Hunting the Hunt Commission

The private meetings that led to the creation of superdelegates have never been published or made public—until now.

Despite holding a nationwide series of presidential primaries and caucuses in which millions of voters participate, the Democratic Party still maintains a system of 712 party insiders who often have the final say on who the nominee is. Why did the party choose to institute such a system? To answer that, you need to go back to the Hunt Commission, which in 1982 invented the “superdelegate.”

The proceedings of the Hunt Commission have never been published. In These Times gained access to documents housed in the National Archives, excerpts of which are reproduced below.

The pages here represent only a sample of the total material looked at by In These Times, which itself makes up a small percentage of the total proceedings of the Commission. Nevertheless, the documents presented here provide an exclusive window into the deliberation and motivations that led to the creation of superdelegates.

Read the June cover story: “The Secret History of Superdelegates”

Part One: The Problem of Primaries

In the Hunt Commission’s first session, participants discussed their concerns with the recent proliferation of presidential primaries, and spoke about the necessity of giving party elites a greater say in the nomination.

DNC Chair Taylor Manatt: A third important part of the charge that I would just highlight tonight is the vital importance I see as to the number and role of the elected Party and public officials in the actual process of the nomination and indeed in that process as it completes itself on the occasion of the election of the President and Vice President of the Democratic Party in 1984 and beyond. A very vital part of it, I think, is the full involvement of the Party officials and the elected public officials in our process; certainly for all of us to fully understand the role of the candidates themselves in the selection of delegates, in that process, in working with the State Chairs and others responsible for it, and as to whether or not the rules should be dealt with in a different way as to their binding nature on the delegates themselves as they go to the convention, an important part of our inquiry, an important part of our review ahead.

And finally of course as the part of the charge to where we are now today, having come so far since indeed the process began in 1964, 1968 and beyond, is that important view that we will take as a Commission of strengthening [sic] the Party, strengthening the Party in the precinct, in the township [sic], in the county, in the State level …

DNC Chair Taylor Manatt: So tonight, as your National Chairman, I would simply like on the one hand to thank each of you for being with us, for serving on the Commission, for the work in the time ahead which will be very intensive, very, very deliberative, and yet relatively quick, Mrs. Israel, as we go ahead in the time of the work of our commission, by the same token, to say our charge is a full one as the National Democratic Party, not to undue [sic] what is done, but indeed, to change and improve upon those activities and those developments of our process as we have seen them developed to now. That is the fundamental precept of our Commission that will bring us victory along with many other things, will bring us victory in 1984, and by God, that’s what we’re up to and that’s what we’re up to and that’s what we’re all about.

Hunt: I think we want to strengthen this Party in part by making the people of this country feel better about the Democratic Party. One of the great things we have done—and I am proud to have been a part of it—is open the doors of our Party. I headed up the Reform Commission in North Carolina when we put into place the recommendations of the McGovern-Fraser Commission. I am proud of the work we have done. I can show you in my state today young people who came in and began a third vice chairman or chairperson of the party who now are playing such a critical role at other levels and in public leadership.

I am proud of the affirmative action efforts that we have had in this Party, the only Party that really fully represents all Americans. I am proud of the things we have done, and all of us I think ought to be.

I do think, however, that there are some people in this Party that maybe still feel a little left out, and maybe some of them are the sort of middle income Americans. Maybe they haven’t worked too hard to get out there and be a part of the caucus and other things that they have a right to do and have the door open to them to do. I hope we can figure out some ways to get them more involved. I think we can do that.

Hunt: I have a very strong feeling, as our Chairman does, that if we can truly make the Democratic Party in this country in the years ahead be bound very strongly or be a strong bond between the Democrats who are serving at various levels in our local and state governments, and particularly in the Congress, with a Democratic President, that we can have affective government in this country again in a way that we haven’t had in a long way. And as Democrats who care about our country, we ought to be looking for ways that we can make government work better. I hope that’s one of the things that can come out of it.

I want to say very clearly here tonight that as far as I’m concerned, this Party is not about to turn back on the good things we have done. We have learned a lot in the process.

Tonight after the panel is finished, I hope that you will have questions for them and that we can engage in a useful discussion about the concerns we have and some of the goals we want to try to reach.

But we have for some two decades now been opening this Party and making it a better servant of the people of this country. And I want to see us build on that progress.

Xandra Kayden: Now as to nominations, I think the principal reason we lost control of the nomination at the presidential level is because of the primaries, and it has happened, of course, throughout in other elements of the political structure. The only good thing I could say about the primaries is that it’s a reform that worked, which ought to give us some work. Reforms can accomplish their goals. It was a progressive reform to undermine the strength of the parties, and it succeeded extraordinarily well.

Rules may change that to some effect, but I don’t think in the long run it is going to make a difference until we at least limit the number of primaries.

The second thing about the Republicans’ nominations is that they have focused having no more strength in controlling the presidential nomination process than we have, they focused a lot of their nominating interests at the state level in federal elections, in local elections, and particularly in legislative elections. They have targeted districts. I’m sure you’re quire aware of that. They have recruited candidates, and they have intervened in primaries. When they intervene in a primary in a federal election, they intervene as any non-party committee does. They are limited to a contribution of $5000, but the impact of the Party intervening in a primary is I think quite powerful.

