Democrats grapple with Clinton-Sanders fallout ahead of 2018 election
Taylor Hill/WireImage(WASHINGTON) — The Democratic Party continues to deal with the fallout of the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders feud as it heads into the 2018 election cycle — issues that could potentially impact party unity heading into November.
The spat’s spillover was evident at the organization’s Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., on Friday as Democratic National Committee members discussed limiting the power of superdelegates and adding transparency to the budget process — controversies in the party that came to light in the 2016 election.
A book by Donna Brazile, former interim Democratic National Committee chairwoman, revealed the strong ties between the DNC and Clinton’s presidential campaign, and the ways in which that relationship potentially hindered Sanders’ bid for the nomination.
The claims sent shock waves through the organization and, for some Sanders supporters, served as proof that the internal processes were in need of reform.
“We’re moving very proactively and successfully to bring together the factions in the party and overcome the division,” Rules and Bylaws Committee co-chairman Jim Roosevelt of Massachusetts told ABC News.
The proposed reforms are part of the Report of the Unity Reform Commission, which addresses ways to increase participation in the presidential process and how to handle the role of the so-called superdelegates.
Leah Daughtry, the CEO of the 2016 Democratic National Convention and member of the rules committee, said it’s normal for a party to do a review process.
“I think that, after every convention, there are issues that need resolving. It’s a point of review where people sort of reflect on what happened,” she told ABC News, “particularly when we’re not successful in winning the White House.”
The biggest issue before the committee members, who range from state chairs to party members, is what to do about the superdelegates, the unpledged delegates who can vote for whomever they want during the presidential nomination process and don’t have to follow the will of the voters.
Sanders supporters complained in 2016 that superdelegates gave Clinton an unfair advantage. Ironically, those delegates helped Barack Obama win over Clinton in 2008 before supporting her eight years later.
The rules committee members have to tread carefully, as superdelegates consist of some of the most powerful members of the party — former presidents, governors, members of Congress and DNC members. None of them would like to see their voting power diminish.
The commission report calls for a reduction of over 400 superdelegates, which is a nearly 60 percent reduction.
But a proposal in the rules committee meeting would not allow superdelegates to vote in the first round of ballots at the convention, but would allow them to vote on a second ballot, which happens when there’s no consensus candidate. That proposal will be discussed further at next week’s DNC meeting.
“There’s a clear consensus that the status quo will change,” Roosevelt said of the superdelegates. “Whether that impacts all automatic delegates or only the automatic delegates who are not members of Congress or governors remains to be seen.”
He noted it’s a “continuous” issue “because this is asking a group to limit its own power. That’s always a challenging question.”
The commission’s report also recommended the party operate in an “open and transparent” manner that would include presenting the DNC budget to the full membership at scheduled meetings.
Brazile, who served as interim chair of the party after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned during the party’s convention in Philadelphia, revealed in her book Hacks that she discovered the DNC was deeply in debt and basically run by Clinton’s campaign upon her arrival.
The commission made the budget recommendations in part because of her concerns.
Don Fowler, who chaired the DNC from 1995 to 1997, warned during the meeting that the party’s budget can become a “very sensitive political matter.”
Many Democrats are concerned that if the party’s spending plans become public, it would tip their political game plan for the upcoming election. Republicans would be able to see the spending plans for various states and election operations, such as get-out-the-vote efforts, and respond accordingly.
The purpose of the Thursday and Friday rules meetings were to take the temperature of committee members on the Unity Commission’s recommendations before a deep dive is done on the final language, which could happen when rules members meet again at the DNC Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., next week — or the final vote could come later this year at the summer meeting.
The Rules and Bylaws Committee has six months from the report’s Dec. 8 submission date to review the matter before it makes a final recommendation to DNC members on what should be adopted.
The final date for that to happen is unclear. It could happen at the party’s summer meeting – a date for which has not been set — or it could have to wait until after the midterm elections, meaning the Clinton-Sanders fallout could haunt the party for months to come.
“This was a well-thought-out series of reforms that will really help unify the party,” said Jeff Weaver, the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 bid and a member of the Unity Reform Commission. “It is very important for the party going forward to be able to win in the midterms and to be able to win in 2020 to have a unified party. And the way you do that is you try to achieve unity through reform.”
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