"The DNC has learned nothing."
That was how the advocacy group People for Bernie reacted to reports late Friday that the rules and bylaws arm of the Democratic National Committee has moved ahead with a new resolution that, according to Yahoo News, would "force candidates in Democratic presidential primaries to state that they are Democrats" and "to 'run and serve' as a member" of the party.
"We just came off a devastating presidential loss in 2016. It would seem to me the actual impetus would be to expand the Democratic Party. I just for the life of me don't see any motivation for this beyond personal spite."
While allies of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who ran as a Democrat in the 2016 presidential primary while still identifying as an independent—said they don't expect the new rules to hinder Sanders' chances of running for the Democratic nomination in 2020 if he chooses to do so, many supporters of the Vermont senator characterized the rule change as a completely unnecessary "slap in the face" to progressive outsiders.
"We just came off a devastating presidential loss in 2016. It would seem to me the actual impetus would be to expand the Democratic Party. I just for the life of me don't see any motivation for this beyond personal spite," Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign, told Yahoo News. "I scratch my head and ask why they would want to make the party more narrow and more exclusive."
Other progressives echoed Longabaugh's critique of the new rule on social media, with many noting that such restrictions could demobilize large constituencies that are disaffected with both major political parties.
What defines a Democrat?
Supporting issues Democrats should support?
Taking money from Dem orgs & people only?
Or do we just care about labels? Because if that’s the case, most progressives don’t identify as Democrats anymore. That’s an existential crisis
— Nomiki Konst (@NomikiKonst) June 9, 2018
Because of the deterioration of our politics, for most folks “being a Dem” means you get the party’s fundraising emails, direct mails, solicitation calls, & robocalls. That’s about it. It’s not enough of a relationship. Hence the rise of independents & the “existential crisis”
— James J. Zogby (@jjz1600) June 9, 2018
This is pettiness. That’s all. Don’t mind the fact that there are more independents than there are Democrats in the U.S. and that perhaps they deserve the opportunity to have someone who identifies as one of them run to represent them. https://t.co/YpsffXNqya
— oliver larkin (@OliverALarkin) June 8, 2018
Democrats don't want Bernie-Most-Popular-Politician-In-America-Sanders running for President, but they're perfectly fine with Mark-Raise-The-Social-Security-Retirement-Age-Warner, because although he commonly votes with Republicans, he IDs as a Democrat https://t.co/SfLqyyc1wg
— People For Bernie (@People4Bernie) June 8, 2018
Following his 2016 presidential campaign, Sanders—who is now far-and-away the most popular politician in the country—repeatedly emphasized the importance of creating a more inclusive party organized around the needs of the poor and working class, not corporate donors.
"If the Democratic Party is going to succeed... it's gonna have to open its door to independents," Sanders said in an interview last April. "There are probably more independents in this country than Democrats or Republicans. It's got to open its doors to working people and to young people, create a grassroots party."
Speaking with Politico on Friday, Longabaugh argued that the DNC's new rule would do precisely the opposite, moving the party even closer to becoming an "exclusive club."
"I really don't get the motivation for the resolution at all," he said. "You know, Bernie Sanders got 13 million votes in 2016. Thousands, if not millions, of those votes were young people and independents he brought into the Democratic Party."
The full DNC is expected to hold a final vote on the new resolution in August.