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Protesters have gathered at the Democratic National Committee's annual summer meeting to protest the use of superdelegates, which Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) supporters say unfairly swung the 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

'Give Democracy a Chance': Ahead of DNC Vote, Progressives Unite to Demand Party End Supremacy of Superdelegates

"If the DNC rejects this, it basically rejects the will of the convention."

Julia Conley

With protesters rallying outside the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) annual meeting in Chicago this week, carrying signs demanding that the Democratic Party "live up to its name," progressive groups in favor of limiting the outsized power of superdelegates urged the committee to embrace a plan aimed at honoring the will of voters.

Opponents of the proposal—including 2016 superdelegates hoping to hang on to their disproportionate ability to select a presidential nominee—pledged to lobby aggressively in favor of keeping the superdelegate system as it is.

But supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) argued that doing so would not only be unjust to voters in favor of a more progressive Democratic platform, but also imperil the party.

"If the DNC rejects this," when it votes on Saturday, Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign, told Politico, "it basically rejects the will of the convention."

In the 2016 election, most superdelegates threw their support behind Hillary Clinton, with many going against the majority of their constituents who had voted for Sanders in the primary.

The resulting outrage among the party's progressive wing led to the formation of the Unity Reform Commission and its proposal to strip superdelegates of their outsize influence. Earlier this year, the plan won the support of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee and a scheduled vote on Saturday by the entire body of party delegates will see it either adopted or defeated.

As The Real News reported from the Chicago inside and outside the delegate meeting on Friday:

As a coalition of proponents, including RootsAction.org and Progressive Democrats of America, wrote to DNC members in an letter ahead of the vote, "All we are saying is give democracy a chance." The groups explained:

[The proposal] would prevent superdelegates from casting a vote on the first ballot at the 2020 Democratic National Convention—unless one of the candidates has already secured enough democratically elected "pledged" delegates in primaries and caucuses to win the nomination outright.

On Saturday, passage of this proposal from the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee would give a big lift to Democratic Party outreach and enthusiasm nationwide—indicating that the party is opening toward grassroots democracy.

More broadly, grassroots activists are urging increased democratic participation and financial transparency to strengthen the party and help it win more elections.

Fearing the plan's popularity, opponents have claimed that a change to the party's nominating system should require a two-thirds vote instead of a simple majority—an argument Jeff Cohen of RootsAction.org rejected.

"We've got so much wrongheaded and uninformed backlash," Cohen told Politico. "The stupidity would be, a couple of months before the election, picking a fight with the [Democratic] base."

Ahead of Saturday's vote on the issue, Our Revolution circulated a petition calling on proponents of a fair voting system to add their name to the list of supporters of a number of democracy-strengthening initiatives.

"We've made huge strides in the Rules and Bylaws Committee by passing a resolution from Chair [Tom] Perez that all superdelegates stand down from voting on the nomination of the presidential candidate on the first ballot at the 2020 convention," reads the petition. "Now, we need your support as we continue to advocate for democratizing primaries and caucuses with same-day party registration and increasing transparency and oversight in DNC spending."


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