This is a pretty big deal. The Democratic party is considering removal of super-delegates from the Democratic presidential nomination process entirely. This isn’t the previous agreement that was reached in the Democratic Unity Reform Commission, which was set to reduce their number by approximately 60 percent. This is a plan to eliminate them entirely and go by popular vote alone.
After the 2016 primary, the amount of misgivings that progressives had towards the DNC was hard to overstate. One of the largest grievances was the practice of using super-delegates, people who are un-elected and have no obligation to follow the will of voters, to essentially serve as an emergency override and potentially throw things like a presidential primary against the vote of the people. Even though super-delegates were not the make-or-break point for Hillary’s winning of the nomination, the way in which they were abused and the statements by some of them (Howard Dean in particular) soured things very badly within the party’s progressive base.
Seeing as the party at large cannot afford the appearance of bias again in 2020, one can see why they’d be mulling over the outright removal of delegates at least on the presidential nomination level. All things considered, complete removal of super-delegates seems to be the best bet if the Democratic party wants to offer some form of outreach to bring its progressive base back into the fold. It makes the most sense to have the popular winner be the nominee, because they would then receive the most support from voters in the general election.
As expected, resistance from establishment figures in the party is severe. Many are playing this from a victimization angle, like DNC member Bob Mulholland, who was quoted as saying “In other words, Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Carter would be told they cannot vote for our next President and they would be escorted to the nosebleed section of the arena.” The very fact he’s pointing out there is a “nosebleed’ section of the democratic party’s “arena” is self-defeating, especially when they’re trying to pass off the primary process as-is as a completely unbiased affair where all voices are given equal consideration. Also, there’s no law preventing ex presidents or sitting legislators from voting in their respective primaries — they just don’t get super duper ability to erase their base’s vote any longer.
The point is this — super-delegates did not follow closely enough to the will of the popular vote in 2016, regardless of whether or not they proved pivotal in the end to the nomination. People like Howard Dean openly bragged that he doesn’t “represent the people” and can vote however he wants for a nominee. On an optics level alone, this is no way to earn back support of the progressive base that the Democratic party openly admitted it planned to abandon in 2016 so they could try to convince Republicans to vote Democratic.
In the end, having super-delegates that can potentially override a popular vote is a recipe for disaster. Logically speaking, the popular vote winner would get the most support in the general on the basis of policy, and not merely to “stop the other guys from winning,” which we saw was not enough in 2016. Hopefully the party does the right thing and drops this archaic process to right the ship for 2020.