Do tell. Debbie Wasserman Schultz spent a lot of time defending the Democratic primary status quo this cycle, especially on the issue of superdelegates — to which we’ll get in a moment. After watching a non-Democrat push the party establishment’s candidate nearly to the end of the cycle without clinching the nomination, Wasserman Schultz wants future presidential primaries to exclude non-Democrats … at the ballot, at least:
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz would do away with open primaries and allow the party’s nominee to be chosen by Democrats alone if she were in control of the process.
“I believe that the party’s nominee should be chosen — this is Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s opinion — that the party’s nominee should be chosen by members of the party,” the DNC chief said in an interview with “MSNBC Live” Monday.
Many states allow independents to vote in the Democratic or Republican primaries. This is the first time the progressive leader has come out against this system.
On this, Wasserman Schultz will no doubt find plenty of agreement, and not just among Democrats. Republicans have long complained about the role that open primaries play in promoting more centrist candidates, although this year the problem for Democrats is the opposite; it’s the slightly more centrist candidate who’s getting held back from her coronation … again. The argument against closing all primaries is that it might yield a weaker candidate in a general election, especially given the way in which nominees would have to pander to the party line in a primary to emerge on the national ticket.
This cycle seems custom-made for that argument, although Hillary Clinton will almost certainly win the nomination anyway, and there are probably fewer Republicans so unhappy about Donald Trump’s nomination than necessary for that kind of change. Trump has won among both Republican and independent voters in this cycle, so the bigger question for the GOP — and the Democrats — is why their voters don’t trust their elected officials in the context of a presidential nomination.
Bernie Sanders has been arguing that the Democratic system is rigged, especially when it comes to superdelegates. In an interview with Bloomberg’s John Heilemann and Nicolle Wallace, Wasserman Schultz argues that “there is some irony” for Sanders to complain about superdelegates while competing to woo them to his side (via the Free Beacon):
“Bernie Sanders is wrong because we have had these rules in place since 1984,” Wasserman Schultz said. “We have two types of delegates: we have the delegates that are pledged, that … represent voters based on the outcome, and then we have party leaders and other elected officials who have been in the trenches for a long time who have a role, appropriately so, in choosing our party’s nominee.” …
Heilemann repeated his question to Wasserman Schultz, asking if Sanders’ argument is wrong on substance.
“Of course,” the DNC chair replied. “Because it’s never occurred that our party’s nominee has been selected by superdelegates.”
“By the way, can I also just point out that there is some irony in [Sanders] criticizing a process that now he says he wants to use to become the party’s nominee,” Wasserman Schultz added. “Just saying.”
There’s no irony in Sanders playing by the rules set up by the DNC to compete for the nomination. It’s those rules that Sanders cites in alleging that the DNC rigs the primary against insurgent candidates, and … that’s exactly what their purpose is. There’s a reason why superdelegates are party stalwarts; it’s to ensure that the party shapes the outcome of the presidential primary. The 1984 cycle provided the impetus for that establishment check on populism, when Gary Hart threatened to push Walter Mondale into a contested convention.
And while Wasserman Schultz is technically correct that superdelegates have never decided a nomination, it’s not true that they’ve never been an issue. In 2008, Hillary and her team tried getting the superdelegates to come back to her side almost all the way to the start of the convention.
But skip over that self-serving fig leaf and listen to how the DNC chair defends the use of superdelegates, again almost all of whom are longtime members of the Democratic Party establishment:
It was decided a long time ago, in part, to have superdelegates, because otherwise you would have — you know, at the district level when you have activists and other people who want to go to the convention and become a delegate, you’d end up — if the only way to become a delegate is for everyone to just run at the district level, then you’d — How is an activist going to compete against an elected official, who’s much better known, much better, you know, much better organized?
Er … what? Wallace moved on to another point, but this explanation of superdelegates is almost insane, and it’s certainly dishonest. The ranks of superdelegates are filled not with activists, but with elected officials past and present and their advisers and consultants, and they exist not to enhance activists but to counteract them. That’s precisely what Sanders means when he says the system is rigged against insurgent candidates, and he’s entirely correct.
Talk about some irony…