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Democrats Vote to Strip Power From Superdelegates
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=37309"><span class="small">Chas Danner, New York Magazine</span></a>   
Sunday, 26 August 2018 08:38

Danner writes: "Democrats voted overwhelmingly on Saturday for the biggest reforms to its presidential nomination process in decades, including a major reduction in the power of superdelegates, and a measure to make state caucuses more accessible."

Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: George Frey/Getty Images)
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Senator Bernie Sanders. (photo: George Frey/Getty Images)

Democrats Vote to Strip Power From Superdelegates

By Chas Danner, New York Magazine

26 August 18


emocrats voted overwhelmingly on Saturday for the biggest reforms to its presidential nomination process in decades, including a major reduction in the power of superdelegates, and a measure to make state caucuses more accessible. The reforms were approved after a four-hour debate at the Democratic National Committee’s meeting in Chicago, and were backed by both DNC chairman Tom Perez and Senator Bernie Sanders, who had sharply criticized the role of superdelegates as he ran for president in 2016.

Under the old process, superdelegates — made up of members of the Democratic National Committee, elected officials, and distinguished party elders — were not bound to the outcomes of primaries and caucuses, but could vote to nominate whichever presidential candidate they wanted at the national convention. This gave them an outsize, and in the minds of many, unfair role in determining the party’s nominee. (Superdelegates made up about 15 percent of the delegates at the 2016 convention.)

Under the new process starting in 2020, superdelegates will still be able to attend party conventions as delegates, but will not be able to vote in the first round of ballots and will be able to vote in the very rare event of a deadlock.

The way state caucuses are governed will also change under the reforms, with state parties now required to accept absentee votes, rather than requiring caucuses voters to be physically present to support candidates at the events. That fundamentally changes the nature of caucuses, which are old-school, state party-run affairs that force campaigns to not only engage and win over supporters, but get them to show up in person and remain organized amid the chaos. Barack Obama’s underdog victory against Hillary Clinton in 2008, for instance, relied on his campaign’s strategy of dominating the state caucuses. And had Obama not won the first caucus in Iowa, he might have never gotten enough momentum to win the nomination.

Caucuses are also run by the state parties, as opposed to primaries, which are run by the states themselves. Saturday’s changes are expected to accelerate more caucus states switching to primaries — another change sought by reformers.

The new rules are a big victory for Sanders, who lost the party’s contentious nomination battle to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but thanks to his newfound popularity and passionate base, now exerts considerable influence over the direction of the party. Clinton won the majority of delegates based on the primary and caucus votes in 2016, but was also the predominant choice of the party elite who made up the superdelegate pool, something the anti-establishment Sanders and his supporters saw as an unfair advantage at a time they had already been accusing the DNC of showing favoritism toward Clinton.

“Today’s decision by the DNC is an important step forward in making the Democratic Party more open, democratic and responsive to the input of ordinary Americans,” Sanders said in a statement after the vote.

The changes marked the culmination of a two-year-long process that began as a way to soothe the intraparty animosity of 2016, and was led by the Unity Reform Commission, a group that was joint-established by the Sanders and Clinton camps at the convention that year. The commission had agreed on the necessary changes in December, and eventually passed along their recommendations to the DNC’s rules and bylaws committee

But opponents of the reforms continued to make their case ahead of the vote, making for a tense and emotional meeting at times.

Superdelegates were created to be the last line of defense against outsider, potentially disastrous candidates, and everyone has now seen a real world example of what can happen if someone like Donald Trump can win a major party’s nomination and its de facto leader. Critics point out that the new rules may make it easier for such candidates to win the right to represent the party regardless of what the party establishment — or the party’s activists — ultimately thinks of them:

There was also pushback from older black delegates, who argued that the reforms would reduce the power and influence of hundreds of black and Latino party leaders, and result in less diversity on the convention floor — a possibility reformers dismissed, citing delegate diversity requirements. When former DNC chair Don Fowler, who helped organize opposition to the reforms, said at the meeting that the moves would “disenfranchise” minority groups within the party, some people in the crowd at the meeting tried to shout him down, calling him a liar.

Another former DNC chair, Howard Dean, wholeheartedly endorsed the changes in a video played at the meeting. He argued that the DNC should respect the will of grassroots voters, and that young voters “have lost faith in our party’s nominating process, and make no mistake, this is a perception that’s cost us at the ballot box.”

Trusting the Democratic party’s electorate over its elites was a common theme among the reformers’ pitches in Chicago. “Voters want us to be listening to them, and this is a way to show that we’re listening, to show that we’re understanding the changes that had to be made after 2016,” DNC vice- chairman Michael Blake said on Friday. Perez and others also emphasized before the vote on Saturday that Democrats’ most important common goal was electing a Democrat to the White House. Attracting new and younger Democrats, avoiding intraparty conflict, and respecting voter’s wishes would, Perez insisted, put the next Democratic nominee “in the strongest position possible” to win back the White House. your social media marketing partner


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+1 # Scott Griffith 2018-08-26 09:54
This reeks of back room fixing: 'major reduction in the power of super delegates' when we were told that they voted to get rid of super delegates; now we learn that they will only be barred from voting in the first round, unless there's a deadlock, (in the 'rare event' of a deadlock); the change has been reduced from a major change to a mere 'important step forward'; super delegates were supposed to be there to guard against 'disastrous candidates', in whose opinion? I smell business as usual.
+12 # librarian1984 2018-08-26 09:59
THIS is 'holding their feet to the fire'. The party would NEVER have adopted these changes if not for consistent pressure from progressives -- it would have died with a whimper in a boardroom somewhere.

