The Change Commission’s first meeting

Today marked the first of the Change Commission meetings. 

Who & why we are:

 A group of 37 people – a wide range of backgrounds – (incredible people and I’m humbled to be a part of this group) – – assigned to provide a recommendation on how the presidential nominating process should be done in the future. 

Up front caveat: these notes do not reflect any decisions by the commission nor any DNC recommendations.  Today was all about background from experts.  I also want to caveat that, while I was taking copious notes, I missed my calling (at least according to my prescription -ready handwriting) to be a physician – so not all of my notes were easily decipherable and some points may not fully represent the expert’s commentary.  In those cases, I did a bit of interpolation.

The issues for the Change Commission to examine as put forward by the DNC resolution include (more detail in a separate post on the session led by Patrice Taylor)

  1. the issue of timing and frontloading of primaries
  2. the issue of superdelegates and their out of proportion representation
  3. the question of caucuses and how to run them better

Here’s a photo of our illustrious chairs – Sen. Claire McCaskill and Rep. James Clyburn:


Today’s meeting agenda (I will be posting separate blogs on a couple of the sessions that had more detail)

  • They ran a tight meeting – it was supposed to go from 9:30-4 and we were out by 2:45.
  • Today’s session focused on history and analysis of how things have been done in the past.  Our next 3 sessions are slated for August, October and December. 
  • Opening remarks from Gov. Kaine, Sen. McCaskill, and Rep. Clyburn
  • The History of Modern Day Democratic Presidential Nomnations (1976-2008) by Rhodes Cook (here’s his picture)

Highlights/Key takeaways:

  • Fundamentally,  it was incredibly enlightening and humbling – not to mention incredibly fun – to re-live some of the campaign moments from last year – especially during the session
  • As was stated by DNC chair Gov. Tim Kaine – we have a bit of a luxury to come up with something that’ll be thoughtful because we don’t have a major battle coming up in 2012 – whereas the Republicans, who are going through this in parallel, are also jockeying for what will serve their own candidates best.
  • The key is not just reverse engineering the 2008 victory – because we don’t know whether that is the new normal or a complete anomaly.  Rather – the key is coming up with plans that are long-lasting and non-reactive.
  • I feel like the group was still very focused on the “issues” we were designated to resolve but didn’t really work to set out the objectives.  I mentioned to a few key folks that I thought it was critical that we stay focused on the bigger objectives of getting a great candidate and building up the wave behind them.  Hitting the objectives and conflict resolution are not necessarily the same thing here. 
  • From the sessions – one big point I took away was that having a single national primary day would not benefit our objectives – but that it’ll be very difficult without incentives to get the states to voluntarily change their dates, spread the map or move to a same day primary.  Two ideas raised were: bonus delegates for later states and allow later states to do a winner take all strategy. 
  • Caucuses – there had been some fear among friends that the commission intended to do away with caucuses.  On the contrary – i think that the commission and the DNC recognize the value of caucuses and, if anything, seem like they want to make them better and, perhaps, more systematic. 

welcome to civics!

Here’s another site with some analysis on the makeup of the commission.

 Press coverage so far:

ABC News:

Washington Post






6 responses to “The Change Commission’s first meeting

  1. The bonus delegate system has proven ineffective since its introduction.

    But this winner-take-all idea is an interesting one. However, it is predicated on there being a close contest coming down the stretch. You rightly point out that we don’t whether 2008 is the “new normal or a complete anomaly,” but I strongly suspect it is the latter. If that is the case and the nomination is wrapped up on Super Tuesday or around there, then what incentive is that to offer later states what they are going to get anyway: all their delegates going to the one remaining candidate?

    In the event of a close nomination fight, though, that is an attractive incentive for states. But how do they know in advance which year is going to be competitive, so they can begin the sometimes long legislative process to change the date of the primary.

    Unintended consequences are written all over this one.

    See more here.

    • Only a few jurisdictions qualified for bonus delegates in 2008. For most, the “bonus” for waiting until the end was small– not much of an incentive.

      State / percent increase / additional delegates
      Guam 12.50% +1
      Indiana 7.59% +6
      Kentucky 7.14% +4
      Montana 4.17% +1
      North Carolina 21.82% +24
      Oregon 6.56% +4
      Pennsylvania 3.89% +7
      Puerto Rico 6.78% +4
      South Dakota 4.55% +1
      West Virginia 5.41% +2

  2. Pingback: The Usual Suspects « The Confluence

  3. Since the caucuses are undemocratic, will they be abolished completely, in favor of actual elections with secret ballots?

    • I recently heard from an attendee that “It sounds like there is a strong majority in favor of more caucuses..”

      This person also believes that caucuses are undemocratic.

  4. Yeah, they need to get rid of caucuses, Caucus goers do NOT choose the same candidate as voters in the same state. Not to mention the inevitable disenfranchisement of a specific time and date of a 2 hour caucus. Keane makes me sick.

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