Sunday, May 22, 2016

A reaction to Larry Cohen's "How to Make the Democratic Nominating Process Actually Democratic"

The following article by Larry Cohen, past president of the Communications Workers of America and now a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign, is not getting enough circulation. We are reposting it from Campaign for America's Future.

The Clinton campaign is focused on the recent events in Nevada, which are very much up for debate and which we have commented on here. The attempt is to paint the Sanders movement as a kind of cross-state criminal enterprise masquerading as a political campaign and to dissuade California voters from giving Sanders their support. I suspect that this focus on Nevada is also an attempt to demobilize people, lower the numbers of people voting and build towards a provocation at the upcoming Democratic Party convention. Under these circumstances, then, voting in large numbers, not taking the bait and focusing instead on Cohen's piece is especially important.

This morning a rather cynical ultra-leftist attempted to bait us on supporting Sanders and on the issue of reforming the Democratic Party. On another website we are called "Maoists for Clinton," and someone recently referred to me as a "Democratic Party Stalinist." I thought that we set the record straight in this post and with this leaflet.

Let's repeat: its a reasonable thing to support Sanders, and we do so with certain hopes and criticisms; it's also a reasonable thing to have a flexible strategy regarding Clinton and the Clinton campaign in the context of a united front against the ultra-right; Democratic Socialists of America and the upcoming People's Summit offer real possibilities for people new to the left and involved in the Sanders movement and we hope that the Summit will be large and productive; people in "safe" states can opt out of voting for Clinton if she takes the nomination, but people in contested states should either vote for Clinton or should vote for every progressive candidate; it's important to engage and vote in ways which build an accessible left rooted in the youth and the working class and people-of-color communities, and not build the ultra-left and the Greens; it's important to be positioned to be the core of an anti-fascist resistance if Trump wins and to be the opposition if Clinton wins and to defend progress if Sanders wins; we have to think and act in terms of building a united front against the far right and in support of broad democratic demands while we reject the forces on the left pushing Clinton as the "progressive" and "winnable" candidate; we have to work in a situation characterized by spontaneity and the possibility of new political formations suddenly arising; and our most important tasks are to support the uptick in worker, youth, LGBTQIA+, womens', climate change and people-of-color resistance now growing.

This last point needs to be our constant reference point. The Democratic Party is not our's, and won't be, but any positive political formation which will arise needs to be built from or win over the core forces needed for real social change now in the Democratic Party.

Now, here is Larry Cohen's important piece:

How to Make the Democratic Nominating Process Actually Democratic

In late July, delegates to the Democratic National Convention will gather in Philadelphia, not only to nominate a president and vice president but to debate a reform agenda for the party itself. Bernie Sanders’ call for a political revolution is centered on democratizing U.S. politics, including the Democratic Party, and his delegation will number at least 1,700. “Big money out and voters in” should be their rallying cry; spending on the 2016 election is on track to exceed the 2012 record of $7 billion.

#1 Get superdelegates out of the nominating process

As Jesse Jackson’s delegates did in 1988, Sanders’ delegates are likely to demand a significant reduction or elimination of the role of superdelegates in the nominating process. If the Democratic Party wants to broaden its base, it must move toward populism and away from control by the financial establishment. That starts with elected delegates controlling the party and the nominating process. The Democratic Party should, ironically enough, follow the lead of the Republican Party, in which superdelegates can’t vote as they please—like elected delegates, they must abide by their state’s popular vote.

#2 Get super PACs out, too

The Democrats need to lead by example. While most Democratic voters would decry Citizens United or McCutcheon v FEC, most Democratic candidates are using wealthy donors as the mainstay of their fundraising—even in nominating contests, where there can be no excuse of matching Republican opponents’ spending. If nominees are to gain the trust of working- and middle-class voters, step one is to pledge, as Bernie Sanders has done, to reject the loopholes that allow the wealthy to control the nominating process and the outcome of the general election. Candidates should pledge to oppose the formation of super PACs during the nominating process.

#3 Clean up primaries and caucuses

Much of the Democratic caucus and primary system is also rigged and obscure. For example, in Iowa, the state Democratic Party does not reveal the number of people caucusing in each precinct for each candidate. There were clearly irregularities and much evidence that at least in some precincts, numbers were reversed, or worse. In New York, the size of the primary electorate was diminished by rules that required a voter to be registered as a Democrat more than six months before the primary. It’s time for a new look at the entire process, much like the 1981 Hunt Commission but with the focus on transparency, democracy and inclusion.

Structural reform inside the Democratic Party needs to be coupled with a much broader democracy movement outside the party. More than 1,300 leaders and activists were arrested in April in Washington, D.C., demanding action on voting rights and getting big money out of politics.

The political revolution has begun.

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