Xandra Kayden: Now, I think you all are familiar enough with the change in the Republican Party after Watergate and the ascendancy of Bill Brock to leadership in the Party and the shift away from large donors as a result of Watergate. But also they had been moving in that direction for some time before that. It takes a long time to build up a direct mail base, but it is providing them in the long run with an extraordinary stable resource, and they argue it is increased participation [sic].

They haven’t—this is another area—they haven’t really focused as much in building grass roots level activity and trying to rebuild the Party from the bottom up. Instead, they have rebuilt the Party from the top down. With the resources they are able to provide to the state level and the targeting they are able to do at congressional and lower level races, they have been able to focus a grass roots effort, but it really came from the top down and not the other way around. And they were able to do that because of the resources they were able to get.

Now, the problem with direct mail—oh, the other thing that direct mail does is it benefitted—the return on it may not be very great in the beginning, but the effect of it is to educate people, and that’s another function of a party. A party traditionally gives cues on how to vote and direct mail that the Party sends out has I think a long range influence.

Walter Fauntroy: I think that sprit captured the hearts of many of us. I recall in 1960, joining Martin Luther King, Jr. and a great many representatives of people who had been here 300 years but had felt themselves excluded, in attending both conventions, the Democratic and Republican conventions, and picketing, asking for participation. Dr. King said at that time that blacks in the south could not vote, and blacks in the north had nothing for which to vote.

And so we were inspired to begin to participate. It’s no accident that in 1964 the black movement found itself at the Democratic National Convention supporting a Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party move for participation and not at the Republican Party Convention because by that time it had become very clear to us that the Republican Party structure was an elitist and exclusionary structure which did not offer us the option that Democrats did.

And it seems that only four years later we were joined by a great many young people born in this century, and their mothers concerned about participation in the Democratic Party, and—well, you know the rest of the story.

The fact is that as we reflect upon the question of what we do with the reforms that we have fashioned over the past 10 to 15 years, we ought to be mindful first, in my view, that it was not the reforms alone which dictated our fate as a party. One has to reflect honestly upon the fact that issues played a great role in determining the outcome of our Party’s quests in those years. In 1964, obviously the civil rights movement had shaped and catalyzed a number of interests and concerns which were moving to fruition. In 1968, our country’s failure to deal with the war in Vietnam was clearly a major determinant of the outcome of the election. In ’72 we had a very popular President, and many of us felt that we could—it would have been difficult to displace him in the first instance. And in 1976, of course, the elections were primarily the outcome of the Watergate debacle. In 1980 the economic changes which are sweeping the world, which have caused a significant shift in our economic and geopolitical relationships in the world had major roles in determining the outcome of the elections.

That is not to say that our Party in my view is not in trouble, because we do have very difficult days ahead. But it does suggest that with respect to the situation that confronts us today, that we avoid extremes in seeking to prepare ourselves for the future. There are those who feel on the one hand that the fate of the Party has been what it has been because of the reforms, and that had the Party regulars and the Party structure remained in control of nominations and in control of resources and the like, that our fate would have been much better…

Don Fraser: If you think a candidate is good, it shouldn’t make much difference what somebody else in another state a long distance away thought when they came to vote. But that shows how thin the involvement of the voter, how superficial the impression. And sometimes I yearn for that old collegial concept of the Electoral College, let’s send down our—I have forgotten how many are in the Electoral College, but I guess it’s about 535 people that we all respect and know, and let them pick the best person. I really, in many respects, I yearn for that.

And this in a way gets to the problem that Austin raises, the reforms that were adopted from ’68 on tended to go to what I call the legitimacy issue, was the process one which appeared to be legitimate from the point of view of those who wanted to participate, those who were being asked to accept the outcome.

One of the things clear to me, that whether you have 100,000 or 10,000 or 10 million people participate has no bearing whatsoever on the quality of the outcome. And we all know that. Every one of us here knows that. Numbers alone don’t give you any assurance that you’ve made a better decision, and in attempting to deal with large numbers what you often lose and which I think we have lost in the primaries is the opportunity for the one to one evaluation. We talk about the lessening of the influence of public officials. Well, once upon a time a public official could be in the brokering business by running favorite sons. We were talking about that tonight. How many favorite sons were there this last time? They’ve disappeared as a phenomenon, not because of our rules because look at the Republican Party. I don’t think they had a favorite son in 1980. It is the changing times. People won’t stand for it anymore. There are too many issue-oriented people out there.

So I like to think of a political party as kind of the nominating committee for the nation as it does its business. A political party is the nominating committee to which the citizens refer the question of who the candidate should be, and I think the political parties have got to take that and accept that responsibility and not give it back to the people until they have at least made a recommendation.

I mean, I think a political party—and I am talking now of the organized party that can not make a recommendation about a candidate—and I happen to feel this way across the board, Governor, Congressman, city councilman—who can’t recommend to the voters who the best candidate is ought to go out of business, because I don’t see any other purpose for a political party. I know that the endorsement which we follow religiously in Minnesota is not adhered to very much.

