THE PLANK DECEMBER 31, 2009
On a day normally devoted to examining the past, there's one bit of news affecting the political future. The Democratic Change Commission, set up during last year's Democratic National Convention to deal with accumulated grievances about the presidential nominating process, forwarded its recommendations to the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee. In an extraordinarily unsurprising move, the commission recommended killing the independent voting status of convention superdelegates. In other words, they'll still get a ticket to the convention, and a vote, but will now be dubbed National Pledged Party Leader and Elected Official delegates (a decidedly un-super designation) whose votes will be allocated based on primary and caucus results in their home states.
But the Change Commission was also instructed to deal with the perennial issue of the primary/caucus calendar. And on this issue, the panel pretty much punted: the same gaggle of entitled states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) are given a window from February 1 to March 1 to do what they do, with everyone else theoretically following afterwards (there's no word of what happens to rebels, like Michigan and Florida in 2008). In Iowa, at least, this is being interpreted as ratifying that state's first-in-the-nation status.
This obviously follows the historic pattern of perennial party commissions on the nominating process. But it's significant, too. If ever Democrats were going to break the mold and defy the Iowa-New Hampshire duopoly, or more dramatically, the whole state-controlled nature of the process, this would be the time to do it, with an incumbent Democratic president and presumably no competitive nominating contest until six years down the road.
Only the hardiest political junkies are thinking about 2016 right now, but it will eventually arrive, amidst complaints that both parties' creaky nominating processes are irrational, divisive, and greatly non-representative. With opportunities for "change" like the Change Commission squandered, it may not be too early to be planning for a very cold night in Iowa in 2016.
Ed Kilgore is Managing Editor of The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute.