The reforms would address most of 2016's anti-democratic features. But there's more vetting before they come before full DNC.
Like a slow-motion car crash, the Berniecrat wing of the Democratic Party appears to be heading toward a collision with the party's leadership over adopting reforms that will guide the intricacies of 2020's presidential nominating contest.
The reform slate, negotiated by a Unity Reform Commission created during the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, addresses the most glaring anti-democratic features of the party's last presidential nominating contest.
These could be very significant reforms. They include cutting by 60 percent the number of superdelegates, the unpledged delegates who accounted for one-sixth of all the votes cast to nominate 2016's candidate. (Almost all backed Hillary Clinton, despite Bernie Sanders winning 46 percent of delegates from primaries and caucuses.) The reforms would professionalize caucuses, including disclosing vote counts (which didn't happen in Iowa and Nevada). They would reform primaries to include same-day voter registration and allow independents to participate (unlike New York). They would impose new standards for financial transparency and avoiding conflicts of interest.
The looming conflict concerns the pace and process for bringing these reforms before the entire Democratic National Committee, which would then vote to adopt or reject them. In short, the grassroots-led Berniecrat wing wants the reforms adopted as a package without further delay or modifications.
In contrast, longtime party officials say the package is moving through a standard process, and will next be vetted by the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee. The RBC will decide whether to amend them, before presenting them to the full DNC for a vote. (Any changes by the rules panel will go back to the Reform Commission, which can endorse them or bring its original proposal to the floor. In essence, that means there could be two competing proposals before the DNC when it meets later this year.)
On Friday, Our Revolution, the campaign organization created by Sanders' campaign leaders, sent out an email launching a campaign and pushing for swift action to adopt the reforms as-is.
"We've come a long way since the Unity Reform Commission was unanimously adopted by 4,500 Democratic convention delegates in Philadelphia," the e-mail said, signed by the eight Sanders-appointed members of the Unity Reform Commission. "Recently, DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee took up the URC's final recommendations...Our mandates are not aspirations. They have already been debated and negotiated. The DNC should adopt and implement these reforms."
That tone was amplified by Norm Solomon, co-founder of 2016's Bernie Delegates Network and the grassroots group Roots Action, who said the time for DNC ratification was past due. "We reached a compromise. We've got a package. If there's a successful effort to fracture this package, then it works to the disadvantage of everything," he said. "At Roots Action, we're working with other groups to raise hell from the grassroots. The trajectory that we are on right now is not good."
One longtime party leader contacted by AlterNet rolled his eyes when hearing about the Berniecrats' demands, saying the faction was impatient, does not understand the process, and that it's a mistake to turn this effort into an all-or-nothing equation. Another party leader said the Berniecrats are making incorrect assumptions about how several thousand DNC members are likely to vote on the reforms, because they want a party that can grow and win elections.
"The newer folks are looking for what I consider, in some cases, to be massive and difficult changes to make overnight, right?" said Debbie Kozikowski, Massachusetts Party vice-chair and a longtime grassroots activist. "Nothing happens overnight. The biggest problem we have with the new participants in '16 is they didn't understand the rules as they existed. You can't change the rules by snapping your fingers. You have to know the rules so you can change them. I think the Democratic Party's job, at this point, is to make sure the rules are public -- but let's make sure that people know them and understand them. Treat everything like a teachable moment, right?"
When told about the latest campaign to pressure the DNC, she was blunt.
"I think they are going to yell and scream, and that's unfortunate because it doesn't get you anywhere," Kozikowski said. "Enough yelling and screaming. Figure out what the rules are and come back at it. It's not over, right? If they don't get everything they want now, it doesn't mean the ballgame is over. It just means there's an extended playtime, right?"
"That's the danger," countered Solomon. "It's the position of the people who are on the Unity Reform Commission -- the Bernie 8 -- that that would be really, really bad. The whole concept was a [negotiated reform] package. Once they start breaking the package apart, they're going to splice and dice and it's going to be a friggin' mess. It's a very strong position of, 'Hey, this was already a compromise.' It was dominated by Clinton [appointees] people, 13-to-8."