At a time when Democrats are still struggling to unite and put the tumultuous 2016 presidential primaries behind them, efforts to compromise the reforms made by the DNC Unity Reform Commission pose the risk of opening old wounds, and deepening the mistrust and divide among Clinton and Sanders supporters. A prolonged debate within the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee risks dragging a back-and-forth over reforms into 2019, providing little time for state parties to make changes before presidential candidates begin formally ramping up their campaigns.
The Rules Committee ended their first review of the reforms agreed upon by the DNC Unity Reform Commission this past weekend. While Sanders supporters have urged the DNC to accept and enact the reforms, several DNC Rules Committee members and Clinton surrogates are renewing the debate over the set of proposed compromises.
Adam Parkhomenko, who worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and currently serves as a staffer at her super PAC, Onward Together, has started circulating a petition to overturn one of the reforms that would eliminate using caucuses to award delegates in the Democratic presidential nominating contest.
Several Sanders supporters have expressed discontent over the petition, fearing that some Clinton supporters are actively working to pull apart the progress made by the commission. In doing so, progressives fear the progress these reforms have been proposed to achieve are being jeopardized, as DNC Rules Committee members try to resolve their differences on several key rules changes.
“The evident slowdown by the Rules and Bylaws Committee is, in part, a consequence of the appointments made by Tom Perez, who has talked progressive while seating non-progressives on key committees in the process of ousting Bernie supporters and/or those who did not support Perez’s ascension to DNC chair,” Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, told the Real News Network in an interview.
“Progressives have long experience with political operatives who like to sound progressive and behave otherwise. At the same time, we should recognize that the very existence of the Unity Reform Commission—and the positive recommendations that have come out of it, urging steps toward a democratic Democratic Party—all came about because of progressive strength, manifested in the 2016 Sanders for President campaign and via ongoing grassroots organizing around the country.”
During the DNC Unity Reform Commission meetings last year, an amendment was proposed by former Clinton staffer David Huynh to mandate that all states in the presidential primaries use primary elections to award delegates rather than caucuses. A compromise was agreed upon that this would be implemented for large states with more than four congressional districts. Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb, Iowa DNC member Jan Bauer, former Clinton staffer Emmy Ruiz, and Our Revolution Chair Larry Cohen argued against the amendment, which was then tabled by the commission’s chair, Jen O’Malley Dillon, who also worked for the Clinton Campaign.
Several other changes to caucuses were included in the final report by the commission, including same-day voter and party registration, inclusion of absentee ballots, and public vote totals.
“We the undersigned urge the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee and the full DNC to live up to the mandate of the resolution to ‘expand the use of primary elections’ and require that states with state-run presidential primary to use their respective primary over a caucus system to allocate the state’s national delegates when a state-run presidential primary exists,” states the petition. “Such a rule would also forbid state parties from reverting back to caucuses when a state-funded presidential primary already exists.”
In response, DNC Unity Reform Commission member Nomiki Konst tweeted, “States determine whether they run caucuses, not you or me. Bottom line.”
Parkhomenko purchased the domain StrongDNC.com to circulate his petition, as the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, stacked with Clinton supporters appointed by DNC Chair Tom Perez in October 2017, continue deliberating on whether to accept the DNC Unity Reform Commission’s proposal or make amendments before the 447 DNC members vote on it. The committee has around six months to review the proposal and suggest amendments, serving as a potential roadblock to reform given Tom Perez’s committee appointees consist of 60 percent of the DNC members’ voting authority.
During an interview with the Real News Network in December 2017, Our Revolution President and DNC Unity Reform Commission member NIna Turner noted that the DNC Unity Reform Commission will be able to review any changes the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee proposes, and if those changes are not agreed to, DNC members will vote on the original Unity Reform Commission proposal.