A Super Decision by the DNC?

Perhaps you can call it a political revolution.

Democratic Party officials voted Saturday to strip superdelegates of much of their power in the presidential nominating process, infuriating many traditionalists while handing a victory to the party’s left flank.

The measure’s overwhelming approval – met by cheers in a hotel ballroom here – concluded a tense summer meeting of the Democratic National Committee, which had labored over the issue since 2016. Superdelegates that year largely sided with Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, enraging Sanders’ supporters.

Under the new rule, superdelegates – the members of Congress, DNC members and other top officials who made up about 15 percent of delegates that year – will not be allowed to vote on the first ballot at a contested national convention. The change could dramatically re-shape the calculous of future presidential campaigns, rendering candidates’ connections to superdelegates less significant…

While long a priority of Sanders and his supporters, the effort to reduce superdelegates’ clout was embraced more broadly in recent months by Democratic Party officials desperate to win over young voters skeptical of centralized party power.

Perez described the change as “historic,” and DNC organizers played a video message from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in which the former DNC chairman cast the measure it as an urgent response “to the will of grassroots voters.”

Many young voters, Dean said, “have lost faith in our party’s nominating process, and make no mistake, this is a perception that’s cost us at the ballot box.”

The rule change faced intense opposition from a band of longtime Democratic Party officials who said the measure would disenfranchise party insiders. Their efforts appeared to gain momentum when Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond publicly urged DNC members to oppose the overhaul…

But despite furious lobbying here, the defenders of superdelegates fell short in a procedural vote Saturday, then conceded before the overhaul was approved.

Superdelegates will now be allowed to vote on the first ballot at a national convention only if a candidate earned enough pledged delegates from state primaries and caucuses to win the nomination, anyway.

Will this change necessarily result in a more progressive Democratic presidential nominee in 2020? That remains to be seen; I’m cynical enough to think that an “establishment” Democrat could still wind up with the party’s nomination two years from now. This decision will also do little to dispel the idea that the DNC dismisses progressive concerns:

While opponents of the change eventually gave up their push, allowing the vote by acclamation, the DNC’s image problems on the left persist in other ways.

Two weeks before the Chicago meeting, the DNC bowed to pressure from labor unions and unraveled a rule that barred any donations from fossil-fuel industry political action committees. That led to a brief protest Thursday afternoon by the Sunrise Movement, an environmentalist group, whose members stood up and sung an anti-fossil-fuel song at the beginning of one DNC committee meeting.

“Sometimes, social media is not an accurate communicator of facts,” Perez said. “The fact is, under my leadership, we’ve taken zero dollars from the fossil-fuel industry. That’s a fact. That’s not an alternative fact.”

Today’s decision makes the 2020 Democratic National Convention perhaps the most anticipated in years. At least unlike the Republican National Convention, it won’t glorify hate and fear.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.