Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia and experience my first Democratic National Convention – and what an experience it was.
As a member of the DNC Rules Committee, my work actually began a few weeks prior to the start of the convention, when I began to organize a push to reform the Democratic Party’s superdelegate system.
Democratic Party superdelegates are high-ranking elected officials and party insiders who act as unpledged delegates in the presidential nominating contest – meaning that their votes at the convention do not need to reflect the popular vote in their home states. Superdelegates currently have as much weight in the Democratic Party’s nominating process as the pledged delegates from the District of Columbia, four territories, and 24 states combined, creating the possibility that in future contests they could overturn the most important political decision voters get to make.
As a proud Democrat, I believe our party’s internal processes need to reflect our core values. That’s why I began reaching out to fellow Rules Committee members and working with a number of Democrat-aligned organizations to build support for an amendment to eliminate superdelegates.
The Rules Committee met at the Philadelphia Convention Center on the Saturday before the convention began – and boy did that meeting stretch into the night.
My amendment was the first substantive piece the committee took up, and it sparked a round of high-powered negotiations between the campaigns that lasted late into the evening. Finally, we were able to come to a compromise proposal that would dramatically limit the role of superdelegates, binding roughly two-thirds of them to the results of state primaries and caucuses.
It was an exhausting but exhilarating experience, and I was very proud that we were successful in making a significant step toward the democratic principle of one person, one vote.
On Monday, of course, the main show began. For me, the convention was a fascinating combination of preparation, frustration and inspiration. As one of the only elected officials in Rhode Island to support Bernie Sanders in the primary, I was very glad to see the senator strongly make the case that electing Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States is absolutely essential to actualizing our Democratic Party platform, which – thanks to Sanders’ success – is the most progressive ever.
I left Philadelphia feeling prepared to do everything in my power to make sure that Donald Trump’s hateful campaign is defeated.
As a progressive who wants my party to be the best it can be, however, I was frustrated to watch the results of the DNC’s decision to lift the Obama-era ban on contributions by corporate lobbyists. From the ground, much of the convention can be seen as a weeklong corporate lobbying session, and I saw that again and again, with countless corporate-hosted events and swanky parties bringing major donors together with top elected officials. I believe that the influence of big money is a fundamental problem in our political system, and my experience at the DNC reinforced my perspective that we have a long way to go.
And finally, the convention was inspiring. It was beautiful to watch President Obama’s speech, and feel his narrative of America as a collective project – as “us” – take me back to 2008, when he inspired me to move to Toledo, Ohio, and get involved in my first campaign. And it was inspiring to see our first female presidential nominee receive the nomination!
While I supported Sanders in the primary, I believe we will be able to achieve real progressive wins under President Hillary Clinton, and I was electrified to join so many of my fellow Democrats in vowing to keep working to put Clinton in the White House, to retake Congress, and then to make sure all those politicians live up to their campaign rhetoric and help us make America a place that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and a well-connected few.
AARON REGUNBERG represents District 4 (Providence) in the Rhode Island General Assembly.