Austin Ranney: I would say this, however; we are the only democratic country in the world in which political parties pick their candidates in this manner, the leaders of their party and ultimately one of the two possibilities for the leaders of the government. In every other democratic country in the world, you name it, this is the case, the candidate is picked by a relatively small group of party people in which the party’s elected public representatives, people who have faced the test of getting themselves elected to public office, play a prominent role. In many countries and in many parties they are the only ones that pick the party leader.

And whereas that system, too, is not by any means always guaranteed to produce a great candidate or a great leader, it at least has this one advantage that I would like to see us reintroduce as much as we can—and how much we can is a different question—into our system, and that is what David Broder calls peer review, that is to say, people who know the potential candidates personally, who have seen them operate under fire, under conditions of stress, have seen them when they’ve had to display judgment, when they’ve had to decide when to stand firm and when to compromise and with whom, have certainly developed a kind of knowledge about them as to whether they would be good Presidents or not, that those of us who know the candidates only as voices and faces on the television tube cannot possibly know.

And so I guess all I could say would be this, Governor, that although no system is guaranteed to produce good candidates and good Presidents, or good leaders of any kind, I do think that the chances, the odds are improved of getting such candidates and such Presidents and such leaders if we give a much greater role that then now enjoy to people who because of their position in life have a chance to know the potential candidates personally and to observe them operating under such conditions that at least bear a strong similarity to those that they will have to operate under if they become President.

Justin Ostro: I don’t think we have to go into a discussion in this room over the fact that Ronald Reagan did not receive a mandate in that election. We won’t talk about the percent of the people who didn’t show up at the polls or the fact that he did not get that overwhelming majority of the eligible voters. But no one on the panel has addressed themselves to the evil of two lesser, the fact that many Democrats stayed away from the polls because they saw no difference between the two candidates or the two parties.

I would like to know if the panel has anything to say in that direction.

Xandra Kayden: Let me just comment on that.

One of the problems about linking the parties with the candidates in that instance is that since the parties have no control -- one of the original functions of the parties in the two-party system is accountability. If you don’t like what the incumbent is doing, you have the option of throwing him out and bringing in the other guy, and I think that’s exactly what happened in 1976. And I think in that respect it was a mandate by the American people that they didn’t like 12 percent inflation and they didn’t like Jimmy Carter as President. Beyond that, I don’t think it was a mandate, I agree with you, for Ronald Reagan or any of his policies.

But if the Party doesn’t have influence over getting the nomination—and we have been kept out of that—then the accountability issue is a little lax. We were talking about individual men in that case, and that’s I think what we are talking about when we are talking about Jimmy Carter as President.

Dick Schneller: Dick Schneller form Connecticut.

One of the threads that seemed to run through several of the panelists, particularly two, is that we have hurt ourselves through the primary system, through greater use of the primary system.

I have somewhat felt this way myself, but as I listened to the panelists, I asked myself, the other team was using the same system and the same process. What was the difference? Is it really the primary system and the greater use of the primary system that caused us to lose control of the national administration? What was different about the Republican primary system? They used it to their advantage.

Hunt: Austin?

Austin Ranney: Let me repeat my basic truth, that no system is guaranteed to produce either a winning candidate or a good candidate or a bad candidate and a losing candidate. That is the first thing.

I think I would have to say in the second place, however, that one instance where we can say the rules, the primary system and all of the rules of the presidential nominating game did make a very substantial difference was in the 1976 nomination, and in some sense the fight for the nomination in our Party in 1980 was really determined to a considerable degree by what happened in 1976.

And I think it fair to say, without evaluating President Carter as an excellent candidate or an excellent President or an excellent anything else, that he was more of an outsider, more of an unknown than any candidate who has ever received the nomination of either major party, and that his nomination at least would not have been possible under the old rules.

I doubt that it would have been possible under the kind of rules that Don Fraser is talking about, if for no other reason than the fact that nowhere near enough people would have seen Jimmy Carter in action as a Governor, as a legislator, and under all of those other circumstances that we would like to know something about.

And with all of his strengths and weaknesses, Jimmy Carter as the incumbent President was a very heavy favorite, particularly after the seizure of the hostages, to become renominated. It is a very unusual thing not to renominate a President…

Carrin Patman: Carrin Patman of Texas.

I would like to ask these experts what specific rules we might start considering very early that could hopefully stop, and even roll back the proliferation of presidential primaries.

Hunt: Okay, Don.

Don Fraser: Now, obviously one thing the Party could do would be to simply say it won’t seat anybody who is selected through a presidential primary system. That may be too abrupt and a little too abrasive.

(General laughter.)

But what you could say is that no more than a third or more than half of a delegation shall be picked in that fashion, and that the organized party has to pick the other half.

You can take steps to discourage the use of the primary. For example, one of the suggestions that Mo Udall made, I think in part from his own experience as a candidate seeking the Party’s nomination is to pick certain dates, maybe have four dates, and tell the states they either, if they are going to have a primary, they settle on that date or we won’t accept the outcome. The theory here would be you get a randomization, and we would get away from this idea that states get out ahead. This would, of course, address the New Hampshire problem, it would attempt to.

So there are those kinds of ideas, and what might happen, then, as you see states pile up on each other on a given date, they may lose interest in it, and if you added to that that not more than half the delegates could be selected through that process, maybe there would be some discouragement.

