By Kerri Barber 

If Bernie earns 25% of the delegates, roughly 1200, through the ongoing primary race, he will have a right to place representatives on the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. It becomes critical to have at least one person representing progressives who understands the complexity of the rules to hold the line against the push to reset the convention rules and remove the 2018 reform. 

Bernie needs less than 200 more delegates to achieve this right and they must be won during the remaining primary races.

Under the cover of a global pandemic and social uprising, Democratic National Convention (DNC) members have hatched a clandestine maneuver to repeal the so called superdelegate reform. 

One of the big achievements for the progressive movement after the brutal 2016 primary was winning a voting reform to Superdelegates that restricted when and how Party Leadership could cast a vote for a Presidential nominee.

The term Superdelegate was an informal term coined by corporate media to describe the unbalanced influence Party Leaders held as unpledged nominating delegates. These delegates are Statewide and Federal Democratic elected officials that are automatically invited to the convention. Prior to the rule change, they could also vote on the first ballot to decide who the Democratic presidential nominee would be, that meant casting their vote months or even an entire year before a single Democratic voter voted.

During the 2016 primary, the media often used an unofficial Superdelegate count to mislead voters across the country about which  primary candidate had the support necessary to win the nomination. This ultimately stifles Democratic turnout in November for a variety of reasons. As long as Party Leaders could add undo influence to the process there would be a negative impact on Democratic turnout nationwide and Democrats would lose the Presidency.

Months of negotiations and rule change proposals took place in 2017 – 2018 with the final rule being ratified in Chicago at the Rules and Bylaws meeting. There, it was determined that the so-called Superdelegate would be renamed “automatic” delegates as they would retain an automatic invitation to the convention. However, these delegates would no longer be permitted to cast a vote on the first ballot. That vote would be restricted to the pledged delegates for each presidential candidate elected in every state during the primary. 

This was a tremendous victory for the progressive movement to provide parity in the nominating process and allow rank and file party members greater say in which nominee would represent the party in the general presidential election. 

The only way an automatic delegate can cast a vote on the first ballot is by giving up the automatic delegate status and running as a pledged delegate. Very few, if any, every opt  to go this route. 

Retaining the status of the automatic delegates helps ordinary party members by limiting the need to compete for delegate elections against their own governor, state representative or other prominent party member with a bully pulpit and name recognition. In short, the average person could still participate in shaping the party, run for elections as a delegate, and attend the DNC convention to cast a vote on the first ballot. 

 

The Reform Fight

Few Democrats realize just how hard the fight was to achieve the superdelegate reform and how long the back-and-forth debate was over the exact wording of the rule proposed. Neoliberals members fought reform every step of the way and, once they lost the final vote, immediately began working to reverse the change. They settled on the convention rules as their best chance to erase reforms. 

The ruse is simple and relies on how the changes to the rules document actually takes place. Every four years, during the midterm elections, the prior set of rules are reviewed with the red line changes, never starting from a clean slate. 

When the superdelegate reform was passed in the Rules and Bylaws Committee process, it did so with a simple majority vote of 51%/ To impose a change to the full DNC charter, however, would have required a full ⅔ vote, and the support at that time just was not there. 

Fast forward to the present and the challenge of the global pandemic where DNC members are pushing for a virtual convention instead of in-person. Add in enough DNC members who do not know the existing party rules and you have a recipe for deceit and cover to undo the rules changes and stage a coup of the DNC convention itself. 

In May 2020, the Rules and Bylaws Committee met via a sparsely attended phone meeting where the convention rules were discussed. The issue was whether the convention rules could be unilaterally changed without a vote by the DNC delegates. The proposal was then to be sent to DNC member to vote Yea or Nay. The problem was the entire question was never issued to DNC members. The only indication of what they were voting on was a vague reference to the prior meeting and not the full proposed change itself. 

 

“Do you vote yes or no on the matter decided by the rules and bylaws phone conference.“

DNC members have so far responded without a single question as to what exactly they are voting for. 

They are actually voting on granting the Rules and Bylaws Committee unilateral control to revise the convention rules and remove two items of authority for elected pledged delegates at the convention. 

One of these critical items is the right to refuse or accept the convention rules. By neglecting to even ask what the rule change is, they are stripping elected pledged delegates from a right to vote at the convention on the very convention rules. 

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Washington State DNC Delegate David McDonald

The neoliberal culprit behind all of the back-room dealing is David McDonald. McDonald is the same detractor from Washington State who tried to stall delegate process reforms years ago.He had pledged to get the reforms reversed as soon as they were ratified by vote in 2018. 

 

“18% of the DNC  is appointed by the Chair and they become 60% of the gatekeepers for change at the DNC, as members of the committees.” – David McDonald at DNC Rules & Bylaws meeting discussing #UnityReformCommission report in 2018. 



Erasing the Evidence

Whatever alternation they make to the convention rules they make at the convention will be gone for future iterations. This is because the current red lining edit tracking process that creates a version control system with discussion and vote would no longer be in place at the next convention when the committee reopens the rules for debate. All prior changes will not be present, including the critical nuanced verbiage so hard fought for superdelegate reform. 

This is the ultimate example of a secret double blind deal and this is exactly what David McDonald and his cohorts are after. 

Don E. Ford was part of the original negotiations in 2017-2018 and personally argued with McDonald on behalf of progressives reformers. As a progressive strategist, Ford is deeply concerned at the cavalier way current DNC members are handling a vote when they do not even know what they are voting for and the underhanded way the rules will obfuscate the collusion for regressives like McDonald. 

Ford says, “This is the only way they can make this disappear quietly, If they are successful in removing it, it will be gone forever. It was extremely challenging to get this rule in place to begin with and the original reform literally took months of negotiations. It was not an easy process and now there is far less leverage than we had before.” 

 

Our Revolutions Misinformation to Prospective Delegates

To make matters worse, one prominent grassroots organization is actively assisting in miscommunication and appears to be using the superdelegate issue as a call to action, but in the wrong direction. 

ourrevolutionemail
Partial text of an Our Revolution Email issued to members.

Our Revolution recently issued communications misrepresenting the process to potential elected delegates. In a recent email they stated: 

 

“At the 2020 Democratic National Convention, delegates will determine the future of “superdelegates” in the Democratic Party — if we have enough progressive votes, we could permanently get rid of superdelegates.

These delegates will also determine if policies like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal will make it into the 2020 Democratic Party platform.”

Progressive Insider reached out to President Joseph Geevarghese and Paco Fabian, Director of Campaigns at Our Revolution to obtain clarification on the email. At the time of this writing, neither have responded. 

The vote for a virtual caucus is likely to pass, meaning for the first time in party history, there will be no in-person convention. This means the Rules and Bylaws committee final meeting will also be a virtual session and will occur around the time of the convention. 

If Bernie achieves a total of 1200 delegates through this primary election, he will have a right to place at least one representative on the Rules and Bylaws Committee. It becomes critical to have at least one progressive on the committee who understands the complexity of the rules and is willing to hold the line on key reforms. Sanders needs to win about 200 more delegates in the remaining primary races. 

If Sanders does achieve the 1200 delegate threshold, he must have representation on the Rules and Bylaws  Committee to stop the regressive dealings and help offer grassroots supporters the transparency they deserve in this process after thousands of hours of dedicated blood, sweat and tears during yet another  contentious primary campaign.