The only cliques were the puppies. the 2500 no-awards were not organized, I voted no award for every category that had only puppy-backed folks on it, except for Toni Weisskopf, who I truly believe deserves a Hugo. I did it without some shadowy cabal of liberal elites telling me to, I did it because the puppies gamed the system, and the best way to discourage that sort of behavior is nuke it from orbit.
And I'm one of the people the puppies should be courting as an ally. I will read any Baen author sight unseen. I love hard scifi. I own every Heinlein novel published, and kept them, even after I converted to ebook only. They're the only paper books I still have. I love military scifi and space opera. I'm exactly the demographic that would vote for some of the things the puppies want to see on the ballot.
I still nuked them, and I would do it again if they attempted to stuff the ballot again.
And the very fact that they could stuff the ballot they way they did disproves the idea of there being a shadowy clique controlling the nominations.