Part Two: Unrepresentative Democarcy

Participants argue that grassroots participation in the nominating process is actually unrepresentative, giving too much power to “special interests” and “activists.”

Virginia Kee: Virginia Kee from New York.

I seem to hear two trends. One of them was the strengthening and the building up of the structure and the authority of the Democratic Party. The other one was to try to be a party of the people, to appeal to the broad masses.

Are these two conflicting goals, or can we, do you think, panelists, achieve both of them?

Hunt: Austin, how about taking a crack at that?

Austin Ranney: There’s no logical reason why you couldn’t accomplish both of those goals, why we couldn’t accomplish both of those goals. There are, however, I think as those general phrases that you have given, and all of us here I think would say, gee, that would be great to do both of those things, but when it gets to be a question of the actual rules and the practicalities, then sometimes I think those things are in conflict. Sometimes I think that the Democratic Party in its present version comes across to a great many people as not so much a single party working for a common goal as a bunch of its single interest groups, special interests groups itself. There is the Women’s Lobby and there is the—I mean Caucus, and there is the Black Caucus, and there is the Right to Life Caucus, and there is this caucus and there is that caucus, and they get a good deal of attention now, and a good deal—we haven’t said anything about the media, but they are now not just observers of the process, they are participants in it as we all know. And a good deal of what comes across the tube in a Democratic Convention now, and Republican Convention, too, for that matter but particularly the Democratic Convention, is that really what the game is all about is conflict among these caucuses about who gets the right share of the platform phrases, for example, and the membership on the committees and the rules for picking the delegates all that…

Xandra Kayden: …the difficulty of governance or perhaps in the impotence of the President, the presidency as a leader in a world where we no longer exercise the kind of control we once exercised that may make it increasingly difficult to make sure that we are going to get the kind of President who can act effectively in a way that we would like.

But perhaps, skirting that issue, it does seem to me that there’s a great opportunity, and we in fact could take advantage of our disadvantages right now to pursue that opportunity to rebuild the state parties, and I think you have to do it from the national level. But beyond that, I don’t have an answer.

Hunt: Anybody else want to take a crack at that one?

Fauntroy: Yes. Just let me say that I am not going to answer the question directly, but I can’t get beyond the Senator’s question with respect to the primaries. Both the Democrats and the Republicans went through the same primary process and why the difference, and I keep coming to the answer that in large measure some of these rules and regulations are irrelevant. The thing that Jimmy Carter had going for him was Watergate, and the thing that Ronald Reagan had going for him was a crumbling economy…

Hunt:… you share with me the feeling that what we are doing here is very important, that it is going to have a real bearing on our Party and on this country and on how we fare ahead. I think we need to make our system work better to select our presidential nominee, and we are going to be working on that, and that is the charge to this Commission.

But I think in the process—and I would urge you to think about this and bear this in mind as we go through all of this—I think in the process of conducting the work of this Commission we must and will be sending a signal to many disaffected Democrats—and there are many of them throughout this country—that this Party is open to them, that we will hear every voice in it, and that we will choose a presidential candidate that represents the hopes and aspirations of the majority of all Democrats in this country.

The sending of that signal, what we are doing in this Commission is I think in a sense is going to be looked at as the beginning of the come-back of the Democratic Party, with perhaps a symbolism far beyond the real importance of what we do.

Now, I think it is sort of tempting when you get together in a Commission of this kind and everybody is polite to everybody and all of that, as we of course should be, I think it is sort of easy to begin to let some of the problems fade away. I hope that that will not happen. The real truth is that we have problems in our nominating process, but they are problems that we can change, that we can do something about.

I believe very strongly—and all of us come to this work with some ideas, with some feelings, with some commitments within our hearts and minds—I believe, for example, that too many Democratic elected officials have been left out of our system and have been left out of our convention. Over 20 years, the percentage of Democratic United States Senators who were delegates to the convention dropped from 90 percent to 18 percent, and the percentage of Democratic United States Representatives and Governors dropped by one half.

I think it is essential that we include those elected officials again, that we building to our process their broad-based understanding and their appeal and their constituencies—and they all have them. And I would submit to you if you put all those constituencies together, you do have a majority of the voters in this country.

I would say to you—and we certainly are not about to prejudge what we should do or how we should go about it, but I just sort of have a dream within my heart that the 1984 convention would have something that I suspect no other national political party convention has ever had, and that is sitting within it, active within it, every…

Elaine Kamarck: The irony of all this is that in the general election, it is exactly this ability, the ability to put together, to construct an electoral majority, that is required of a presidential candidate. A presidential candidate who can win the nomination of his party without having to construct a majority coalition within his own or her own party is ill-prepared to construct majority coalitions in the general election.

The third major defect of the system is that it allows the presidential nomination process to be played by a group of self-selected candidate activists who constitute only a portion of the Party that is needed to win in November. The involvement by U.S. Governors, Senators, Reps and other elected officials has decreased dramatically over the past 12 years. The inclusion of these people—and I’m not going to talk too much about this because this really falls into the other task force, but let me make clear that the inclusion of these people is not likely to affect the outcome of an election, of a nomination. They are likely to not have to commit their preference until they get to the convention. At that point, I suspect that they will vote for whoever is winning and create the kind of consensus behind that. That is Congressmen and Senators, we know don’t like to take risks. That’s obvious. And there’s no reason for them to have to take a risk until they get to the convention.

