The Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee adopted a new rule on Friday that would prevent outsiders like Bernie Sanders from seeking the party’s nomination in the 2020 presidential race. The move seems to be the latest salvo in the ongoing jockeying over the party’s future that emerged following the at times bitter primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Sanders in 2016.
But while the rule change left some of Sanders’s top allies thinking the party was being driven by “spite,” it likely won’t affect him directly and could pave the way for one of his favorite reforms.
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DNC member Randi Weingarten, who is president of the American Federation of Teachers, posted a photo of the rules change shortly after it was added to the proposed draft call for the 2020 Democratic convention. Weingarten, who attended Friday’s DNC meeting in Providence, R.I., wrote that the party “changed the rules to ensure to run for President as a Democrat you need to be A Democrat.”
The new rule would force candidates in Democratic presidential primaries to state that they are Democrats, accept the party’s nomination if they win the 2020 primary and to “run and serve” as a member.
“At the time a presidential candidate announces their candidacy publicly, they must publicly affirm that they are a Democrat,” the rule says. “Each candidate pursuing the Democratic nomination shall affirm, in writing, to the National Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee that they: A. are a member of the Democratic Party; B. will accept the Democratic nomination; and C. will run and serve as a member of the Democratic Party.”
The rule seems like a clear response to Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate but has steadfastly maintained his status as an independent. Sanders ran to the left of Clinton and identifies himself as a “democratic socialist.”During the 2016 primary, Clinton and her supporters regularly criticized Sanders for his lack of an official affiliation with the party. After an unexpectedly close race, Sanders ultimately lost to Clinton. His base of support included younger voters and independents, whom many Democrats see as vital to the party if it hopes to avoid a repeat of its defeat to Trump in 2016. Many Sanders supporters angrily felt the DNC stacked the deck in Clinton’s favor, a perception that was amplified by hacked emails from party leaders that were published by Wikileaks in the lead-up to the party’s 2016 convention.
In the wake of Clinton’s loss to Trump, the party assembled a unity commission with members appointed by both Clinton and Sanders. The Sanders wing focused on recommendations designed to open up the party’s nominating process and make it more inclusive to what Sanders termed “the working people and young people of our country.” One of the commission’s proposals that was particularly important to Sanders was the elimination of the unelected Democratic superdelegates who are able to vote for a nominee regardless of who won the race in their home state. Sanders and many of his supporters viewed these superdelegates as a way for the Democratic Party establishment to control the nominating process irrespective of the will of the party’s voters.