(First in a series.)
On Jan. 19-20, 2018, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Rules and Bylaws Committee will take up the Unity and Reform Commission’s (URC) proposed recommendations for reform of the 2020 Presidential Nomination Rules. You can read the report here (PDF).
The report addresses four distinct topics. Today I address the URC’s violation of its mandate and its recommendation to support voter suppression through caucuses.
The URC was a fiasco that ignored its prime directive: to encourage the use of primaries over caucuses.
The Commission shall make recommendations to encourage the expanded use of primary elections.
The Commission failed to do that, violating its mandate. Instead the URC report states:
The Commission understands and respects the role caucuses have played in the nominating process to cultivate and grow grassroots participation and build the party, but acknowledges the need to develop better guidelines for State Parties on caucuses to ensure increased involvement and easier accessibility.
The URC tabled a proposal to require state parties to use primaries when provided for by individual states.
For example, the states of Washington, Nebraska, and Idaho provide that they will fund and hold primaries (open or closed, as desired by the political parties) but instead the Democratic parties in these states are permitted by the DNC (and the URC proposed recommendations) to hold voter-suppressing caucuses in clear violation of the URC’s mandate to “encourage the expanded use of primary elections."
Let’s put this in plain terms: the Democratic Party has received a recommendation by the URC to encourage institutional voter suppression. Let’s repeat that: it has been recommended to the Democratic Party that it support VOTER SUPPRESSION.
This is unconscionable. It can not stand. The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee must reject this recommendation. It must adopt the proposal put forth that honors the Democratic Party’s commitment to voter rights and to greater voter participation. It must reject the URC’s recommendation to countenance institutional voter suppression in its presidential nomination process. There is no other choice.
The URC claims:
We recognize that voting rights in the United States are under attack and that turnout has fallen below the rest of the developed world. The Commission members, regardless of who appointed them, stand united to work for change inside our Party and across our nation.
This is a lie. The URC embraced voter suppression through its embrace of caucuses. It is party to the denial of voting rights. This is a disgrace.
The URC’s embrace of voter suppression through caucuses must be rejected. To do otherwise makes a mockery of the Democratic Party’s criticism of the Republican Party’s voter suppression schemes. What moral standing could the Democratic Party have to criticize voter suppression when it has baked voter suppression into its own presidential nomination process?
The URC’s blatant violation of its mandate and its violation of principles of democracy that supposedly are bedrocks of the Democratic Party can not stand.
The solution on this point is easy: adopt the recommendation to require state Democratic Parties use primary elections when provided for by their state governments. It’s that simple, and there is no principled reason to not do this.
This proposal would NOT, contrary to the mendacious claims of URC members, impact the Iowa caucus. The Iowa state government does NOT provide primaries for presidential nomination process. Nor would they ever—Iowa’s status as first in the nation is entirely dependent on Iowa holding caucuses, not primaries. The claims of certain URC members to the contrary are bald-faced lies.
This is a no-brainer. The Democratic Party must stand with the rights of voters and against voter suppression. It must reject the URC’s embrace of voter suppression through caucuses.
NOTE: The URC has a bunch of window-dressing “reforms” for caucuses that they will claim address the issue. They are lying. There is nothing wrong with these particular recommendations, but they do not address the fundamental issue: caucuses, reformed or unreformed, suppress voters. Primaries draw many more voters than caucuses, by magnitudes of three or four. There is no defense for caucuses when primaries are available. It is that simple.