In my first article in my series on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) Unity and Reform Commission, I went through the the enabling resolution and its clear mandate and objectives:
In sum, the URC’s job is actually rather straightforward and simple if they follow their mandate: (1) prohibit caucuses where state governments hold primaries; (2) make caucuses as much like primaries as possible; and, (3) adopt the Super Delegate reform outlined in the DNC enabling resolution.
If the URC does these things, the significant deficiencies in its makeup will become a footnote. However, if it does not, the problems will likely be traced to how the URC came to be and its structure. To understand the URC, you have to understand the context in which it was formed.
After the end of the primaries in the 2016 contest in early June, Bernie Sanders refused to concede the race and expressly campaigned for Super Delegates to overturn the pledged delegate result. Politics is what it is, but it was certainly a brazen act by Sanders in light of his earlier calls for the Super Delegates to respect the pledged delegate result. Indeed, Sanders now is a thunderous opponent of Super Delegates even existing. Indeed, Sanders made a concerted public relations push for his preferred rules for the 2020 campaign in a Politico article:
Last year, Secretary Hillary Clinton and I agreed upon the need for a Unity Reform Commission to move the party in a new and more democratic direction. In a few weeks, this group will have its final meeting in Washington, D.C., and will decide if we are going to move forward in an inclusive way or continue with the current failed approach. [. . .]
What are some of the reforms that are desperately needed? First, it is absurd that the Democratic Party now gives over 700 superdelegates—almost one-third the number a presidential candidate needs to win the nomination—the power to control the nominating process and ignore the will of voters.
Second, in contrast to Republicans, Democrats believe in making voting easier, not harder. We believe in universal and same-day voter registration and ending antiquated, arbitrary and discriminatory voter registration laws. These same principles must apply to our primaries. [. . .]
Third, in states that use caucuses, we must make it easier for working people and students to participate. While there is much to be said for bringing people together, face to face to discuss why they support the candidate of their choice, not everybody is able to participate because of work, child care or other obligations. A process must be developed that gives everyone the right to cast a vote even if they are not physically able to attend a caucus. (My emphasis)
There is much to discuss about this Sanders article, and I will give it a full treatment in my next article. But for now please look at the two bolded excerpts and think how they simply do not make sense. If you believe in making voting easier, then by definition, you must oppose caucuses. Senator Sanders does not. And it’s obvious why not — he performed best in caucuses when voting was HARDER To wit, in 2016, Bernie Sanders’ best friend was institutional voter suppression through caucuses. Nothing illustrated this point better than the conflicting results between the Washington caucus run by the Washington State Democratic Party and the open, all mail in primary held by the state government of Washington. In the caucuses, Sanders won an overwhelming victory giving him a net gain of delegate of nearly 50 delegates, by far his best performance of the campaign. But he lost the primary by 6 percentage points. The Washington State Democratic Party had designated the caucus as the contest that chose their delegates.
The problem with that? The process that made voting easier — the primary, produced over 660,000 votes. The caucus Sanders won? Around 220,000. As Bernie Sanders said, “Democrats believe in making voting easier, not harder.” But Bernie Sanders performed immensely better when voting was suppressed. This explains his praise and acceptance of caucuses that suppress voters.
Nothing wrong with that in the abstract, Bernie Sanders should be for Bernie Sanders. But what about the URC? Should it be for Bernie Sanders too? No it should not.
For all the talk of “rigging” the 2016 nomination contest, no rules were changed to favor any candidate. The schedule favored Bernie Sanders. Caucuses favored Bernie Sanders.
But now we are developing rules for 2020 that may very well be rigged for Bernie Sanders. Keep in mind, unlike any other potential 2020 candidate, Bernie Sanders has designated a third of the delegates to the URC. Hillary Clinton designated 9 to Sanders’ 7, but Hillary won’t be a candidate in 2020. Sanders might be.
Back in the summer of 2016, the purpose of creating the URC was to unify the Party, after a very divisive race and especially, a very divisive month after the primaries. No one really thought the issue through.
But now we are stuck with a Commission whose structure is inherently unfair to any potential candidate not named Bernie Sanders — no other potential candidate will have a voice or a say on what the rules will be in 2020. Only Bernie Sanders will.
This is a recipe for disaster. To counter charges of “rigging,” the DNC has rigged the commission that will propose reforms for 2020.
The good news is, as I explained in my first article, that the URC enabling resolution is remarkably specific about what should happen. If that roadmap is followed, we should be fine. But if the mandate of the resolution is ignored, and rules favoring Sanders are adopted, the cries of rigging will ring in our ears, and this time, on the merits.