Democratic National Committee officials on Friday moved forward with a proposal to force the party’s presidential candidates to identify as Democrats, a move that drew immediate criticism from a top official in Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign.
The prospective rule change, approved by the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, would not necessarily impact Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who ran for president as a Democrat.
Sources familiar with the discussion said officials believed the rule change could help garner support for a separate bid to reduce the influence of superdelegates in the party’s presidential nomination process — a priority of Sanders’ supporters after the 2016 election. Both proposals are scheduled to be considered by the full DNC in August.
Still, Mark Longabaugh, a senior adviser to Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, bristled at the DNC committee’s action.
“I really don’t get the motivation for the resolution at all,” he said. “You know, Bernie Sanders got 13 million votes in 2016. Thousands, if not millions, of those votes were young people and independents he brought into the Democratic Party. And I’m just stunned that the Democratic Party’s rules committee would want to try to make the Democratic Party an exclusive club, for which we want to exclude voters and large segments of the American electorate.”
He said, “I just find it a stunningresolution.”Longabaugh said Sanders would unlikely be affected by the rule change anyway because he could list himself as a Democrat again if he runs in 2020.
According to the draft rule change adopted Friday, “At the time a presidential candidate announces their candidacy publicly, they must publicly affirm that they are a Democrat.”
The draft goes on to require that any candidate pursuing the Democratic Party’s nomination for president confirm in writing to the Democratic National Committee chairman that they are a member of the Democratic Party, will accept the Democratic nomination and will “run and serve as a memberof the Democratic Party.”The Rules and Bylaws Committee, meeting in Providence, R.I., made no final determination on superdelegates. DNC Chairman Tom Perez has proposed prohibiting superdelegates from voting on the first presidential nominating ballot at the national convention. Rules committee members also discussed a modified version of that proposal, in which superdelegates would be allowed to vote on the first ballot if a candidate had already earned enough pledged delegates from state primaries and caucuses to win the nomination.The Rules and Bylaws Committee plans to meet once more this month, before the full DNC votes on the measures in August.Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, infuriated many establishment Democrats when he ran against Hillary Clinton as a Democrat in 2016, while many Sanders supporters remain embittered by a primary in which they said the DNC tipped the scales against their candidate.