In the event that you have a very, very close convention where in fact 300 or some uncommitted Congressmen, Senators and Governors do have a deciding role, then I say fine. If we are going to have that kind of very close election, very close nomination, there is no better group of people in the United States than the elected Democrats, elected by the people, to in fact cast the deciding vote and make the decision. Like them or not, our U.S. House of Representatives is representative of Democrats who vote out there, and the Democrats are representative of somebody, and they should in fact be given that pivotal power.

Their participation, however, is more important not for what they might do to the outcome of the process, and not, frankly, for the resources they bring, but for what they can tell the candidate and not what the candidate can tell them. There is nobody who can better tell a candidate how to win the State of California than a Senator or a Governor of California who has in fact won that state several times. Their participation is usually very, very hard. It is a difficult process.

Thomas Mann: …we have fair reflection of those voters and caucus participants who vote or participate in the caucuses, but what about the majority of Democrats who vote in November but not in the primaries? That is, there is a feeling that there are constituencies out there who do not take part in the presidential nominating process who ought to be represented, and therefore, if in some way we can loosen the process to see that they are, then this is all good and well.

Another feeling is that we need to have a system that allows us to react to changing conditions. The world changes. It doesn’t sit tight over a period of months, and it is very unfortunate if we are so bound into a choice that we can’t change.

If the ultimate objective is to nominate a winning candidate in November, then perhaps we ought to find some ways and means of allowing the system to adjust, to react, to make possible or to make it a greater likelihood that we can pick the right candidate to win.

Thomas Mann: Rick Stearns for the TAC did an excellent essay on forms of representation and demonstrated there are competing forms of representation, and all of them don’t require an exact, one-to-one reflection, representation between the primary electorate and the delegates per se. That is, it is possible to imagine a Burkian kind of representative going to the convention and speaking in a way that better represents a constituency than a delegate selected under fair reflection.

Well, there are concerns to this as well, If we have a block of 10 percent or 20 percent or 30 percent or 50 percent of unbound delegates, does it question the legitimacy of the process, another point appropriately brought out in Pat Caddell’s paper.

The question is what makes for legitimacy of a presidential nominating system? Does it all flow from the sort of the basic individual vote and participation of the Democratic rank and file? If so, is it possible that we could be in a situation where a closely contested nomination process leads to a position where a block of unbound delegates makes the ultimate decision, perhaps selecting the candidate who was running slightly behind another candidate, and then the question becomes, have we harmed the legitimacy of the process.

Part Three: The Wisdom of Elites

The Hunt Commission discusses the positives of including elected officials in the nominating process, in order to take advantage of their “political acumen” and to gain their buy-in.

Dick Schneller: Governor, I am certainly in favor of increasing the participation of elected officials. I think it is needed. But I think we have to ask ourselves why do we want to increase the participation of elected officials, because in my opinion they bring to the convention a certain political acumen, a certain political antenna that we feel is needed in the selection of candidates, and for that reason, I feel that the addition of elected officials is inextricably tied to the fact that they go uncommitted. Just to have elected officials there and have them committed to a candidate, I think really eliminates the purpose for which we are now proposing to have them come to a convention. They will be no different than any other delegate who is there committed to a convention.

So I think that when we consider the issue of adding elected officials or more elected and party officials at all levels, at the state level as well as the national level, while I know we want to separate the question, I think that if ultimately we require all of those elected officials and party officials to be committed to a candidate, we negate the purpose of this whole exercise.

Hunt: Doug Fraser.

Doug Fraser: Mr. Chairman, although the words haven’t been uttered here, I know there are some private thoughts among people in this room who think making Congresspeople automatic delegates is some sort of special privilege or giving them a higher station, and I don’t think that’s the argument at all. The problem in the Democratic Party is that there’s too many in Congress that like to stand above the battle and don’t want to become involved. They don’t want to take risks like all of the rest of us have to take risks, and we have got to make them take risks. And I think that's [sic] the argument. We have [sic] to get them into the process even if it is screaming and kicking and scratching all the way, we have to get them in, and we have to involve them in the process.

So it is not a privilege that we are giving them, it is a responsibility that we are giving them, a responsibility that they should have and should have been exercising all the time.

Geraldine Ferraro: I almost feel like it is a bit of a conflict of interest for me to talk about this, but I was a committed delegate to the last election, and I did not run for it; I was an at-large delegate. But I would like to pick up where Doug left off when he said it is not a privilege that you are conferring up on Members of Congress or Senators, it is a responsibility. But I would also point to the fact that they can positively bring to the convention the views of the grass roots who are their constituents. No one knows those people better than a Member of Congress. No one is better able to represent them at the convention than a Member of Congress, and no one is better able to get them to support a candidate, if they really try—and I think part of the problems with the last several elections is that Members of Congress have gone out in their own direction, concerned about their own election, and not really focusing in on the national because there is no incentive for them to do it. And I think that perhaps this might be the way ot go, and I think it is a very, very positive step.

