WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders’ former campaign manager Jeff Weaver is fighting tooth and nail to change the Democratic National Committee (DNC) rules so they can no longer disenfranchise “insurgent” candidates like the progressive underdog he worked for.
“There are rules that, even if fairly applied, are used to keep people out,” Weaver told Big League Politics in an exclusive interview inside the DNC Unity Commission, which the Democratic Party convened in a lower-floor conference room at Washington’s ritzy Marriott Wardman Park hotel Friday. Most of the discussions at the Unity Commission centered on how the Democratic Party can determine its own rights when it comes to picking its nominee rather than abiding by the will of the voters, and figuring out how to navigate “constitutional constraints” on its own authority.
“There are rules that allow campaigns to game the system rather than have the will of the voters represented,” Weaver said. “There were abuses in the process. Those have got to be addressed.”
Vanquished former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz infamously colluded against Sanders during the primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton, according to WikiLeaks revelations. But Weaver told Big League Politics that he is moving forward from the contention.
“I was never bitter. I am not a bitter person,” Weaver said. “Part of the mission of this reform commission is to open up the process to make sure that the will of the voters is expressed,” he said. Asked if Sanders will run again, Weaver remarked, “I think it’s too early to talk about that right now.”
Weaver was one of two progressive reformers speaking up in the Commission about the DNC’s rigged process. The other, Bernie supporter and The Young Turks reporter Nomiki Konst, was fired up.
“If we want to capitalize off this resistance, that means we have to be inclusive of the people on the front lines and the workers,” Konst told Big League Politics.
“I don’t think we’re here to re-litigate the drama of the 2016 election. We’re here to assess and examine where crucial mistakes were made,” Konst added.
Unfortunately for Weaver and Konst, the Commission spent a lot of time figuring out how much the party is allowed to get away with.
The Commission heard a presentation from an attorney that included slides like “Party Rights v. Candidate/Voter Constitutional Constraints on Party” and devoted time to explaining how the Democratic Party once used its authority to strip delegates away from fringe candidate Lyndon LaRouche.
Lucy Flores of Nevada, a failed congressional candidate and Sanders supporter who is a rising star in Democratic Party politics, asked if caucuses are bound to the same laws as primaries. Told that they were not, she asked if the Democrats could theoretically change all primaries into caucuses to avoid legal restrictions, but added that she was not suggesting that. The answer, to her surprise, was yes.
A presentation by former Clinton White House official, Harvard John F. Kennedy School professor, and Brookings Institution official Elaine Kamarck was troubling to the cause of reform.
“We are the only democracy in the world that uses primaries to select our nominees…They are not selected in an open system [in other countries]. All the parliamentary democracies work that way. The fact that we use primaries lengthens our process,” Kamarck said.
“In the end, a party in convention can actually do whatever it wants to do,” she said, noting that conventions are no longer exciting because everything is pre-determined by voters. Kamarck also predicted that Republicans will adopt a superdelegate system to use against President Trump when he comes up for re-election in 2020.
Kamarck said that party insiders who voted in past conventions — instead of voters — are valuable because “They tend to be people who actually know the people running for president, as opposed to the voters.” That line drew some guffaws.
Konst put forth a plaintive appeal to confront special interest money in the Democratic Party, but it was ignored.
“Are we willing to confront those financial incentives that are perhaps in the face of the Democratic Party?” Konst asked the Commission.
“Okay, we’ll talk again in the morning,” a Commission moderator replied to dark chuckles as the session ended.
The Commission’s second and final hearing begins Saturday morning at 9:30 AM.