Judging by 2014’s crowded election calendar, this will be a landmark year for democracy. The Economist estimates that an unprecedented 40 percent of the world’s population will have a chance to vote in national polls in 2014. We’ll see races in populous countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, the United States, and, most notably, India, where 700 million people are expected to cast ballots in what Fareed Zakaria has called the “largest democratic process in human history.”
But here’s the catch: The “biggest year for democracy ever,” as The Economist is billing it, follows a year that in many ways was characterized by the ascent of authoritarianism. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad, with the help of Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah, gained the upper hand in the country’s devastating civil war. In Egypt, the crucible of the Arab Spring, the Egyptian military overthrew the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi and launched a heavy-handed crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other pockets of opposition. In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan silenced political opponents and stifled freedom of expression—at least, that is, until a corruption scandal and plans to redevelop a park sparked a backlash against his increasingly authoritarian governing style.
The California Democratic Party on Sunday called for a broad overhaul of how the party nominates its presidential candidates, including the elimination of caucuses and most super-delegates.
The resolution urging the Democratic National Committee to change the nominating rules for the 2020 contest has no official power, but is a symbolic statement from the largest state Democratic party in the nation.
Many of the changes were sought by supporters of Bernie Sanders, but Hillary Clinton backers also endorsed the effort, resulting in the resolution being unanimously approved at the state party’s executive board meeting on Sunday.
“It’s very exciting and healing for our party to be able to make a strong statement that we believe in democracy and that leaders should never trump the will of the voters,” said Christine Pelosi, a California super delegate, daughter of House Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and a Clinton backer who co-authored the resolution.
Co-author Daraka Larimore-Hall, the party secretary and a Sanders backer, added, “There are a lot of people, whether they’re Clinton supporters or Sanders’ supporters, who see … there are broken things in our nominating process.”
The issue of super-delegates, who are elected officials and party leaders who are not bound by election results and can support whomever they want, has been a major point of contention in the 2016 presidential contest.
Their support of Clinton led to her being named the presumptive nominee on June 6, the night before California and five other states voted. Sanders argues they are not democratic, although, somewhat paradoxically, he also argued until this week that they should go against the will of voters in their states and support him, rather than Clinton.
Sanders’ campaign now says it is not contacting super-delegates to ask for their support.
The California resolution calls for Democratic governors and members of Congress to lose their status as super-delegates and instead attend the nominating convention as nonvoting guests. Members of the Democratic National Committee would remain super-delegates, but would be required to vote for the candidate who won their constituency.
The resolution also calls for replacing all state caucuses with state primaries. Critics say that caucuses are undesirable because most working people don’t have time to attend them and they typically have very low turnouts. Sanders won most caucuses this year, while Clinton won the bulk of states that held primaries.
The resolution also repeats a long-standing call by California Democrats to change the primary election calendar. California Democrats have long complained that the tiny, homogenous states of Iowa and New Hampshire have an outsized voice in the nominating process, while an enormous, diverse state like California is largely marginalized.
The DNC is also being urged to schedule the convention to include weekend days so more people are able to participate.
Valarie Martin, a Sanders supporter who leaned on a walker as she protested outside of the meeting, said she wept when she learned that the resolution would likely pass.
“This is what democracy looks like,” said the 63-year-old.