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DNC Adopts Rule Forcing Presidential Candidates to Be Members of Democratic Party

Many Sanders supports are calling the rule change a “slap in the face” to progressive outsiders.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at the 2017 J Street National Conference in Washington, DC.

“The DNC has learned nothing.”

That was how the advocacy group People for Bernie reacted to reports late Friday that the rules and bylaws arm of the Democratic National Committee has moved ahead with a new resolution that, according to Yahoo News, would “force candidates in Democratic presidential primaries to state that they are Democrats” and “to ‘run and serve’ as a member” of the party.

While allies of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—who ran as a Democrat in the 2016 presidential primary while still identifying as an independent—said they don’t expect the new rules to hinder Sanders’ chances of running for the Democratic nomination in 2020 if he chooses to do so, many supporters of the Vermont senator characterized the rule change as a completely unnecessary “slap in the face” to progressive outsiders.

“We just came off a devastating presidential loss in 2016. It would seem to me the actual impetus would be to expand the Democratic Party. I just for the life of me don’t see any motivation for this beyond personal spite,” Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, told Yahoo News. “I scratch my head and ask why they would want to make the party more narrow and more exclusive.”

Other progressives echoed Longabaugh’s critique of the new rule on social media, with many noting that such restrictions could demobilize large constituencies that are disaffected with both major political parties.

Following his 2016 presidential campaign, Sanders—who is now far-and-away the most popular politician in the country—repeatedly emphasized the importance of creating a more inclusive party organized around the needs of the poor and working class, not corporate donors.

“If the Democratic Party is going to succeed… it’s gonna have to open its door to independents,” Sanders said in an interview last April. “There are probably more independents in this country than Democrats or Republicans. It’s got to open its doors to working people and to young people, create a grassroots party.”

Speaking with Politico on Friday, Longabaugh argued that the DNC’s new rule would do precisely the opposite, moving the party even closer to becoming an “exclusive club.”

“I really don’t get the motivation for the resolution at all,” he said. “You know, Bernie Sanders got 13 million votes in 2016. Thousands, if not millions, of those votes were young people and independents he brought into the Democratic Party.”

The full DNC is expected to hold a final vote on the new resolution in August.

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