On the first day of the Democratic National Convention, the rules committee co-chairs, Barney Frank and Leticia Van de Putte, announced the creation of the Unity Reform Commission to the delegates of the convention. Van de Putte indicated that this commission “received overwhelming support from all members of the rules committee.” This was followed by glowing endorsements of the commission by Clinton delegate and DNC-appointed rules committee member Wellington Webb and Sanders delegate Diane Russell. The message portrayed to the delegates in the convention and people watching at home was that the democrats were unified under Clinton and that the superdelegates would definitely be reduced by a full 2/3 in accordance with the will of the voters. However, this glorified commercial left out important details of the commission and the process which produced it.
I was one of the three rules committee members from Illinois selected to represent Bernie Sanders. At the rules committee meeting, 25 members were DNC-appointed (equivalent to the “superdelegates” of the rules committee). The rest were apportioned by state according to the presidential share of the vote. There should have been 187 total members, but some of them appeared to be missing as the total number of votes never approached this number.
All proposals were submitted by Sanders-appointed rules committee members. The majority of us are lifelong democrats who wanted to improve our primary process for the future of the Democratic Party and believed strongly in the concept of one person/one vote. Many devoted a large amount of time to preparing for the rules meeting and writing proposals for various rule changes. There were about 50 proposals in all. I myself submitted 8 proposals with the help of two separate groups of dedicated delegates and activists who contributed to background research on historical rule changes and also to the writing of some of the proposals. So when I arrived the day of the rules committee meeting, I felt a real responsibility to accomplish significant change. Clinton rules committee members and DNC members did not propose any rule changes.
Eliminating the superdelegates was the top issue for most of the Sanders rules committee members. We knew this proposal might not pass in the rules committee. However, if we submitted a minority report, we could have a debate and floor vote on this issue on the convention floor. We already had the signatures we needed for the minority report. It was important to do this to give this undemocratic issue a spotlight at the convention. Also, if the proposal to eliminate superdelegates passed at the convention, it would then require only a majority vote of the DNC committee (rather than the normal 2/3 vote) to amend the Charter of the Democratic Party, fully eliminating them. We wanted to fight for our delegates and our voters to have a voice. (more…)