Whether we’ve liked it or not, unity has become the Democratic buzzword of late. The tour with DNC Chair Tom Perez and Sen. Bernie Sanders has created waves on Twitter and in the press; the dismay, disarray, and disgust that have resulted are an unfortunate by-product of tone-deaf politicking. It occurred to me in the midst of my anger of the past week that I wanted to know more about where this emphasis on “unity” originated. I did a deep dive into the background and what I found is both encouraging and cause for concern. I am the first to recognize that this topic is a bit esoteric and wonky when resistance to the Republicans has to be our primary focus. But I also hope that it will provide some helpful information about directions the Democratic Party is considering for itself.
Unity Reform Commission
At the July 2016 DNC convention, a proposal was made to the Rules Committee that a Unity Reform Commission be established. This proposal was sponsored by Wellington Webb, former mayor of Denver, and Michaeleen Crowell, Sen. Sanders’ Chief of Staff (and interestingly, a former staffer for Rep. John Lewis). The full text of the resolution can be found here, (http://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.democrats.org/Downloads/Unity_Reform_Commission_Resolution.pdf), but the blockquotes below cover most of it:
…it shall consist of 21 members including a chair and vice-chair, all with the right to vote on Commission business. The chair shall be Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and the vice-chair Larry Cohen. Secretary Clinton shall appoint nine members of the Commission and Senator Sanders shall appoint seven members of the Commission. The remaining three members shall be appointed by the National Chair of the DNC. To the extent possible, its membership shall be equally divided between men and women and shall be geographically and demographically diverse.
Unity Reform Commission shall consider and make appropriate recommendations regarding revisions to the Delegate Selection Rules for the 2020 Democratic National Convention with respect to the manner of voting used during the presidential nominating process with a goal of increasing voter participation and inclusion through grassroots engagement of the Party’s voter base during and in-between presidential election cycles.
The Commission shall make recommendations to encourage the expanded use of primary elections.
…shall make specific recommendations regarding the steps necessary to ensure that, in states where caucuses are conducted, eligible voters’ ability to participate in the caucuses are protected. The Commission shall make recommendations as to how caucuses can be less burdensome and more inclusive, transparent and accessible to participants. Specific consideration shall be given to so-called firehouse caucuses and other methods that will permit expanded and higher volumes of voter participation. These steps shall include ensuring caucuses are well-run, accessible, transparent and that the delegates allocated to the national convention fairly reflect the will of the voters expressed during the caucuses. The Commission shall make specific recommendations to streamline the caucus realignment process, including measures to accommodate increased voter participation and decrease the time necessary to conduct the caucus. The Commission shall make specific recommendations that requires caucuses to publish the specific headcount at all caucus locations…
…the Unity Reform Commission shall make recommendations to encourage the involvement in all elections of unaffiliated or new voters who seek to join the Democratic Party including through same-day registration and re-registration.
…shall consider and make appropriate recommendations for revisions to the Delegate Selection Rules for the 2020 Democratic National Convention to provide for a change in the manner by which unpledged party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates participate in the presidential nominating process. In particular, the Commission shall make specific recommendations providing that Members of Congress, Governors and distinguished party leaders (DNC Charter Art. Two, Section 4(h)(ii)(1)-(6)) remain unpledged and free to support their nominee of choice, but that remaining unpledged delegates be required to cast their vote at the Convention for candidates in proportion to the vote received for each candidate in their state.
… shall consider and make appropriate recommendations as to: (1) how to make the party and its candidates more competitive in all regions of the country; (2) how to make the DNC and state parties full and accountable partners in the process of mobilizing voters and winning elections at all levels; (3) how to support and oversee Democratic efforts in legislative and congressional reapportionment and redistricting to ensure Democratic majorities in state legislatures and in Congress; (4) how to broaden the base of the party and empower rank and file Democrats at the grassroots level; and (5) how to expand the DNC’s donor base (a) to make it less dependent on large contributions, (b) to get more people invested in the party, and (c) to enable the party to support important electoral programs.
To me, this looks like a laundry list of Berniecrat grievances, real or perceived. However, as a pragmatist, I’m not opposed to having the conversations within the Party, and it’s possible that some useful and helpful recommendations could result. The key, of course, may be who serves on the commission, and that too is a good news/bad news situation.
Unity Reform Commission members (Sanders picks in bold. The remaining picks are those of Sec. Clinton and Chairman Perez, but the breakdown was not made public.):
1. Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Chair, District of Columbia; partner, Precision Strategies
2. Larry Cohen, Vice Chair, District of Columbia; chair of Our Revolution and former president of the Communication Workers of America
3. Charlie Baker, Massachusetts; president of Dewey Square Group and former chief administrative officer of the Clinton campaign
4. Jan Bauer, Iowa; Iowa Democratic National Committeewoman and Clinton supporter
5. Jeff Berman, District of Columbia, former Clinton campaign consultant
6. Lucy Flores, California, former Nevada Assemblywoman and Sanders supporter
7. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Clinton supporter
8. Maya Harris, New York, former senior policy adviser, Clinton campaign
9. David Huynh, Louisiana; former Clinton campaign director of delegate operations and ballot access
10. Elaine Kamarck, Massachusetts; senior fellow, Brookings Institution
11. Jane Kleeb, Nebraska Democratic Party Chair; Sanders supporter and Our Revolution board member
12. Nomiki Konst, New York; investigative reporter for the Young Turks and former Sanders convention delegate
13. Yvette Lewis, Maryland Democratic National Committeewoman and Clinton supporter
14. Gus Newport, California; former mayor of Berkeley, California and Sanders supporter
15. Jorge Neri, Illinois; former Clinton campaign Nevada state director
16. James Roosevelt, Jr., Massachusetts; president of Tufts Health Plan and co-chair of the Democratic national convention Rules and Bylaws Committee
17. Emmy Ruiz, Texas; former Clinton campaign Colorado state director
18. Former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, Sanders convention delegate and Our Revolution board member
19. Jeff Weaver, Virginia; former Sanders campaign chair
20. Wellington Webb, Colorado; former Denver mayor and Clinton supporter
21. Jim Zogby, District of Columbia; founder of the Arab American Institute and Sanders supporter
The list above comes from this article, DNC Announces Members of Unity Reform Commission. The article itself makes clear what the list alone may not: if the Clinton and/or Perez picks represent the “Establishment” of the Party, the Sanders’ picks represent the furtherance of his agenda, vision, and grievances of 2016. That in and of itself is not surprising; the fact that some of his picks are effectively flamethrowers par excellence (cough Nomiki Konst) is also not surprising, but worrisome. I, for one, am glad I’m not sitting on this commission, but I do have a strong interest in its proposals. Because of that, I have subscribed here for updates, and I urge you to consider doing the same: https://my.democrats.org/page/signup/unity-reform-commission
I hope this is of interest to some of you; if not, obligatory cute
pups Basset hounds (I’ll leave the kitties for Momentary Grace!)…
— Basset Hound Network (@BassetHounds_) April 19, 2017
Basset Hounds pic.twitter.com/C9oY2UH3J4
— Emilee Gill (@EmileeGillTZU) April 23, 2017
— Basset Hound Network (@BassetHounds_) April 19, 2017
— Doggie Pals (@mb_mclane) April 12, 2017