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong that will be imposed on them. Power concedes nothing without a demand." -- Frederick Douglass.

That said, I appreciate the effort by the DNC, which has a mixed record in their dealings with progressives.

This a 4-step process: recognize progressives, admit progressives have a right to some say, share power in word, share power in deed. We'll see.

After sabotaging Sanders, reneging on fossil fuel donations, endorsing primary candidates and interfering in the primaries, there's still a lot to hate in the Democrap establishment. But it's a step in the right direction. They know they need progressive energy and votes, and it's finally sunk in they have to negotiate. (This leaves blind loyalists in the lurch, who didn't explicitly demand a pro-choice VP selection, for example.)

That said, this only protects the integrity of DP democracy in the first ballot. Not confidence inspiring. I actually saw a pundit this week say superdelegates have 'never been an issue'!

Same day registration is great but I'll be sad to see caucuses die out (something the ESTABLISHMENT wanted btw). They seem like democracy in its purest form.
+3 # Benign Observer 2018-08-26 10:16
First off, who is Kenton Tilford? Is this what passes for journalism at NY Magazine now?

The ongoing battle about superdelegates had an interesting dimension -- the effect on minority representation, which most white people probably didn't even consider. I know I didn't.

It points to the difficulties inherent in being a big tent party. We have many interests to represent, unlike Republicans, who cater almost exclusively to monied white men -- not monolithic but a far cry from trying to reconcile blacks, whites, men, women, indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQ, environmentalis ts, workers, the poor and, obviously, children.

The same is true with our immigration quagmire. We are well past time to address this thorny complex of issues, but we cannot ignore the effect on African Americans and young people, who DO want some of the jobs taken by immigrants, is not simple or straightforward . Blacks have been exceedingly patient with the Democrats but that won't last forever.

I don't trust Dean, who says what he needs to for anybody who will listen, like Littlefinger in GoT.

So the DNC finally put something in writing. They said they were going to stop taking money from Exxon too and we saw how long that lasted. So forgive me if I'm skeptical.

I'd like to see Tulsi Gabbard be DNC chair until she runs for Senate.

Peace, all.
0 # John Cosmo 2018-08-26 11:20
I'm afraid that this is probably a case of too little, too late. Maybe the Dems will get their act together in time for 2024.
+10 # futhark 2018-08-26 11:39
The superdelegate position was initiated by the Democratic Party as a way of keeping power at the "center" of the political spectrum, judging that "far left" candidates like George McGovern were unelectable. However, the 2016 election results tend to support the adage commonly attributed to President Harry Truman: “If a voter has a choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, he’ll vote for the Republican every time.”

I'm gratified the Democratic Party leadership is beginning to acknowledge President Truman's wisdom in this matter and return the selection of the Party's candidate from the power elite to the people.
+11 # Wise woman 2018-08-26 13:41
If Bernie backs it, I'm for it. I want to see him in the WH along with another progressive for VP. We have to get this country and the environment back on track again if we have any interest in survival.
+1 # BetaTheta 2018-08-26 14:53
A first step on the thousand-mile journey to putting democracy back into the Democratic Party. Perhaps if party bigwigs see they can actually win elections on progressive ideas, the snowball can gain poundage.
+5 # Blackjack 2018-08-26 15:54
In case you are a Dem and live in S.C. and wonder why we keep losing elections, look no further than the "former party chair" who has had his own agenda since he WAS party chair during the Clinton years. That's when the Clinton/Fowler bond was formed. Fowler, still holds on to the "triangulation" theory and the "Third Way," both of which never worked, but he's still wedded to it. When one breaks these DNC issues down to a state level, then it becomes clearer that the intent is almost always some kind of personal benefit that being a super delegate offers. Many have held this status for years and will not willingly give it up, always finding ways to work the system so that they can keep their super delegate status in one form or another. Fowler even got his wife into the super delegate category. Super delegate status offers too much power for too many for too long. Other RSN readers might want to check their state party to find out who their super delegates are, how they got and stay there, and how long they've served.
0 # librarian1984 2018-08-27 07:45
Progressives wanted to eliminate superdelegates altogether but what came out of the Unity Reform Commission was reducing them by 60%, which was not enough, so we have yet to see how this solution -- having zero in the first ballot but all of them back for subsequent ballots -- will play out.

After the actions of the DCCC and DNC during these primaries I am skeptical, and think the establishment is probably already working on ways to use this change to sabotage progressives.

But I also think that if they try railroading us in 2020 they will unleash left wing rage. There's still a movement to form a third party, and egregious cheating will strengthen that movement.

It's difficult to start a third party, but if there is no hope of reform what choice do we have? Everyone deserves representation but right now the progressive left has none.
-1 # Rcomm 2018-08-27 11:09
They didn't "strip power from super delegates, they just tweaked it a tiny bit.

If the DNC really wants us to believe they have changed let them do away with super delegates completely.
+1 # Blackjack 2018-08-27 12:57
As a follow-up to the above reference, check to see who the DNC reps from your state are because those are always super delegates. As I understand party rules, there is one DNC rep for each congressional district in the state. This is where the power structure resides from the states to the DNC. Once identified, you can go directly to them, as a Dem voter, to find out relevant info and/or voice concerns. In my state this system seems a mystery to most Dem voters.