Democratic National Committee Votes to Limit Superdelegate Power

After a major debate, Democrats have voted on a key progressive demand after the 2016 campaign: to vastly reduce the power of superdelegates in choosing the party’s presidential nominee. Saturday’s vote by the Democratic National Committee comes after the 2016 race for Democratic nominee between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and pitted many DNC members who supported the change against two former party chairs and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. We get an update from Norman Solomon, national coordinator of RootsAction. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where he coordinated the independent Bernie Delegates Network.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We turn now to the future of the Democratic Party. After a major debate, Democrats have voted on a key progressive demand after the 2016 campaign: to vastly reduce the power of superdelegates in choosing the party’s presidential nominee. The vote passed to a huge ovation and cheers on Saturday.

TOM PEREZ: All those in favor, say aye.

COMMITTEE MEMBERS: Aye.

TOM PEREZ: Opposed?

COMMITTEE MEMBERS: No.

TOM PEREZ: The ayes overwhelmingly have it, and the report and the chart, the call, is adopted.

AMY GOODMAN: Saturday’s vote of the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, in Chicago, officially barred the superdelegates from voting on the first ballot to choose the party’s presidential nominee, unless a candidate has secured a majority of the convention using only pledged delegates, whose votes are earned during the primary process. The vote to limit the influence of the superdelegates comes after the 2016 race for Democratic nominee between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It pitted many DNC members who supported the change against two former party chairs and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

For more, we’re joined by someone who was there for what DNC Chair Tom Perez is calling a historic vote, Norman Solomon, national coordinator of RootsAction, a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where he coordinated the Independent Bernie Delegates Network, also executive director of Institute for Public Accuracy.

NORMAN SOLOMON: It was historic, and very exciting not only to be in the room when that vote was taken, but, in the days ahead of that vote, out with people, from my colleagues at RootsAction.org, Progressive Democrats of America and elsewhere, picketing with that message, that really is the gist: Democratic Party, live up to your name. And this was, I think, a tremendous victory that came not from the top out of the goodness of any hearts of those at the pinnacle of power of the Democratic Party, but from the base, the grassroots, people who have been angry, who have been organizing, especially in the last two years, to say that superdelegate power and leverage over the nomination process has to go.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to former DNC Chair Don Fowler describing his opposition to restricting the power of superdelegates, speaking during an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

DONALD FOWLER: We’re going to prohibit 200 African Americans, a hundred Latinos, dozens of LGBTQ people and others from voting. We’re taking the vote away from these people.

AMY GOODMAN: This is former interim Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile describing her opposition to curbing the power of superdelegates, in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

DONNA BRAZILE: The question is whether or not automatic or so-called superdelegates — and there’s nothing super about us — will be able to vote on the first ballot. The position of many in the party is that we deserve, those of us who are unpledged delegates, we deserve to have a voice in the process. And whether it’s at the table with a vote or behind the scenes, raising money for candidates or taking candidates around, we believe that automatic delegates should continue to play a role, because we’re part of the sauce. We’re part of the sauce for victory.

AMY GOODMAN: That was former interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile, speaking after the vote, that she opposed. Norman Solomon, talk about this victory and how you organized for it and the fact that Tom Perez, the chairman of the DNC, voted with you.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Yes, frankly, Tom Perez, the chair of the DNC, was dragged kicking and screaming, but, ultimately, very effectively, to advocate for this, I think, very profound change. It should be said that the organization Our Revolution did a tremendous job in the last two years working inside and outside the Democratic Party to help organize this tremendous change. And a year ago, six months ago, it seemed virtually impossible to get such a clean sweep in terms of superdelegate power.

What we heard from Donna Brazile there and Don Fowler was the anger of the old guard losing their grip on power, losing their ability to put their thumbs on the scale. It is a new day. We’re getting socialists elected to Congress through the Democratic Party primaries. We’ve got to keep organizing and fighting. Let’s be clear: This is a victory for the grassroots, for progressives, but it’s only a beginning. We have a long, steep mountain to climb, and we’ve got to keep pushing.

AMY GOODMAN: But for people especially outside this country, but I think inside this country, as well, who just don’t get what superdelegates are, explain exactly what happened. What power did you strip them? What power did they have?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Yeah, the gist is that superdelegates were 15 percent of the total Democratic National Convention to choose the presidential nominee. And those superdelegates were not elected for the purpose of or in designation from voters as to who the nominee should be. They were kingmakers. They had power apart from any democratic — lowercase d — accountability, and they loved it — every Democrat in Congress, every Democratic governor, Democratic Party officials. And they liked having candidates go to them, hat in hand, “Will you endorse me? Will you support me? Will you pledge your vote?” And those advance pledges were a huge boost to Hillary Clinton, not just 15 percent of the votes, but from the starting line she was way ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, something that just infuriated not only Bernie Sanders supporters, but others — even, I think, Hillary Clinton supporters — at the very beginning, before the primaries, they were talking about they have wrapped up the superdelegate support, so they have won. So, people who were going to go out to vote at all these primaries are saying, “Then why are we going out to vote?”

NORMAN SOLOMON: Before a single ballot was cast in a Democratic primary or caucus, Hillary Clinton had more than half of the superdelegate votes, and that allowed the cable channels to run on their lower part of the screen, “Hillary Clinton way ahead as the front-runner.” An analogy would be, let’s say you have two contestants in a race. The gun goes off, but at that moment one of the racers is way ahead. And that is because of superdelegates. And not only that, by being way ahead at the start, then the nutrients, the vitamins, the water, in the form of funding and media momentum, is already given to that person, whereas in this case Bernie Sanders was still at the starting line.

AMY GOODMAN: And now you have President Trump.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Now we have President Trump, who has to be defeated. And progressives have this dual necessity to fight the right — the xenophobes, the racists — and let’s be clear, in November, we can only defeat them through Democratic Party candidates to take back the House and hopefully even the Senate — but also to fight like hell for progressive principles, because, let’s face it, as well, the Democratic Party is controlled by people who are part of the military-industrial-intelligence complex, and they won’t give it up without a big fight ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there, but of course we’ll continue to cover this, right through the midterm elections and beyond. Norman Solomon, national coordinator of RootsAction.org.

When we come back from break, we go to Dublin, where Pope Francis marked the first papal visit to Ireland in 39 years by acknowledging failure of church authorities to address child abuse crimes by the clergy. Stay with us.