Not only are superdelegates undemocratic by their nature but also, the system of superdelegates lends itself to manipulation of the nomination process. In the last primary presidential campaign, by mid-November 2015, fully 11 weeks before any state primary or caucus, Hillary Clinton had already gained a commitment of support from 50% of all superdelegates.
One thing that contributed to the extremely early superdelegate commitments of loyalty to Clinton was the DNC's creation of a joint fundraising agreement with the Clinton campaign and with the state parties. The agreement provided for wealthy donors to aggregate contributions, for a total of $700,000 each, or $1.4 million per married couple, to the DNC -- to be distributed to the DNC, the Clinton campaign and the state Democratic parties.
The agreement encouraged DP state elected officials to pledge early support to Clinton. This helped create an appearance of inevitability of Clinton's nomination. This was a sizable advantage for Clinton that Bernie Sanders did not have.
All 438 members of the Democratic National Committee are superdelegates. Yet, in the past month, according to news reports, the DNC actually removed from its ranks supporters of Keith Ellison such as New Hampshire Democratic Chair Ray Buckley, the first trans person elected to the DNC, Barb Siperstein, and Ellison's former secretary, Alice Germond. This doesn't mean that every progressive DNC member was removed but some analysts find this trend to be contrary to commitments by party leadership to unify the party.
JB: Yikes! What else?
PG: In addition, newly voted DNC membership continues to include representatives of some of the biggest money interests in the country as well as former Clinton operatives.
Pia Gallegos: The representatives of some of the biggest money interests in the country as well as former Clinton operatives include:
- Former lobbyist Jeff Berman, who represented the private prison group GEO group the Keystone XL pipeline company,
- Maria Cardona and Minyon Moore, senior officials at Dewey Square Partners who represented predatory lender, Countrywide Financial,
- Joanne Dowdell, a senior executive in the lobbying division for the Fox News parent corporation News Corp,
- Lobbyists for anti-environmental interests and coal interests,
- Clinton advisors and campaign operatives such as her fundraiser, national finance co-chair, and a state campaign director
PG: This is what hangs in the balance of the DNC decision to reform the nominating process: Will DNC members, including but not exclusive to those bulleted above, and other superdelegates, be able to vote according to their personal interests, or will the next presidential nomination be decided democratically by the voters?
Superdelegates are not the equivalent of smoke-filled back rooms because there is more transparency. However, through their lawyers, DNC officials have claimed that they are under no obligation to be fair or impartial during the nomination process. In 2016, DNC donors, Sanders donors and registered Democrats filed a lawsuit against the DNC and its chair alleging that defendants acted to tip the scales in Clinton's favor during the primaries. During the case, attorneys for defendants asserted that DNC officers are not legally bound to the Charter. The Autopsy quotes from the hearing transcript:
We could have voluntarily decided that, 'Look, we're gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.' That's not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right.
The DNC fraud case, which attempted to hold DNC officers accountable to the DNC Charter promise of neutrality in the nomination process, was dismissed by the federal court. This leaves us Democrats with the reality that the rules and procedures of the Democrats have to be democratically written because we can't rely on the political vision of the DNC leadership.
Democratic Party activists are attending the Unity Reform Commission meeting to encourage the Commission to democratize the nomination process.
JB: Clinton was able to seize control of the DNC because of its precarious financial situation. So, what chance do those of us who are not lobbyists or representing big money have of wresting power away from them? According to what I've read and what you're reporting, they're busy both culling progressives and pushing 1%ers. It's a disturbing, anti-democratic move. What can we do to help?
PG: It's about the basic work of the Democratic Party:
Help us go door to door to understand the needs of our community.