Sen. Bernie Sanders is praising Democrats for reforming the nomination system that helped derail his 2016 presidential bid.
The Democratic National Committee voted Saturday during a meeting in Chicago to stop letting superdelegates vote for their favorite candidates on the first ballot at the party's convention. Hillary Clinton took advantage of overwhelming support from superdelegates, who represent the party establishment, to hold off Sanders' challenge two years ago.
The new rule will significantly reduce the power of the unpledged delegates, which could help progressives who run against the party's more mainstream candidates. Sanders called the DNC's action “an important step forward in making the Democratic Party more open, democratic and responsive to the input of ordinary Americans.”
Larry Cohen, who chairs the Vermont senator's Our Revolution organization, predicted that reining in the superdelegates “will give the power to decide our next Democratic nominee to the millions of voters participating in primaries and caucuses, and make our party truly democratic.” Our Revolution is contacting the millions of people who supported Sanders' presidential campaign, urging them to vote for progressive candidates in this year's congressional mid-term elections.
Sanders and Cohen also cheered the DNC for encouraging states to allow voters to register or change party affiliations on Election Day, and open primary elections to non-Democrats. Party leaders established an Ombudsman Committee to root out conflicts of interest, and called for more scrutiny of DNC finances.
Reporter Alex Kotch, who described the reforms as “massive,” recalled how Clinton benefitted from the superdelegate system. About 700 of the party insiders were allowed to vote for the former secretary of state at the 2016 convention due to their status, not because they represented Democrats who voted for her in the primaries. “Now, that unfair advantage is basically gone,” Kotch proclaimed.
The Huffington Post's Daniel Marans wrote: “This thing is over. The DNC membership just overwhelmingly approved the voice reforms by a voice vote. Superdelegates do not get a vote on the first convention ballot unless a candidate already has the nomination sewn up from pledged delegates.”
Michael Kapp, a member of the DNC from California who backed Clinton two years ago, told Marans: “By restoring trust to our presidential primary process, we are reinforcing the fact that Democrats are the party of the people.”
“Grassroots power” was responsible for forcing the party to alter the process, according to Norman Solomon of the progressive RootsAction.org. He told Common Dreams he was pleasantly surprised that party leaders listened to his group and others who advocated change. Solomon noted that the Democratic power structure has “moved in a big way.”
He declared: “The sustained groundswell of progressive outrage, agitation, activism and organizing since 2016 forced corporate forces at the top of the party to confront a tough choice — either surrender on the superdelegate issue or deepen the justified distrust among people who believe in the principle of one person, one vote.”
Solomon said the DNC knows “it won't be possible to defeat Republicans unless progressives are strongly on board,” adding: “Faced with the choice and undergoing such sustained pressure from the grassroots, the corporate forces of the party have retreated about superdelegates. Of course, there will be huge battles ahead for progressives. We have got to keep the pressure up, and keep moving to make the party and the country live up to the democratic rhetoric that so routinely rings hollow.”
The Hill reported that momentum for the new rules gained traction when DNC Chairman Tom Perez threw his weight behind the reformers. He is seeking to mend the strained relationship between Clinton and Sanders supporters, in hopes that the factions will work together to defeat Republicans.
Our Revolution President Nina Turner explained: “When we come together as Democrats to put the greater good of the majority ahead of those with special interests and privilege, we can be a party that practices what we preach about democracy and voting rights. These reforms will also help us get closer to earning the votes of our sisters and brothers in this country as we head into the mid-terms and prepare for 2020. (This) is only the beginning of the process. There is much more work to be done.”
Sanders has not indicated whether he will run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, insisting that he is focused on electing progressives to Congress this fall. The lawmaker has been traveling across the country, speaking on behalf of candidates who endorse his platform of Medicare for all, a $15 minimum hourly wage, free college tuition and other liberal issues.
Recent polls suggested that if a presidential election were held this year, Sanders would defeat Donald Trump. A number of Democrats are positioning themselves to compete with the senator, a political independent who caucuses with Democrats in Congress, for the party's nomination. Perhaps foremost among them is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leader of the Democrats' progressive wing.