How it is done I will speak later to committed or none committed. How it is done, whether it is by caucus selection or by designation by the state committee, that is a separate issue.

Whether or not they should be involved, I certainly think it is a positive thing for the national organization to involve Members of Congress.

Leslie Israel: I concur fully with everything I have heard here today on the role and the importance of elected officials as a stabilizing force within the convention, not only in terms of the nomination, but in terms of the other issues which come before the convention, and I share an endorsement for a very sizeable reflection of those Democratic Members of Congress and Democratic Governors who are in fact loyal Democrats and loyal to the tenets of the Party.

I supported 3C because I like the 25 percent number of a slightly enlarged convention, and I have to tell you that 3750 is no less deliberative than 3300 or the 3333 we had last time, or the 3331, whatever it was. We have passed the point where we will be small groups talking around a table like this one.

I think a 25 percent set-aside, which gives us a full 25 percent for elected and party officials, provides enough space for us to include those people at al levels, both the congressional level and the local and state levels, Party officials and elected officials, each of whom is responsive to a constituency considerably larger than that constituency which votes only for delegates to the national convention, and each of whom is answerable when they go home for their actions to that very much larger constituency of the electorate as a whole.

I am concerned that a smaller number would cause us to eliminate some of those people who should be there, and I am terribly disturbed by the 10 percent plus 10 percent add-on proposal which had come before us in 3A, because I see that as the first 10 percent being all male, virtually all male…

Rachelle Horowitz: Now, I am for that group within the Congress, for that coming out of the caucus for two reasons, three reasons, actually. One is that we are not only a state party, but we are a national party, and one of the things that the Democrats have suffered from traditionally has been having individual state parties with their own platforms that don’t necessarily correspond to the platform of the presidential candidate or the congressional group.

Secondly I am for it because it is the only way, it seems to me, to give the Democratic Party on a national level some strength, that is, in terms of disciplining those Members of Congress who vote Republican.

I don’t really see the state parties being able in some states to not select a Congressman who is a Boll Weevil. I see the national caucus being able to do that, and that is terribly important, it seems to me.

And finally, I think we have all agreed that one of the problems we had in the last administration was the lack of relationship between the President and the Congress. This third point does foster that relationship. Stu Eisenstadt said it, and I take his word for it—nobody should know better—that had Jimmy Carter been forced to relate to the Congressmen and to the Senators early, it might have produced a better relationship in terms of governing this country.

Cleta Deatherage: What we began to move to in our discussions, I think, was some consensus of trying to find some point where in fact the process brought winners or likely nominees together with the leadership of the Party, different from the situation we had now, and yet maintained in essence where the rank and file, where the people had a choice in making that selection.

You have a problem both in terms of timing, of when you bring in elected or automatic delegates, and you have a problem of size. And let me just go to this question because it goes to the one of balance.

The problem that a lot of people identify now on this issue is the candidates who come out of the primaries as likely winners, likely nominees who are successful, are in a position, in fact, to become nominees without really having to necessarily coalesce the leadership of the party for that no nomination, or on platform, or eventually in governance. And there are a lot of arguments we have already heard about the problems with that.

What we also wanted to look to in our discussions is what happens when you do, to quote Mark again, in quoting Webster, when you do something and begin to affect or change the process. And here are a couple of points I think that we talked about that are concerns.

Part Four: Against Superdelegates

Some participants express concerns with the superdelegate system, raising the scenario in which superdelegates go against the popular vote. Others discuss how superdelegates would affect the representation of women among delegates.

Cleta Deatherage: One is, depending on how you decide to include public officials—and this gets to the question of uncommitted and the size of uncommitted—you raise the question of creating different castes of delegates potentially, delegates which are chosen essentially by voters’ decisions for candidates in primaries or caucuses, and a different caste of delegates who in fact are exempt from that process and in fact carry on their own by a different set of standards, and the concern of creating two different processes, one for the primaries and the caucuses, and a second process that really begins somewhere in that first process or afterwards with people chosen with a different mandate and a different set of objectives.

It gets you into a question of how those processes relate, and it gets to an essential question of legitimacy. And one of the questions we had on numbers is if the numbers are very large in terms of uncommitted delegates, getting to that question, what you effectively do, if you look at it in [sic] the course of part processes, is candidates, for instance, for example, who come out of the primaries let’s say leading a potential nominee with 40 to 45 percent of the delegates that have been won in the primary, as you go up to larger and larger numbers, what you begin to do is change the dynamics of the process. Coming out of the primaries as that person now stands, they sand in real terms on the verge of the nomination, and the problem is to then gather in the last remaining needed people to in fact become the nominee, to bring the Party together.

On the other hand, if you start having large numbers of uncommitteds, what you essentially do is begin to drop those percentages down from, let’s say, 40 or 45 down into 30, 32, 33.

Cleta Deatherage: What do you do to the question of both governance and to the public image in a campaign of getting a nominee that way?

And beyond that, what happens if the bargaining, in fact results in at these large numbers where blocks of delegates, either from candidates who have been defeated, or uncommitted delegates begin to move against what is perceived to be a popular choice?

