Category Archives: Democratic Party

2020 Democratic Convention — Unity and Reform Commission — Part 2

One of the issues in the last several primary cycles — for both parties — have been the role of unpledged delegates.  There are several reasons why both parties designate certain party officials (and on the Democratic side, elected officials) as automatic delegates.  First, it removes these individuals from the competition for the “regular” delegate slots making it easier for grassroots activists to compete for a delegate slot.   Second, these individuals have a slightly different perspective than the voters.  While everyone wants the party to win the White House, state party officials are also responsible for winning as many down ballot races as possible.  Elected officials want to win their own races.  As such, in theory, if the leading candidate seems too extreme or flawed, the unpledged delegates could swing the nomination to the second-placed candidate.   Before 2016, the Republicans decided to bind their automatic delegates based on primary results in their state.  After 2016, some Republicans might regret that their automatic delegates no longer had that power given the continuing fiasco that is Donald Trump.  However, in neither party, the automatic delegates have ultimately supported the candidate that won the most delegates; so this theoretical power has never been used.

Even though this power has never been used to change the result, many Democrats have wanted to reduce the power of the automatic delegates.  The resolution that created the Unity and Reform Commission mandated that, while elected officials (Senators, Representatives, Governors) and distinguished party leaders (e.g., former presidents, former DNC chairs, former speakers/caucus leaders) would remain unpledged, DNC members would be pledged in accordance with the primary results.  The task for the Unity and Reform Commission was to make recommendations as to how to handle this process.  First, the recommendations distinguish between DNC members who represent the states (state party chairs and the DNC members elected by the state parties) and other DNC members (at-large members and those who represent groups of elected officials).  The “state” members will be bound based on the state results; and the “national” DNC members will be bound based on the national results.

On the issue of exactly how to bind these automatic delegates, the Commission did not reach a final recommendation but, instead, suggested two alternatives.   The first would just pool the delegate votes with no individual votes on the first ballot.  The second would create a mechanism for assigning the automatic delegates to specific candidates based on the delegates personal wishes with some random mechanism if the personal preferences do not line up with the required allocation.   Unlike regular delegates, however, the automatic delegates would be absolutely bound to these allocations. Continue Reading...

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2020 Democratic Convention — Unity and Reform Commission — Part 1

While, in one sense, it is very early to talk about who will be President of the United States on January 21, 2021, there are many people who think that process has a lot to do with results.  And the drafting of the rules for 2020 have already started.

On the Republican side, there is no public effort to re-write the rules.  Unlike the Democratic Party, the Republican party has the basic rules (which are less detailed than the Democratic Party rules) for allocating delegates to the national convention within the actual Rules of the Republican Party and require a supermajority of the Republican National Committee to change those Rules.

The Democrats, however, keep the rules for delegate selection separate from the party by-laws.  So every cycle, the rules and by-laws committee drafts those rules and submits them to the full Democratic National Committee for approval.  The starting point for these rules is the rules from the previous cycle.  However, because no rules are perfect, most contested campaigns lead to complaints about the rules.  These complaints in turn have, in most of these cycles, caused the party to appoint a commission to study whatever rules were seen as being a problem in the last cycle and make recommendations. Continue Reading...

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A Long December

The year comes to a close with its usual mix of good news and bad news.

On the 2020 presidential election, the Unity Reform Commission has completed its work.  Josh Putnam over at Frontloading Headquarters has posting summaries of the Commission’s decisions.   From the first two summaries, the recommendations seem to be moving toward more open primaries (a reversal of the party’s traditional support for closed primaries) and to make caucuses more like primaries with a preference toward using the primary if there is a state-run primary.  These recommendations will go to the Rules & By-laws Committee (which folks may remember from 2008).  The Rules & By-laws Committee will take these recommendations into account in drafting the 2020 Call and Delegate Selection Plan.  When the draft is concluded, the RBC’s draft goes to the full Democratic National Committee for approval.  If the Unity Reform Commission believes that the RBC is not fully implementing their recommendations in the draft, they can ask for the full DNC to intervene.  Presumably, the party will also begin its site selection process early in 2018.

As the site selection and the rule drafting process continues, there will probably be a lot of discussion here.  For now, it is important to be cautious about changes driven by the problems of the last cycle.  There is always a temptation to “fight the last war.”  But the problems in one cycle do not necessarily recur in the next cycle, and it is important not to do things that will probably make more problems than they fix. Continue Reading...

