"These Are Fake Parties" — Or, Here’s Who Gets to Vote for DNC Chair
How the Democratic Party still decides its leaders (click to enlarge)
by Gaius Publius
In most of the developed world, the leaders of a political party are elected by the voters in that party, not party insiders. For example, in the U.K. in 2015, Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party — not Prime Minister, party leader — with 59% of the vote. Nearly half a million votes were cast in that election, with a better-than-75% turnout.
Candidates [are] elected by [party] members and registered and affiliated supporters, who all receive a maximum of one vote and all votes [are] weighted equally. This meant that, for example, members of Labour-affiliated trade unions needed to register as Labour supporters to vote.That's how it works in the U.K. Labour party, and in fact, in most political parties in countries like ours and those in Western Europe.
In the U.S., however, leadership of our political parties — even and especially when the party is out of power — are controlled much more narrowly. Bottom line — party members do not control who leads the party. A small group of largely unelected (by party members) party leaders do.
For a look at how that works, and to give you an idea of which (and how few) people will decide the election of the next DNC chair, consider the following. I received this from a colleague and California Democratic Party activist via email, who lays this out rather well (reprinted with permission; emphasis mine):
Consider the astounding fact that the Democratic Party, a national U.S. party — one of only two, thereby representing half the country, and the one that presents itself as the party of the people — has only 447 voting "members."So for comparison, in the U.K., more than 420,000 Labour Party members elected Jeremy Corbyn party leader. In the U.S., in the absence of an elected Party president, about 450 Democratic Party leaders, about half of whom were never elected to party leadership, will determine who chairs the Democratic National Committee.
And then when you dig deeper, you find that about half of these members are not elected at all [to party leadership], but are actually appointed [to leadership] by the chair or automatically become members as a result of being an elected official. So we can maybe say that only about 250 or so of these members are actually produced through some sort of quasi-democratic process in the states.
But then I go to my own state Democratic party page, and I find that even out of its delegation of 38 DNC members, 20 of them are chosen by an Executive Board — and what a coincidence, these elected members have some of the most powerful names in California politics! But funny enough, even many of the ones that aren't chosen by that Board just coincidentally happen to be powerful California elected officials. One of these 38 members — out of 447 nationally! — is the daughter of Nancy Pelosi. ... And Nancy Pelosi herself is of course one of these 38.
So the reason party members don't elect its leaders is actually pretty simple: These are fake parties. They are enterprises operated by and for professional politicians and their appointees. Asking them to turn these into membership organizations would be like asking your local supermarket to turn over the pricing of its items to the customers.
Most Americans don't realize any of this because they've never really known anything else. To most Americans, a political party is an organization operated by professional politicians and their appointees. And whichever party's offerings you agree with most is the one you give your money and votes to. The idea that you could actually shape the choices offered to you in a political system, by working through a party organization, is absolutely foreign to most voters.
The U.K. gets Jeremy Corbyn. We get whatever person a small number of Party leaders want us to have. Words to remember.
These are fake parties. They are enterprises operated by and for professional politicians and their appointees. Asking them to turn these into membership organizations would be like asking your local supermarket to turn over the pricing of its items to the customers.How undemocratic is the Democratic Party? You can probably answer that for yourself.