Well, we came to the—some of us came to the conclusion or started realizing is that a level is very important. You get a very close result in the primaries and these arguments don’t apply, when you have a situation where someone has emerged, even if they have weakened but clearly emerged as the frontrunner, our argument was if you get it—what you seem to be looking for is a process that will in fact join them with the Party. If you go beyond that and create a process that puts them at odds with those people either in terms of bargaining or in terms of division, you will in fact get dissensus, you will get either a brokered convention on one hand, or you will in fact find that candidate potentially, at those groups, in conflict. You will in fact have two processes clashing, with the first candidate emerging arguing his legitimacy against the Party, which is the exact reverse I think, of what most of us in starting off this thing are looking to do…

Barbara Fife: I am really opposed to the super status of some delegates at the convention. I think we’ve overlook [sic] some of the good things that happened at past conventions, which is that there was a certain kind of democracy on a sort of small “d” basis that took place, where State Chairs or Governors or labor leaders or people that ismply worked hard or organized in their own districts really were equal and participated equally and developed a kind of relationship within their State at the convention that was productive after that period of time.

I think party-building exists on the reach-out level and not just on the reach-up level as well, and we should not overlook some of those things that happened, in addition to which the super status, the super category of delegate will clearly be white and male. So we will have equal division, but in fact some will be more equal than others.

Rachelle Horowitz: When the whole discussion of elected officials came to this Commission—of elected officials coming uncommitted—people raised the problem of having a super-delegate, of having a delegate who was uncommitted and women not being in that category. I must say that I don’t believe that being uncommitted is a super-delegate. I can conceive of situations were [sic] being an uncommitted delegate is a meaningless delegate, someone who really doesn’t participate in the deliberations.

Nevertheless, there was a general agreement that if there was a category, uncommitted, for elected officials, women should be part of that. The Ferraro plan, as it now stands, has come a very long way to answering that problem as it was raised by the TAC people initially. That is, if you look at Rule 8, it gives, among the grouping of elected officials to be selected, statewide elected officials, state Legislators, members of the Democratic National Committee not previously selected, and other party and elected officials.

We now have a plan that equates with Senators and Congressmen, local elected officials. It does that precisely so that women can be added and women can be used to balance off the Congressmen and Senators. It seems that rather than looking at this as a defeat we have, in fact, upgraded the role of women elected officials.

Patrick Leahy: The briefing material that I have for your meetings showed that the number of Members of the House and the number of Members of the Senate who have gone to Conventions have been steadily decreasing and I don’t think they have been steadily decreasing because of great concern over the equal participation or any other rule.

They have been steadily decreasing because they have felt in many, many instances that their input was not called for, was not welcomed, was not relevant, and that nobody particularly cared. They have also been turned off by many times seeing the Democratic Party at Convention arguing at great length and with enormous fevor and, I must admit, with a great deal of feeling—the proper feeling on points that they find not only esoteric but many time [sic] irrelevant to their own campaigns.

These are the same people who have to try to carry out a Democratic President’s programs, once he is elected, in the Congress. Their failure to do so often would defeat that Democratic President, once elected, or their inability to stand behind programs proposed by a Democratic candidate means that candidate will not be elected at all.

Quite frankly, Mr. Chairman—and I applaud you very, very much for the efforts that you have made over the past few moths to bring us together on these issues—I think that the Congresswoman’s proposal speaks even greater to this issue than we have discussed here. Unless we bring, and not bring in by some artificial means but bring in because they want to be brought in, the men and women who are in the Congress, the men and women who might be elected as Democratic Governors or significant mayors, unless we bring them into this process we are going to be doomed to defeat after defeat after defeat.

I would point out that the United States Senate, which has had Democratic control for over a quarter of century, lost that this year. They lost it because the Republican Party, among other things, was able to bring about the enthusiasm of its members of the Senate, members who ranged from the right of Atilla the Hun to people would appear to be liberal Democrats, in a number of issues on which they could agree.

We were unable to do that. We had, during the past two national Conventions, a steadily decreasing amount of interest on the part of those members of Congress because they felt that the campaigns that they were running in many instances were more relevant to the issues of the people who might have to elect them.

And I would hope that we would not lose sight of that…

Betty Taymor: So as far as I can make out, the goal that she has put out for us to think about is the goal that we have already established, which is that we are to have equal division in our party at every level. That is what we are talking about here today.

Now on behalf of what she has said, I would like to support it because I have been to a lot of conventions and I would just like to tell you that I think that the experience of attending all of those conventions has made me feel that it really doesn’t make that much difference how many Congressmen or Governors or Mayors or whatever attend the next Convention in 1984.

So you can argue about the numbers day after day to make that kind of a blend. But what really is important is that this party has said something significant about equal division and that is what makes us so different in the minds of people all over this country. I don’t have to go on. Most of you know about it—how we are winning with the women.

Cleta Deatherage: That is a preposterous statement to suggest that you cannot have both equal division and increase the number of elected officials who participate in the Convention. I mean, I don’t have anything against Congressmen. Some of my best friends are Congressmen, and there’s absolutely nothing in this proposal to suggest that somehow we are opposing the addition of Congressmen and U.S. Senators and Governors and Mayors as delegate to the Democratic Convention.