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The Democratic Party: Where do we go from here?

In the past week, I had three conversations that all intersect on the issue of the future of the Democratic Party. Three quite different people, and varying subject matters. I have not yet reached a conclusion, but the questions raised fascinate me.

Conversation 1

I belong to a political action group and we had a meeting. While the topic doesn’t matter, this comment still rings in my ears: “I work in a factory, and we make decisions immediately. I hope the rest of you won’t take this wrong, but you are pencil pushers.” Continue Reading...

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And so it’s Tom Perez

The vote on the second ballot was 235-200 indicating that the rift between the old guard and the new left continues. So what does this mean for our party?

First, Tom Perez is a good guy. He’s smart, he’s well educated, he has held political positions (both elected and appointed) of increasing responsibility, most recently as Secretary of Labour.  While his tenure at Labour was not a rousing success, he is in favour of the Fight for $15.

However, he was in favour of TPP. In addition, he feels that the Democratic Party does not answer enough to rural Americans, and that the DNC did nothing to help Hillary Clinton directly. And therein lies the problem with his election. Continue Reading...


Early Post-Mortem

This election is a bitter pill to swallow because everybody got it wrong.  Apparently even the internal polls of the RNC in the last week of the campaign showed Secretary Clinton ahead.  At the end of the day, President-elect Trump managed to avoid shooting himself in the foot just long enough during the last two weeks for Republicans who were telling pollsters that they were voting for Governor Johnson or were undecided to hold their noses and come back home.  Certainly, the polls with two weeks to go encouraged the Clinton campaign to dream about states that they could go into and help Democrats in down ballot races.  The perception that Clinton would win in some ways gave permission for Republicans to hold their noses and vote for Trump to keep the margin down and for Democrats to cast protest votes for third party candidates.

It’s also a bitter pill because the race got very personal.  Since the election, I have gotten e-mails from local activists about the issues that the party needs to address.  On most of the issues, there was a plan on that issue from the Clinton campaign.  The issues, however, never got aired as the campaign focused on the flaws of the two candidates.    I don’t think that the choice of the Democratic candidate mattered on this aspect of the campaign.  In the primary, Trump also ran a very personality based campaign, slandering his opponents and coming up with labels to characterize the rest of the Republican candidates.   Certain issues that were mentioned in the DNC WikiLeaks memos were not good issues for a Democratic primary but would have proven useful tools for the Trump campaign in the general election.  Trump was such a big personality and so uniquely “not ready” to be President, it is hard to see how any Democratic campaign could have avoided the temptation to focus on Trump’s flaws and gotten the media to focus on the issues rather than the personalities.

Given the closeness of this election what needs to change between now and 2020. Continue Reading...

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Rebuilding for the Next Cycle

Tuesday brought a lot of bad news for Democrats and the Democratic Party.  It was not, however, a disaster.  For the sixth time in the past seven elections, our candidate won the popular vote for President.  (However, for the second time in the past five elections, we lost the electoral college while winning the popular vote.)  We gained two Senate seats and come close in several others.  A slim Republican majority in the Senate will hinder the ability of the Republicans to go as far as some in the Republican party would like.  We gained approximately five seats in the House.  While the Senate map is favorable for Republicans in terms of the location of races, mid-term elections generally favor the party out of power.  (The supporters of the new administration tend to be disappointed by the failure to get more done while the opponents are outraged by what has been done.)  In other words, while the party does have to think about its agenda for 2018 and 2020, we are in a slightly better position than Republicans were after the 2008 elections.

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Who “Cost” the Election?

I spent Election Day working for the county, greeting voters, putting those voters in one of six lines to make things move more quickly. Our polling place saw about 2200 voters that day, plus 184 absentee ballots. From that one polling place, there is a lot of insight about what went wrong.

The loss was obvious when the tape was run a little past 9, indicating that while Clinton had won the vote, turnout wasn’t high enough and the percentage wasn’t big enough. This ended up being the pattern across both the state of Pennsylvania and the country at large.

First, an anecdote that explains something. The voter who came out from voting grinning ear to ear, proud. Told me that although a lifelong Democrat who had never voted for a Republican, she proudly voted for Donald Trump. Why? “I did all my research because I wanted to be really sure and I think Clinton went bad when she shot all her partners at the Rose Law Firm and then Vince Foster.” When told that never happened, the response was: “Yes it did. I read it on the internet.” Continue Reading...

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