Next week will see the widely anticipated meeting of the DNC in Chicago (assuming everyone makes it through the war zone and safely into the Hyatt Regency Chicago). Normally something of a snoozer in an odd-numbered year, this meeting should be marked by some fireworks as the old guard of the party slugs it out with the Berniecrats and Democratic Socialists who seem to be taking over the party from the bottom up. One of the more hotly contested items on the agenda, as we’ve written about here previously, is a vote on negating much of the power of the superdelegates in their 2020 presidential primary. As this report from the Washington Examiner indicates, the two sides don’t seem to be any closer to making peace than they were in the spring.
Tensions are rising among Democrats ahead of next week’s summer meeting in Chicago, where they will vote on key reforms to the party’s presidential nominating process.
The battle is over a proposal that would reduce the power of superdelegates ahead of 2020. Superdelegates are Democratic leaders who are able to vote for their preferred candidate at the convention, even if that candidate lost the primary or caucus in the delegate’s state.
Subcommittees within the larger Democratic National Committee have advanced the measure over the last year, tweaking it along the way to go even further than previously recommended. The current proposal has the support of both delegates who supported Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
In Chicago the measure will come before the entire DNC for a vote, and it’s expected to be close.
While party leaders seem to be trying to downplay the internal divide in the media, this will wind up being a test of the establishment wing of the Democrats and the new, populist socialists who have been grabbing all the headlines ever since Bernie Sanders’ second-place finish in 2016. The Berniecrats are still smarting over how the superdelegate system undermined their candidate two years ago. (And they certainly have a right to be upset when you consider how many of Bernie’s voters were negated by Clinton’s superdelegates in New Hampshire, possibly changing the momentum in the early going.)
Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana reportedly sent a letter to the DNC blasting the proposal. He warned them against “disenfranchise elected officials,” who should have a greater say in the party’s nomination of a presidential candidate. (Richmond has represented most of the New Orleans area since the 2010 elections.)
I don’t want to start quoting the dictionary to a member of Congress here, but Congressman Richmond might want to look up what “disenfranchise” means. The word is actually defined as depriving someone of the right to vote, of power or of some right or privilege. We’re not talking about a public election here. Nobody has a “right” to vote for the nominee at your convention. It’s an honor bestowed under the rules of your party. And the idea that your position in the party’s power structure affords you some special powers or privileges above and beyond that of your voters around the country may have been a reality in practice in the past, but I don’t think the Democrats who participate in all of the primaries and caucuses are going to want to hear that.
Personally, I’ll be excited to see how this vote goes no matter which side prevails. If the establishment Democrats manage to keep the full power of the superdelegates they will be alienating those energized, newer voters making all the noise on the left. And if the power of the superdelegates is stripped, there’s a better chance that they’ll wind up abandoning the more sensible candidates and nominating a seriously fringe socialist. Either way, Republicans can just sit back and break out the popcorn.