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Politics & Elections

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Convenes in Providence



Providence was the host of the Democratic National Committee’s Executive Branch and Rules and Bylaws Committee (#DNCRBC) on Friday and Saturday. As a former delegate for Bernie Sanders and a current standing member of the Rhode Island Democratic State Committee for District 40,  I wanted to know first hand what would transpire and what changes would be made to the 2020 Democratic Primary and convention process.

Members of the 32 person committee came from across the country to discuss revisions to two major Democratic National Committee’s documents: The 2020 wording for the Delegate Selection Process and the Unity Reform Commission recommendations.

No one would be alarmed at or question the bulk of the changes to the 2020 Charter. Wording was added to articles dealing with gender. Male/female verbiage was replaced with non-binary terms to reflect gender equality. Other changes were made that were more or less minutia and passed without major debate.

There was a more heated discussion about the Delegate Selection Process, who can run as a delegate and what are the delegates obligations to the Democratic National Committee. That back and forth had me worried. This was a direct reflection of the 2016 convention when delegates for Bernie Sanders became disenchanted with the convention proceedings and were not supportive of the nominee Hillary Clinton. Many at the convention came out saying they would be supporting Jill Stein and/or not voting for Hillary.  

There were Democratic National Committee members who wanted 100 percent allegiance to the nominee. One member pointed out that some Democrats found it courageous for Republicans to not support Trump. They questioned the wisdom of making a loyalty pledge part of the delegate confirmation process. There were also questions about state laws and where would that language be entered. Ultimately the following language was approved:

“The Delegate shall not express support for any candidate who is opposed to the democratic nominee.”

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From there the discussion centered on whether all candidates who ran as Democrats, even if they were fringe candidates and did not have a history of supporting democratic policies, should be allowed to run as a Democrat and win delegates. An example would be Rocky De La Fuenta, who ran as a Democrat, and Green Party members who may consider a Democratic run.  Bernie would be protected; but he still would have to sign off on what would be more restrictive guidelines to run as a Democrat in the primary. Previously, a candidate would be able to run and not have to sign a loyalty pledge until after they accrued delegates. The updated language is as follows:

Previous language for Presidential Candidate Guidelines was:

Following the discussion as to what defines a Democratic Presidential Candidate, members discussed superdelegates, the divisive topic of the last two years. Although members of the committee called them by different names, unpledged, super, etc, I preferred the newest term: Automatic Delegates. One member objected to the term “super, saying it did not reflect what super really meant. She believes teachers, nurses and other public servants should be considered super, not elected officials. Others did not want to see the term, or the status quo, changed.  

Here are four of the proposals that were discussed but will not be voted on until the end of June and finalized by the entire Democratic National Committee in August.

  1. Accept Unity Reform Commission changes
  2. Keep automatic delegates in the convention, but not allow them to take part in the initial vote,
  3. Vote down the Unity Reform Commission recommendations in their entirety, in other words, vote for the status quo,
  4. Add delegates from the community to the states using a 25 percent formula. (That discussion was hard to follow.)

By the time I left, it appeared that number two was winning, which was very comforting. Many agreed that the Unity Reform Commission recommendations were convoluted and might not be in the best interest of the party.  I had the pleasure of discussing this with Larry Cohen, an amazing labor organizer and Berniecrat, who is also a Vice Chair of the Unity Reform Commission and board member of Our Revolution. He attended Friday’s meeting and stated:

Rules and ByLaws Committee continues to progress through the Unity Reform Commission proposals with a June 30 deadline looming. It’s clear that the full Democratic National Committee will be voting on a range of proposals at the August meeting including reducing or eliminating the role of super or automatic delegates in the nominating process for President. But what will remain most important is how state parties organize to focus on reaching unaffiliated voters to join, build and help lead the Party.”

Following the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws meeting, I attended one of the Rhode Island Democratic Party‘s obligatory June gatherings: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse‘s Gaspee Days Fundraiser. To his credit, the Senator’s events are more inclusive and affordable than many other Congressional and party fundraisers. The lowest donor level, “Colonist,” can attend for a mere $25, a bargain these days. Even a couple of members from the Providence Democratic Socialists joined in. It was a well attended, spirited event with good food that was highlighted by the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez.

As this was the first time I had an opportunity to meet the Chair, I was disappointed I did not get a chance to chat with him.  However, his speech was inspiring, energetic and was well received by all of the party elites and guests. Along with Senator  Whitehouse, other notables who attended included Rhode Island Party Chair Joseph McNamara, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and a smattering of General Assembly members. All in all, the event gave people an opportunity to learn about ye olde Gaspee history, have a couple of drinks, commiserate about national politics, discuss the direction of the Rhode Island primaries and the future of of our democracy all while enjoying the company of anti-Trumpers. A good time was had by all.