(Reprinted with permission via Kerri Barber on DailyKos.)
New proposed rules promote transparency and inclusion
The proposed rules changes for the Democratic National Committee are a clear wake up call to establishment Democrats who have seemingly gotten out of hand in their effort to marginalize and defeat Progressive candidates across the country. While the rules themselves have not yet been finalized, the latest draft promises big changes for the DNC and how it operates.
The catalyst for this pivot stems from the DNC’s own polling data collected after the 2016 election that provided a dire warning: engage with activists or risk becoming obsolete.
Activist Selina Vickers has been present at the rules change meetings, often live streaming the meetings for hours to ensure transparency in the process.
“I think that they polled all over the U.S. and asked what people wanted and they know they have to have grassroots people and independents who hate the idea of a super delegate. They are focused on the win and know that if they don’t fix this, they will lose. They are eager to do this despite those who are strongly opposed to this change but will capitulate because the present threat is so great.”
Vickers is a social worker from West Virginia who ran for the West Virginia House of Delegates in District 32, another candidate who heeded Senator Sanders’ call for Progressives to run and get involved. Since then, she has been a noticeable presence as committee members worked to amend party rules, despite push back from some party leaders.
The DNC effort included both Hillary and Bernie delegates who negotiated key rule changes that cover Primary elections, the role of Super Delegates, and even how state parties should actively amend state law to allow for same day party registration during Primary voting. The committee calls out states who have excessive party registration deadlines that prohibited independent voters from participating in state primary elections.
Caucuses are being targeted for significant changes to help encourage states to facilitate greater participation by parents, the disabled, and working families. The rules stipulate specific improvements, including counting votes as people enter, retention of vote counts, and providing a method to allow people to leave if they choose to without losing their vote.
The goal is to phase out the caucus system in favor of a primary election. The committee notes that several states have already replaced their caucus system after problems arose in the 2016 election.
Joint fundraising agreements for candidates will now be transparent and available to all official campaigns and used for the general election. This change arose from the DNC having made a separate, closed agreement with the Hillary campaign that it had not made public or available to the Sanders campaign.
To address gaps in In response, the DNC rules recommends instituting a form of Digital Best Practices Institute to promote best practices between state parties, the DNC and campaigns, to supply candidates with the best possible data and that candidates would then file updates and enhancements to the voter file on behalf of the Party.
In addition, the proposed changes include the means to encourage grassroots activists to run for party leadership roles, and specific requirements for transparent accountability through metric reporting to ensure resources and funds are effectively distributed across state parties.
There is also a clear focus on the conduct of party officials to remain impartial in execution of the primary election as earlier language was strong and direct:
The Commission recommends that the Democratic National Committee will ensure that all Party officials who have a role in the execution of the actual primary or caucus process in their state must be scrupulously neutral both in reality and in perception in their administration of electoral activities. Any person who violates this important commitment to impartiality could be subject to loss of delegate status or other privileges they may hold at the DNC.
This clause addresses complaints from across the country about how caucus and primary elections were held, including perceived direct action on behalf of those charges with facilitating the election. Included is the suggestion to create a new group, the ombudsman committee to impartially review and address any complaints or violations of the Charter & Bylaws for the DNC.
These proposed changes are restricted to the national DNC with the intent that the spirit of these proposals be adopted by state parties. Examples of this are the requirement to submit delegate selection information with affirmative action, inclusion, and outreach plans to the DNC for approval.
The Super Delegate Question
Preliminary analysis on the proposed changes to the role of super delegates was met with fierce opposition by many Progressive groups who wanted the role eliminated. The compromise offered continues the practice but removes their influence in deciding a Presidential nominee for the party and significantly limits the role of the media in influencing perception before voters have cast a single ballot in their state primary election.
Now the role becomes largely ceremonial in nature, renaming them “Automatic” delegates and prohibiting their votes on the first ballot unless a nominee has already secured enough regular (pledged) delegate votes so that including the automatic delegate votes would not affect the outcome. The reasoning is that, in almost every case, the candidate chosen by the voters will win on the first ballot and there will not be a second ballot. The only time a second ballot occurs is if a candidate does not secure 50% +1 votes on the first ballot, which only happens if there are 3 or more remaining candidates with no clear front runner. In this scenario, all delegates will be allowed to vote on the second ballot to narrow the field down to one candidate.
DNC members felt strongly that the role of awarding Automatic delegate status was a necessary tool to reward the efforts of loyal and long-standing party members who had dedicated so much effort toward a common cause.
Maggie Wunderly was one of the rules committee members representing the Bernie Sanders campaign at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where the directives of the Unity Reform Commission were established and then approved by the national convention delegates.
She looks at the changes favorably.
“I feel that the proposed changes for delegates are a huge improvement from before. Assuming these rules get passed, the first ballot will be completely clean and the press won’t be able to count the super delegate vote to affect the outcome of the election. This is good for Progressives and for the image of the DNC,” Wunderly commented.
She then added, “The process is one where voters pick the candidate. These changes speak to those who felt so disenfranchised and upset. The scope of these changes in our favor is unprecedented.”
Indeed, monolithic and powerful organizations rarely move quickly, yet the DNC has offered sweeping changes, the majority of which, were all demands made by Sanders delegates and Progressives nationwide, and the grassroots base.
The Risk of “No”
The risk now is that these rules will not be accepted by voting members during the meeting on August 23-25, 2018, at the Hyatt Regency here in Chicago. If these rules are not adopted, Progressives and DNC reformers will be left with the current rules now in place – the very same rules Progressives have railed against.
Wunderly offered this reminder to fellow reformers across the country.
“It is really important to get these changes passed after two years of work. All of the parts of this are just so important.
“The super delegate issue has been going on even longer, as both Jesse Jackson and Obama initiated commissions to limit their influence, but these changes did not make it through to a final vote by the DNC. We need to get it right this time so that the confidence of the voters in our nomination process can be restored.”
Progressives grassroots activists started with nothing, yet this Commission is now poised to adopt a significant number of high value goals in the reform effort. Full credit is due to the Bernie delegates who participated, the good will of the DNC delegates, and to the unified voices of grassroots Progressives nation-wide to refused to be silent.
All eyes will be on Chicago as the final meeting and vote take place.