Katrina Vanden HEUVEL
President Trump’s unpopularity masks a harsh reality: Across the country, the Democratic Party is in its worst shape since the 1920s. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won just 487 of more than 3,100 counties nationwide. Can Democrats come back from the deep hole they are in? The growing reaction to Trump’s grotesqueries and the Republican-led Congress’ extremism is promising, but the Democratic Party won’t revive itself unless it changes. The good news is that—against entrenched resistance—reformers are beginning to force the party to open up. Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) 2016 campaign—and the reaction to Trump’s victory—unleashed new energy and roused new activists. Remarkably, instead of turning their backs on the party or giving up on electoral politics in disgust, many have decided that it’s time to reform the Democratic Party from the bottom up and top down.
Last weekend, members of the party’s Unity Reform Commission voted on final recommendations for reforming the national party. The commission is the creation of an agreement made by Sanders and Clinton at the 2016 national convention to help heal the deep wounds the primary had left with Sanders supporters.
Not surprisingly, the Sanders delegates drove the reform agenda, pushing to open the party up to new voters and new energy. The resulting recommendations make important changes in three major areas. First, they slash the number of superdelegates to the Democratic National Convention—delegates who can vote for whomever they want—by 60 percent, limiting them to sitting legislators, governors and former presidents, vice presidents and DNC chairs. In addition, in each of the 57 separate state parties (parties include territories and Democrats abroad), activists will push to demand that the remaining superdelegates be pledged to vote for their state’s choice. In 2016, superdelegates gave Clinton 30 percent of the votes needed for nomination before the first caucus or primary. Going forward, insurgent candidates such as Sanders will have a more level playing field.