That’s ridiculous. Of course, that is not the case and I’m somewhat appalled that we find ourselves sitting here-I am a little bit amazed at the selfishness of the Congress in insisting on a two-thirds figure which renders it numerically and statistically impossible to even come close to equal division in the uncommitted delegate block. I find that reprehensible.

The only way that we are going to stop this freight train is to adopt a principle that then forces some parties to go back to the table instead of coming here tonight with this thing that has already been set together, put together before we ever got here and presented to us and be told that well, gee, we’re sorry we couldn’t do better on equal division.

Part Five: Predetermination

In the final session, participants discuss the distorting effect of the front-loading of primaries, and how superdelegates could offset this.

Pat Caddell: In the Technical Advisory Committee, we have spent a lot of time even since the last meeting discussing the front loading problem, which we still think is a serious matter, particularly as it relates to the movement of loophole primaries up front. What it tends to do, or one of the concerns I think we all—that looking at the problem solves, that what you tend to do in multi-field candidates is allow a person with a minority of votes early on to gain momentum, and perhaps win a series of primaries and with loopholes early in the process stage, it is normally the stage where candidates are emerging. What you allow the candidate to do often is accumulate huge blocks of delegates that are not reflective necessarily to strength, and this is particularly true of factional candidates, who may in fact hold the support of a strong and consistent faction which is not a majority, and yet all through those runup primaries win a majority or near majority of those delegates because the field was not narrow. Mayor Fraser’s proposal, which is the first we have heard of that kind, goes to one of our concerns. I think we would raise matters or concerns about all movement of primaries up into the first phase, because of the possibility of de facto national primary being caused, but certainly I would feel, and I think I speak for Tom Mann and others that were involved in this, that that amendment at least goes some way to trying to address that particular problem.

Senator Abrams: Mr. Chairman, I refer you to the article from Lanny Davis, because he speaks to this very issue, and I think if you look at the figures of the potential of California’s moving up to become a direct election primary state, you will see that if that happens, 62 percent of the delegates will have been selected by the time that large state votes provided it is by the first week in May.

The whole purpose of shortening the window, the process of maintaining a process that will extend for three months was to make sure that the states in the elected process responded to the change in events that may occur within this country or internationally, that might impact directly on the selection of the best candidate for President for the Democratic Party.

Now, if we do not put some breaks on that process by making sure that at least a significant number of delegates are elected as close to the convention as possible, we will in effect have shortened the window to two months and removed it further form the actual date of the nomination. To that extent, we are moving counter to what we discussed in our last meeting.

I think that certainly we ought to consider Mayor Fraser’s amendment, and I hope that we will vote favorably on it.

Jay Hakes: Mr. Chairman, the Commission has taken some action already to deal with the front loading problem. In particular, the Commission has, by providing for unpledged delegates, created an incentive for states to not move forward their primaries or caucuses. It has been my feeling that some additional action would also be desirable, and it seemed to me that the most practical and effective additional action would be a resolution.

So, I would like to move that the Commission adopt the following language. “The Hunt Commission urges the national party leadership, state parties, and Presidential candidates to discourage states form scheduling their primaries or first state caucuses earlier than they were scheduled in 1980.”

This is not a coercive measure, but it is one that I think will provide guidance for the party in the coming years.

Additional Materials:

Jack Walker, Woodrow Wilson Fellow: …Aside from these broad changes, the almost unprecedented reforms the last twenty years, comparable only to the Progressive era before the First World War, have also thoroughly shaken up politics. It took local parties and legislatures ten to fifteen years, for instance, to recover from the reapportionment of state legislatures. Other major reforms included the Twenty-fourth Amendment ending the poll tax, the Twenty—sixth Amendment allowing eighteen-year-olds the right to vote, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, public financing of Presidential campaigns, and the Freedom of Information and Sunshine laws.

Much of this wave of reform was a response on the part of politicians to the upsurge in participation and to the decline of public confidence during the 1960s. Reformed were trying to regain public confidence. This was a laudable effort, but it has had many unintended consequences, including the fracturing of political parties and the undermining of leadership. We need somehow to rechannel the new forces brought forth by the opening of the political system so as to restore the ability of government to govern.

The paradox of democracy is that while the system gains legitimacy from public consent and broad participation, these very same forces can undermine the leadership and tear apart the system.

Reform of the Nominating Process

The reforms I would like to see in the nomination process center around efforts to shorten it somewhat and to knit together the various state and nationally elected officials with the Presidential candidate, so as to ensure his ability to govern.

First, we need to shorten the process of Presidential selection, so as to distance campaign politics from the process of governing. One way to do that would be to have just four primary dates, and to require each state to select on of those dates for its primary.

Secondly we need to involve elected political officials more in the selection process. I advocate making every state senator, governor, Congressman and Senator and automatic delegate to the political convention. Without their participation and active support, how can one lead, let a lone govern? I prefer a system in which an ambitious challenger to the old party establishment like John Kennedy has a chance to win the nomination, but not one in which a complete outsider with no links to established political coalitions can make it.

In These Times will be making additional materials available over the course of the coming days.

Read the June cover story: “The Secret History of Superdelegates”