusing to address these emails, and Glen Caplin, a representative of the Clinton Campaign, issued a statement that WikiLeaks “is proving they are nothing but a propaganda arm of the Kremlin with a political agenda doing Putin’s dirty work to help elect Donald Trump.” Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in an interview that he regarded the accusations as false and that “the hysteria is merely caused by the fact that somebody needs to divert the attention of the American people from the essence of what was exposed by the hackers,” according to The New York Times.

From the DNC and onward to today, WikiLeaks continues to reveal corruption, favoritism, and preferably discrete sources of funding — not just for the Clinton Campaign, but for the whole of the Democratic party and key leaders within it. Although many politically left-leaners have previously praised the site for revealing war crimes and “dirty laundry” of the Bush Administration, they now face the second edge of the double-edged sword. It is not only incriminating but disappointing to see the Democratic party avoid any responsibility in the accusations and evidence brought against them. It is also frightening to know that despite the information related to their sources of funding or favoritism regarding the selection of Clinton as a presidential candidate (in the cases of DNC staffers and chairman), that very little action was taken to correct those responsible. To repeat the same mistakes of previous politicians by sweeping potentially incriminating information revealed under the rug and avoiding confrontation towards allegations brought against them only makes them seem more distrustful in the eyes of the public. This is not just hard-learned lessons for the left, for many right-wing politicians have been placed under scrutiny by WikiLeaks in the past. For the benefit of American democracy, the Democratic party must come clean, as it is unwise for politicians to throw stones at one another when they live in glass houses.