- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2016

Top progressive groups — including MoveOn and the Daily Kos — are taking on the Democratic establishment’s “undemocratic” superdelegate system in a fight that threatens to disrupt the party’s national convention next week in Philadelphia.

A coalition of 14 left-wing organizations announced Thursday that 50 members of the DNC Rules Committee have co-sponsored an amendment filed shortly before midnight Thursday to end the practice of awarding superdelegate status to top officials, lawmakers and other insiders.

The proposal threatens to force the party’s hand on an issue that has dogged Democrats throughout the primary season, driven by supporters of Sen. Bernard Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s chief rival for the presidential nomination.

Leading the fight is Rhode Island state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, a member of the DNC Rules Committee, who said Thursday that the campaign to reform the system is “catching fire.”

“Superdelegates disempower voters, they are less diverse than our overall delegates, and they are wildly unpopular,” Mr. Regunberg said in a statement. “The time has come to end the archaic and undemocratic superdelegate system once and for all — and that starts Saturday in Philadelphia.”

The skirmish has the potential to sully the image of party unity that Democrats hope to convey in contrast to the infighting that has characterized the Republican National Convention, which wrapped up Thursday night.

The Democrats will gather Monday through Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Mrs. Clinton’s commanding lead with superdelegates was a sore point throughout the primary race with Sanders voters, who accused the Democratic establishment of using superdelegates to tip the scales for the former secretary of state.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, has defended the system, which was instituted in 1982 to serve as a moderating influence on the presidential nominating process after disastrous defeats in 1972 and 1980.

The congresswoman from Florida has argued that the 712 superdelegates, who make up about 15 percent of total delegates, are free to change their minds about candidates and that the setup improves the convention’s racial balance.

The Congressional Black Caucus is staunchly opposed to abolishing the system, arguing in a letter last month to party leaders that the practice allows elected officials to avoid the “burdensome necessity of competing against constituents” for slots.

Even so, critics of superdelegates insist that the preference system benefits white men. A Pew Research Center study released May 5 found that 58 percent of this year’s Democratic superdelegates are men and 62 percent are white, while only 20 percent are black and 11 percent are Hispanic.

“We have always been the party of the hard-working, the voiceless, and the downtrodden; but by upholding the special privileges of superdelegates, we are betraying the people we fight for to service an unjust, archaic, and anti-democratic institution,” Maine state Rep. Diane Russell said in a statement.

Despite their egalitarian image, Democrats have far more superdelegates than do Republicans. The Republican Party’s 168 superdelegates, about 7 percent of the total, are bound to vote in accordance with the majority of delegates in their states.

The Associated Press estimates that 602 superdelegates have thrown their support behind Mrs. Clinton, compared with 48 for Mr. Sanders. Mrs. Clinton also has 2,205 pledged delegates for a total of 2,807, more than the 2,383 needed to secure the presidential nomination.

Organizers said the proposed amendment has won support from backers of both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders. Other leading Democrats who have expressed support for reform include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

One reason: The measure is not retroactive, meaning it will not affect the outcome of this year’s contest.

The 50 members co-sponsoring the amendment represent more than 25 percent of the 187-member committee, a critical threshold under the rules.

If at least 25 percent of those members follow up by voting Saturday in favor of the amendment, the panel will be required to issue a “minority report” and bring the issue to the convention floor, organizers said.

A letter to the Democratic National Committee posted this week on the EndSuperdelegates.com website gathered nearly 125,000 signatures in less than 48 hours in support of reform.

“The superdelegate system is unrepresentative, contradicts the purported values of the party and its members, and reduces the party’s moral authority,” said the letter.

The 14 groups involved in the campaign are Courage Campaign, Credo, Daily Kos, Demand Progress, Democracy for America, the Center for Popular Democracy, MoveOn, National Nurses United, NDN, The Other 98%, Presente.org, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Progressive Democrats of America, and Social Security Works.

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