Commentary: End the anti-democratic superdelegate system

By Joe Trippi

and Simon Rosenberg

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Next week, our party will meet in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection to nominate our candidate for president of the United States. We hope that Democrats will emerge unified in support of Hillary Clinton, in opposition to Donald Trump, and formidable enough to win the presidency and make gains in other offices across the country.

We have supported Clinton throughout this primary, but we believe that Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters have made the party stronger and have pointed toward legitimate concerns about the voice that rank-and-file Americans have in our governance structures and political processes.

In Philadelphia, we will be presented with an opportunity to act on some of those concerns and further unify our party. In doing so, we can bring the party's structure more in line with its ideals - and even with its name:

It is time to end the antidemocratic superdelegate system.

Our party's platform and coalition of supporters are built on the concept that representation should be fair, equitable, and just. Democrats advocate social and economic justice, and we fight for inclusion and equal opportunity. However, the superdelegate system explicitly contradicts these values.

In fact, that violation is literally spelled out in the party's charter:

Article 2, Section 4 starts by laying out broad, noble principles of fair representation and gender equity that are meant to govern the delegate selection process - and then crashes into a "notwithstanding" clause that explicitly allows for these principles to be undermined in order to create room for the superdelegates to exist.

This exceptional clause is needed because the superdelegates - a mix of Democratic elected officials and party insiders who are given the same power as delegates ex officio - don't look very much like the voter base of the party that bestows upon them so much authority: The superdelegates skew far older, far more male, and whiter than the party's rank-and-file supporters or recent pledged-delegate cohorts.

And there's no rule that prevents the superdelegates from voting against - or even overturning - the will of the party's voters.

Even so, the superdelegates have essentially as much weight as do the pledged delegates from the District of Columbia, four territories, and 24 states combined.

It's for these reasons and others that more than a dozen state Democratic parties and various prominent elected officials - and even superdelegates themselves, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) - have called for reform in recent months. It's why a 2009 commission impaneled by the Democratic National Committee, and cochaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.), proposed significant reforms to the superdelegate system, which were supported by then-DNC Chairman Tim Kaine.

Yet those changes were never implemented.

Sanders and his supporters often decried what they perceived as a "rigged" political system. To be clear, Clinton won this year's election fair and square by getting the substantial majority of the support of the party's electorate: The superdelegates did not tip the balance - the voters did.

But structures like the superdelegates create the appearance - and the factual possibility - that in future years, our party's nominees for the land's highest offices could be decided by insiders and not by the voting public. Democrats should not have a system that is ever capable of being rigged or could even be perceived to be so.

Our new party platform's preamble - which passed unanimously in Orlando last week - reads, "Democrats believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls." That's absolutely right.

The party should put these precepts into practice by agreeing that Sanders supporters and others (like us) who support ending superdelegates are right.

We should cooperate to fix this system once and for all - and doing so will serve to unify our party and empower voters to choose future presidential nominees without worrying that their will might ever be overturned.

Simon Rosenberg is president of the think tank NDN and was a leading candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2005. @simonwdc

Joe Trippi formerly managed Howard Dean's presidential campaign. @JoeTrippi