Democratic leadership is being pushed to formally commit the party to allow for neutral primaries.
The Thursday afternoon call by MoveOn.org, a progressive activist group, came as a response to a newly released audio recording of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) pressuring a Colorado Democratic candidate for Congress to step aside because party leadership had decided to support a different candidate.
MoveOn called the recording "profoundly disappointing" and indicated "a pattern of behavior" by party bosses. It called for leadership to end the practice of backing candidates before votes are cast and to formally commit to staying out of all future primaries.
"We call on Leader [Nancy] Pelosi, who MoveOn has supported in leadership elections, Rep. Hoyer, and the leaders of the DCCC to recommit themselves to supporting truly neutral primaries, and to quickly establish a formal policy enshrining that value into the party's charter and bylaws," the group said.
MoveOn said the recording of Hoyer is both evidence of a "corrupt political system" and "also bad politics."
"Rep. Hoyer's comments are profoundly disappointing, because they're part of a pattern of behavior from organizations like the DCCC sending a message that party bosses, and not voters, should decide who represents people in districts across the country," the group said. "Voters correctly perceive such behavior as part of a corrupt political system rigged in favor the few, run by those with enough wealth and influence to dictate outcomes for everyone else."
"Such behavior by party leaders isn't just anti-democratic—it's also bad politics, contributing to an environment in which most potential voters have negative perceptions of the Democratic Party, dampening enthusiasm and turnout."
The group also pointed out a pattern of party bosses coming out against candidates with "bold ideas."
"In districts across the country, we're seeing that same dynamic play out: the proud, progressive candidate with bold ideas runs into institutional walls, faces unequal access to support and resources, and is sometimes persuaded away from engaging with our democracy entirely," it said.