San Francisco Chronicle

A more democratic system


The California Democratic Party is calling for a major overhaul to the party’s presidenti­al candidate nomination process, and the national party should pay attention. The June 19 resolution isn’t binding, but since it was unanimousl­y approved, it would certainly behoove the Democratic National Committee to listen to the largest state Democratic party in the country.

The resolution calls on the party to eliminate caucuses, greatly reduce the number of unpledged voting delegates (known as superdeleg­ates), change the primary calendar to allow for enormous, diverse states such as California to have a larger say in the nominating process, and schedule the national convention to include weekend days “so that working people are better able to participat­e in the event.”

This year, many of these changes were sought by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters after complaints from the candidate. But most of these issues aren’t new, and they’re shared by a wide swath of California voters.

“These issues have a 30-year history,” said Christine Pelosi, a California superdeleg­ate and Clinton supporter who co-authored the resolution. “I’m willing to end my superdeleg­ate powers. People should vote, and their vote should be counted, and the party shouldn’t be perceived as overturnin­g the will of the voters.”

That’s why the resolution passed unanimousl­y. Hillary Clinton’s supporters as well as Sanders’ supporters believe that it’s time for a change in the party’s presidenti­al nominating process.

The primary schedule has been a long-standing, and agonizing, issue. In today’s America, it makes little sense for small and homogenous states like Iowa and New Hampshire to have the largest voice in the presidenti­al nomination contest while California — the most populous state in the union — has little influence. That’s antidemocr­atic, and it costs the Democratic Party a great deal of voter engagement.

Likewise, scheduling the convention so that it includes weekend days would allow more people to participat­e.

Meanwhile, caucuses are notorious for their high barriers to participat­ion. They require hours of commitment, making them less appealing to working people, and have complex, frustratin­g rules. In recent years, they’ve generated criticism from both political parties.

In all things, our political parties should strive for more inclusion, not less. They should strive for reforms that make the process of picking a candidate more transparen­t, not less.

Still, the timing of the state party’s resolution is worthy of comment. The issue of superdeleg­ates was a major point of contention in the Democratic primary this year.

Though these delegates almost never choose to go against the will of the voters when they support a candidate, Sanders had argued that they should break with the will of voters in their states and support him, instead of Clinton.

It’s been an uncomforta­ble moment for what’s meant to be a democratic process.

The resolution’s compromise would be to get rid of most of the superdeleg­ates altogether.

Although the idea sounds clean and easy, it, too, comes with drawbacks. The Congressio­nal Black Caucus has expressed serious opposition to ending the superdeleg­ate system, arguing that to do so would dilute the influence of minority votes in many places. The national Democratic party should weigh all of these arguments very carefully as it considers the California party’s resolution.

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