Democrats take steps to reform presidential primaries


The Democrats nationally have taken steps to address the concerns of the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic party. The Sanders coalition railed bitterly about the use of Superdelegates, those people given independent delegate status by virtue of their having been elected officials (which makes total sense), having worked for years helping build the party (an SD that I met had been a union organizer for decades, turning out the vote for the Dems her whole working career, the new Bernie people hated that she somehow outranked them in the process). Also big donors are sometimes given SD status as thanks for their financial support of candidates.

The new rules are a mixed bag for Sanders supporters, but they were at the table for these so they should now be able to go back to their get out the vote campaign so Ds can actually win back the Senate and House.

Rule 1 is that Superdelegates now have less power on the first ballot. They will have to wait for a second ballot before weighing in. Never the less, neither Barack Obama nor Hilary Clinton needed to have these rules in place. With the juggernaut of Obama approaching, the SDs rolled over to the inevitable winner of the nominating process, and Hilary all but threw in the towel before the convention.

The nomination in 2016 was never in doubt for the Clinton. A majority of Democrats voting in primaries were for her, especially in the south, where Sanders was a virtual unknown and he took no real steps to fight her there.

But the accusations by the Sanders Democrats of ‘fixing’ the election for Hilary found some fertile ground, and the Democratic party gave in to their demands. The compromise feels like it should silence them now, since both sides win something. Bernie’s people can go into the next primary season feeling like the SDs can’t be the final arbiters (though anyone who knows that a convention that goes to the second round can be even more contentious than the first).

Rule 2 is a bit more problematic for Bernie’s folks. The D’s decided to press for primary elections and move away from caucuses. In some places that might have helped Bernie, but not in Washington, where Bernie’s people came out in force for caucuses, but Clinton won the non binding primary. I’m sure we’ll have a fight if the state Dems decide to move to just a primary. But in places like Nevada they are likely to do that without a thought. I heard many older people, saying that they didn’t come out to the caucuses because they were intimidated by the anger that some of the Bernie supporters were showing when they were seen wearing Clinton buttons around town.

Rule 3 is simply to push for more transparency and access to caucuses. Allowing last minute registration, and other rules that didn’t seem to effect Jefferson County.

The hope is that now that Bernie’s people have got the Superdelegates pushed to the second ballot, they will close that chapter, stop rehashing their loss and go back to the job of getting out the vote for this fall. There are great candidates running in many hotly contested races, and all hands are needed on deck. If I have learned anything from being a youth in Chicago, to a lifetime voting in every election since I could vote, it’s that sometimes you lose, and there is always a next time. Congratulations to the Dems for coming up with a workable way forward to attempt to bring everyone into line.

2 Responses

  1. I could be wrong but to my knowledge, other than for the 2016 elections, Bernie Sanders has never filed as a Democrat. So it will be interesting to see if he and his supporters will now promote more Independents as “Progressives” or still fly under the D banner he’s never fully embraced.

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