WASHINGTON — Remember last year, how some Bernie Sanders backers complained that the Democratic party’s presidential nominating system was rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton because of superdelegates?
Well, those grass-roots forces who stumped for the Vermont senator will get the victory they were promised at the 2016 convention in Philadelphia.
In 2020, the Democratic party is going to be less potentially tilted toward an establishment candidate who, with “superdelegates,” gets a nomination boost.
That’s because for the 2020 presidential contest, the number of so-called Democratic “superdelegates” is going to be reduced by about 60 percent. In whole numbers, that’s a cut from 700 to about 300.
That’s the recommendation that came out over the weekend from the Democratic National Committee’s Unity Reform Commission, born at convention to keep angry Sanders followers in the family.
That pool of 700 superdelegates are the party regulars — governors, members of Congress, DNC members and officials and other party honchos.
At present, they can back who they want, no matter the local votes in a primary or caucus.
The proposed changes will only allow Democratic members of Congress — in Illinois, Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, plus the Democratic House members, and a governor, if indeed a Democrat is elected in 2018 — to be an unpledged delegate.
The rest of the pool of 400 automatic delegates will be bound in one way or another — the details have not been finalized — to the primary or caucus vote.
The change will still have to be approved by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee and ratified at the DNC’s fall meeting.
“I think that overall, it restores the faith folks may have lost in the last cycle,” said Jorge Neri, one of the 21 Commission members whose path to politics started in Illinois. He grew up in Chicago’s Little Village community.
Clinton, Sanders and DNC chair Tom Perez selected the commission members last April. Clinton controlled 10 slots; Sanders, 8, with Perez picking 3.
Neri is a Clinton appointee — a 2016 Clinton campaign veteran — running her campaigns in Hawaii and Nevada.
He was an organizer at the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1546 and before that was organizing at the lllinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
Neri worked in former President Barack Obama’s Chicago-based 2012 reelection campaign, landing at the White House office of Public Engagement before moving on to the Clinton campaign.
Now running his own political strategy firm, Neri was one of the players signed up to bolster the American Beverage Association’s successful fight for Cook County to repeal the despised soft drink tax.
Reducing the number of superdelegates means “that people running in 2020 will not worry about it seeming like they have an advantage,” Neri said.
The superdelegate system, around since the 1980s, was sort of a non-factor until 2008, when David Plouffe, then Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign manager, whipped up a pressure on superdelegates who were strongly leaning for Hillary Clinton.
Plouffe argued that the these automatic delegates should, as I noted in a 2008 column, “heavily consider the results of the primary or caucus votes in their localities and states when deciding whom to support.”
In 2016, Clinton was once again the superdelegate favorite.
That made sense to the party regulars since Sanders — an independent to this day — was not a member of the Democratic Party.
Sanders said he was “pleased” with the move to “limit the role of superdelegates.”
Another commission member, Elaine Kamarck, a Senior Fellow in the Governance Studies program at the Brookings Institution, said the 2020 impact depends “if there is a clear front-runner and a clear establishment candidate versus someone who is relatively new.”