Former DNC Chair Donna Brazile Fights to Keep Superdelegates in Dem Primary

'There’s multiple ways to get at this issue without telling everybody to go to hell,' she says

Donna Brazile / Getty Images

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Donna Brazile, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, is defending the party’s use of superdelegates in its presidential primary.

Brazile has criticized how the DNC favored Hillary Clinton during the 2016 primary but said superdelegates – party insiders who are not pledged to back candidates voters choose – are helpful to the primaries, according to the New York Times.

"We have to make sure that we do this in the right way, in the most responsible way, and superdelegates should be a part of that process," she said.

"The way we’re framing this conversation right now, we’re discussing removing people from the table who actually set the menu," Brazile added. "There’s multiple ways to get at this issue without telling everybody to go to hell. That’s unacceptable."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and his supporters railed against superdelegates and other ways the Democratic presidential primary was "rigged" for Clinton, and Brazile has been a key figure in the party’s strife surrounding the 2016 election. She slipped CNN debate questions to Clinton during the primary with Sanders, and after the election, she said Clinton's campaign caused "cancer" inside the party.

Sanders took his complaints about superdelegates public during the primary, but party leaders want the internal discussions not to affect the party's public face. David Pepper, a committee member and the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said "people are getting to a decent place." He also said it could be bad for their message to focus on internal activities.

"I think there’s an understanding that if we spend all our time in this internal discussion — so much so that it becomes our external message — then we’ve become off message with voters," Pepper said.

"This conversation needed to happen but it’s internal politics, and we need to get it over with," he added. "We need to move on."

Charlie Baker, a member of the party’s reform commission and former chief operating officer of Clinton’s campaign, said the party’s lack of transparency led to "conspiracy theories" that ought to "go away."

"There was a lack of transparency that led people to create some conspiracy theories, and it’s useful that will likely go away now," Baker said.

Democrats are trying to negotiate a deal not just on superdelegates but on other aspects of the party’s functioning, including how debates are scheduled. DNC chairman Tom Perez has said he wants to have primary debates scheduled ahead of time rather than negotiated by the candidates, since some complained the previous schedule benefited Clinton.

Larry Cohen, the chairman of Sanders’ campaign arm Our Revolution, said this time the party would adopt needed reforms.

"This isn’t a repeat of other stuff," Cohen said. "They are truly pushing to adopt these reforms and they’re in lock step."

Sanders has continued to criticize the Democratic Party and refused to join it formally, but his supporters negotiating with the DNC have said the reform process has been "constructive." Specifically, people on both sides told the Times that mutual disdain for Trump was bringing them together in the hopes of winning elections in 2018.

"Everyone is in agreement about what the North Star is here, it’s just working out nuts and bolts," rules committee spokesman Michael Tyler said.

Paul Crookston

Paul Crookston   Email Paul | Full Bio | RSS
Paul Crookston is a media analyst with the Washington Free Beacon. He was previously a Collegiate Network fellow at National Review. A 2016 graduate of Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., he served as the managing editor of the Tartan campus newspaper. He is originally from Tampa, Fla., but he still roots for Dad’s Ohio teams. His Twitter handle is @P_Crookston. He can be reached at crookston@freebeacon.com.

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