Given the lingering acrimony, it’s news when Bernie Sanders backers and Hillary Clinton supporters agree on something important. And what the California Democratic Party’s executive board came up with would make their party’s presidential nominating process more democratic – a very good thing.
The board unanimously approved a resolution Sunday calling on the Democratic National Committee to make two significant changes to superdelegates – party and elected officials who are free agents and a major bone of contention in the Clinton-Sanders fight.
First, the number of superdelegates would shrink by about 40 percent, making governors and members of Congress nonvoting guests at the convention. Second, while DNC members would still be superdelegates, they would be required to vote for the candidate who won their constituency.
Sanders has railed against superdelegates, complaining they were flouting the people’s will, though he undermined his argument by urging superdelegates in states Clinton won to switch to his side.
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At the same time, Sanders cleaned up in caucuses, which critics rightly point out are also less than democratic. One reason: Many working people, whom Sanders professes to champion, can’t attend hours-long caucuses.
So the party’s resolution also calls for replacing all presidential caucuses, which typically draw party diehards, with primaries, which draw far more voters.
It is a loud statement from party officials in the largest state, and national Democratic leaders should listen. The resolution was authored by Christine Pelosi, a Clinton superdelegate who is the daughter of top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, and Daraka Larimore-Hall, a Sanders superdelegate who is the state party secretary.
Had these proposed rules been in effect this year, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the race, and Clinton might have clinched the nomination even earlier. Among the 50 states and District of Columbia, Sanders won 12 of 14 caucuses. But Clinton won 27 of 37 primaries, which is why she amassed nearly 3.8 million more votes than Sanders.
According to the latest Associated Press count, Clinton has 2,220 pledged delegates to 1,831 for Sanders, and 591 superdelegates to a mere 48 for Sanders. So even with far fewer superdelegates, Clinton would still almost certainly be the nominee.
The resolution also renews California Democrats’ call to change the nominating calendar so that Iowa and New Hampshire – tiny states that are not diverse – don’t vote first and have outsized influence. Similar proposals have gone nowhere.
But the national Democratic Party can and should change its delegate-selection rules.
It would strengthen the party to become more representative. And heading into the convention in Philadelphia next month, a positive signal from the DNC could help unify the Clinton and Sanders camps for the battle ahead with Donald Trump.