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Does the DNC Want to Stop the Next Bernie?

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A proposed rule change might not stop Bernie Sanders from seeking the Democratic nomination in 2020, but it could be used to exclude future independents like him, says attorney and activist Anoa Changa

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AARON MATE: It’s The Real News, I’m Aaron Mate. We know, from their e-mails, that the Democratic National Committee undermined the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. And now, some Bernie supporters are accusing the DNC of trying to do it again for 2020. A new rule, approved by the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, says that to run for president in 2020, you must identify as a Democrat. That means confirming you are a registered Democrat and will run and serve as a member of the party. Because Bernie Sanders is officially an independent, that has sparked fears he could be excluded. The full DNC will vote on the measure in August.

Joining me is Anoa Changa, attorney, director of political advocacy for Progressive Army, and host of the podcast, The Way With Anoa. All right Anoa, welcome. Some Bernie Sanders say this is a big deal, others say it’s not because Bernie Sanders can just register as a Democrat and all will be fine. What do you think?

ANOA CHANGA: I agree with the latter. He registered as a Democrat, ran as a Democrat, was prepared to serve as a Democrat and has actually served in leadership with Democrats, not just since 2016 but even before then. So, I think that there might be those who passed the rule thinking that it could not necessarily stifle him, per se. I mean, I think they’re thinking about moving to the future and others who may come behind Bernie Sanders.

But I think it’s really misguided on everyone’s part to even worry about this type of thing when we have Republicans who come into the Democratic Party, just all of a sudden decide they’re going to be Democrats, and there’s no real adherence to actual policy or platform or actual issues. It seems to be a free for all. They’re just worried about whether or not you actually have a D behind your name. And that’s really a bigger problem than whether or not it could potentially limit Bernie, which I don’t see that actually happening.

AARON MATE: Well, explain that. Where have you seen that problem arise in terms of Republicans coming into the party and acting like Democrats?

ANOA CHANGA: Oh, they don’t act like Democrats, they’re Republicans. They just have the Democrat, the D. I mean, we’ve seen in a couple of different Congressional races, this happening. People suddenly deciding they’re on a run as Democrats instead of the Republicans they’ve been. On the state level, we saw it just most recently in West Virginia with Jim Justice, who decided he was going to run as a Democrat because that was the way that he could win. And after a year, went back to being a Republican. So, there seems to be- there is an issue in the Democratic Party, like nationwide, with Republicans choosing to run as Democrats, not having any adherence to any actual policy platforms.

But that doesn’t seem to actually be a concern about Democrats. There is a concern about what if another Bernie Sanders, or several of them- I mean I think we see this with the rise of various progressive challengers across the country, as well. So, even though this is focused on the 2020 presidential election specifically, the role seems to be kind of redundant because Bernie Sanders- I mean, it seems counterintuitive. If you’re gonna run for the nomination of a party, you should be a member of that party, which is why he changed his nomination- or he changed his registration to be a Democrat in the first place when he was filing to run back in 2015.

AARON MATE: I guess, is there any ambiguity, like could the language be used to say that because there was a time when he did not register as a Democrat while he served that he’s not eligible?

ANOA CHANGA: I don’t think so. Because when you look at the way the rule is written, right, like I don’t have it right in front of me but I just read it a little earlier, it specifically pertains to filing. And filing to run for office as as a presidential candidate, right, and it doesn’t refer to any other level, specifically filing to run as a presidential candidate, specifically whether or not they will pursue that nomination, they will serve in that capacity and not switch. What I think that does deal with, though, was the concern that Sanders would possibly try to either start a third party last time or do something similar.

A lot of states already have sore loser laws where that is really, basically not even an avenue that a viable candidate could even really pursue if they had already run as a Democrat. They couldn’t turn around, in most states, and then all of a sudden run as some other party candidate. So I mean, I don’t- maybe they did this to make themselves feel good, I’m not really sure. But I wouldn’t really be concerned about whether or not this is what would harm his chances in 2020. There’s a whole host of other issues and problems that haven’t been resolved since the 2016 cycle that I think are a bigger concern for the movement as a whole.

AARON MATE: Right. And so, finally, one of those concerns remains the issue of superdelegates. And there’s another measure moving through the committee, and will be presented to the full party in August, that seeks to curb the number of superdelegates, a big issue in previous primaries and certainly in the Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton contest. Do you see the current proposals as being sufficient in addressing the concerns that have been raised by Bernie Sanders supporters?

ANOA CHANGA: I don’t know that they are sufficient, but I think what has been proposed, considering the way the system has been, considering what we saw in 2016, right. We saw delegates, they’re not bound by the pledged delegates of the state, they were willing to turn their backs, basically, on what voters wanted. And so, I think that the proposed rules and reduced reliance on superdelegates is a step, possibly, in the right direction in terms of, I guess, compromise with the existing system. There is some doom and gloom and fear from establishment Democrats about what limiting the presence of superdelegates could do for the future. But I definitely think there’s more the Democratic Party could do to make sure that the process itself is actually democratic and representative of what voters are wanting.

AARON MATE: And quickly, what is that? Like, what could the party do?

ANOA CHANGA: I mean, you can abolish superdelegates altogether, right? Like, when we’re we’re looking at particular states, superdelegates, for the most part in many cycles, have not necessarily been the defining factor, right? But as we saw, super delegates, in theory, stay outside of the regular delegate count in case there’s a necessity to really push a good candidate forward, in theory. But what they’re really there for is to make sure that an insurgent does not take over the party, right? There are safeguards against people willing to go against the grain and change the status quo. So, I mean if that’s all they really exist for, then they shouldn’t be there and the party should actually be democratic, like its name says, and actually representing the issues in coalitions that it claims to represent on the ground.

AARON MATE: Imagine that. Anoa Changa, attorney, political director for The Progressive Army, and host of the podcast, The Way With Anoa. Thank You.

ANOA CHANGA: Thank you.

AARON MATE: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.