Favorite

Changing rules in the Democratic Party 

The opening afternoon session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia was a rambunctious one. Lost in the clamor was an agreement by the forces of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to significantly revise the party rules related to the presidential nomination process. It sets the stage for the third significant overhaul of those rules in the last 50 years and will define who wins and who loses future Democratic nomination battles. While Bernie Sanders will not be around as a candidate in those elections, candidates like him will be advantaged.

That Monday afternoon, Sanders delegates and supporters were loud and unified in their frustration with a Democratic National Committee for its perceived bias toward the Clinton nomination. Within that din, the Sanders campaign won two significant victories. First, as we heard numerous times throughout the convention, the Democratic Party ratified "the most progressive platform in the party's history," with significant shifts on the minimum wage, regulation of Wall Street, political money and student debt — all propelled by the Sanders campaign. Second, the party agreed to create a "unity commission" to revise nomination rules. While these rules will be drafted over the next couple of years and must be ratified by the Democratic National Committee, motions adopted at the convention mandate that such rules must reduce the influence of superdelegates in the nomination process by at least two-thirds.

Tinkering with Democratic nomination rules began in the aftermath of the 1968 process through which Hubert Humphrey was able to win the nomination without entering a single primary contest. The supporters of progressives like Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, who had dominated the 1968 Democratic primaries, won a consolation prize with the party's commitment to revise party rules for future nomination processes. Sen. George McGovern co-chaired the McGovern-Fraser Commission that modernized the rules through which delegates were selected for future conventions. These rule changes — which required the linking of the votes in primaries and caucuses to delegate allocations and also required that those delegates reflect the party demographically — ensured that traditional outsiders in politics would have an ongoing role in the party, to the detriment of party bosses.

While the core of those reforms remain in place, "superdelegates" were introduced following the contentious nomination battle of 1980 between President Jimmy Carter and Edward Kennedy. Carter locked up sufficient delegates early in the nomination cycle to ultimately ensure him the nomination, but many perceived Carter to be a weaker candidate in the general election context against Ronald Reagan. After the 1980 election, North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt chaired a commission that created "superdelegates" — elected officials and other party leaders who are explicitly unbound to any candidate, allowing them, when the party is closely divided, to support the most electable candidate at the time of the convention. "We must also give our convention more flexibility to respond to changing circumstances and, in cases where the voters' mandate is less than clear, to make a reasoned choice," the commission's report stated. These unpledged delegates now make up just under 15 percent of all delegates.

While superdelegates have never deviated from the will of bound delegates since their creation, they often do give an establishment candidate — like Clinton — a significant head start in the process, making the path to nomination more complicated for an outsider candidate. The system was particularly aggravating to Sanders supporters, many of whom were new to electoral politics and cynical of the voting power of superdelegates, who they considered elites. Thus, the strong efforts to swing the pendulum back toward a purer voice for rank-and-file activists through the total elimination of superdelegates. The effort to completely eliminate superdelegates failed, but the Clinton and Sanders delegates reached a compromise to reduce their influence, by reducing their numbers.

Hillary Clinton had little to lose in such a deal. Her campaign anticipates that she will be an incumbent running for reelection in 2020 and would not be impacted by such rules. In the election cycles to follow, however, candidates with grassroots support in an increasingly progressive Democratic Party will be better positioned than in any election cycle since McGovern won the 1972 nomination with the rules he helped write.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Jay Barth

  • Gun politics

    "You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you." Despite that promise by President Trump at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in April, the days ahead are going to produce challenges for the gun rights lobby.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • A failed experiment

    Many consequential news events — from local to international — are getting lost in this era of nonstop, overlapping "breaking news" stories regarding all things Donald Trump.
    • Jun 15, 2017
  • Press slammed

    Last week, the American media got another battering, in the form of a Montana congressional candidate's brutal attack on a young reporter simply doing his job.
    • Jun 1, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Jay Barth

  • Gun politics

    "You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you." Despite that promise by President Trump at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in April, the days ahead are going to produce challenges for the gun rights lobby.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • A failed experiment

    Many consequential news events — from local to international — are getting lost in this era of nonstop, overlapping "breaking news" stories regarding all things Donald Trump.
    • Jun 15, 2017
  • Press slammed

    Last week, the American media got another battering, in the form of a Montana congressional candidate's brutal attack on a young reporter simply doing his job.
    • Jun 1, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Football for UA Little Rock

    • He's BSC. Students and tuition-paying parents should be VERY vocal that a football program won't…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • I have attended community meetings about the recent spike in violence in LR, and police…

    • on July 22, 2017
  • Re: Pay attention

    • Adawson's comments attribute the plight of black people in the United States to the War…

    • on July 22, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation