Progressives to Push for DNC Reform at Democratic Convention

Jaime Harrison, then a Senate candidate, sits with Joe Biden and then-Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) on Jan. 20, 2020, at a Columbia, SC, King Day ceremony.


(Sean Rayford/Getty)

A group of progressives are planning to introduce a series of measures at next year’s Democratic National Convention to reform how the Democratic Party functions, TYT has learned.

The group is aiming to introduce their resolutions during the convention next August. That’s when the convention delegates are expected to nominate Pres. Joe Biden for re-election.

If the resolutions pass, they will significantly alter how Democratic National Committee (DNC) members are selected for the standing committees that shape the committee and who has voting power.

The convention could be the only chance that the group, called People for Democratic Party Reform (PDRP), has to discuss changes to DNC rules that they say would democratize the party’s processes. Pushing their proposals at the convention could draw a national spotlight to their cause or be seen as taking the spotlight from Biden. Either way, PDPR faces an uphill battle.

The DNC has been embroiled in controversy after controversy. Dissidents in the ranks call it an undemocratic organization that is silencing progressive voices and ignoring the will of a majority of Democratic voters.

As TYT previously reported, the DNC takes its orders from the White House, according to DNC members. TYT also reported on an allegation that DNC Chair Jaime Harrison said his job as head of the DNC is to protect and defend Biden.

As DNC chair, Harrison is directly responsible for hand-picking 75 at-large DNC members who have voting power within the committee but don’t represent any specific Democratic constituency. Harrison also oversees which members sit on the DNC’s standing committees, like Resolutions and Rules & Bylaws.

But the power dynamics of those chair-appointed spots could change if PDPR’s resolutions are adopted during the 2024 convention.

“Right now [we’re] looking to get ideas in front of people,” PDPR President Lawrence Taylor, a former DNC member, told TYT.

PDPR is an organization of Democrats, including some DNC members. The group says it’s working to identify and advocate for changes to make the Democratic Party function more democratically.

Taylor says PDPR will propose measures to ensure that only those DNC members who are elected by their state parties have voting power. The group also wants to mandate geographical diversity among DNC members appointed to standing committees.

Currently, most DNC members on standing committees are from the Washington, DC, area. Many are lobbyists and executives in the fossil fuel and pharmaceutical industries. One proposed resolution would require that each standing committee of 40 members has 10 members from each of the DNC’s regions - eastern, southern, midwestern, and western.

Taylor says the changes will address DNC rules that he calls the “root cause” of party corruption – citing as a prime example the chair’s ability to appoint 75 at-large members. Taylor also says the proposals will result in more diversity and less rubber-stamping of White House priorities.

“[I]f you've got 200 DNC members that are elected and representing Democrats from across the country, suddenly throwing in 75 that are beholden to the chair … [that] greatly dilutes the vote of the people who are actually elected as representatives,” Taylor said.

Among other priorities, PDPR is pushing for the DNC to appoint an advocate who will report violations of party rules to the Rules & Bylaws Committee and advise DNC members of what recourse they can take.

PDPR also wants a separate committee to oversee how the DNC’s Budget & Finance Committee is spending money. And they’re calling for any reports of undemocratic practices on the state party level that aren’t addressed within 90 days to result in elections for new state party officers.

Taylor says some of the ideas behind PDPR’s resolutions came from a committee within Our Revolution on how to democratize the DNC.

PDPR will also introduce a resolution by Michigan DNC member Liano Sharon calling for a “culture of democracy” within the DNC during the convention.

As TYT reported in October, draft language of that resolution was circulated during the DNC’s fall meeting to get feedback from members. Sharon chairs a PDPR committee working on the organization’s strategy for the national convention.

Sharon’s resolution mandates the DNC to “act in the interest of the members of the Democratic Party as a whole and not in the interests of the president, elected representatives, their campaigns, or donors.”

If PDPR’s proposed rules changes do get adopted, they could pave the way for measures like a twice-killed dark-money ban to at least get heard and discussed by the DNC’s Resolutions Committee.

Taylor has experience within the party after serving as a convention delegate for Pres. Barack Obama in 2012 and for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in 2016 and 2020. Taylor says the resolutions proposed by PDPR stem from lessons learned in 2016. During that convention, the DNC passed a resolution creating a Unity Reform Commission to address inclusivity among progressives in the party’s nominating process.

But Taylor says it’s not enough to simply pass a resolution, which may or may not be enforced. Rather, he says changing the party’s bylaws is the most effective way to change the structure of the DNC and correct “fundamental flaws” in how the committee operates.

Before PDPR will have any chance to bring their resolutions to the convention floor, they’ll first have to get them past the convention Rules Committee. But Taylor says even if the resolutions are defeated in committee, at least they would’ve been debated and the ideas would’ve been discussed.

Even that scenario, however, is contingent on any new rules the Rules & Bylaws Committee may pass impacting how motions are considered during the convention.

“[T]hey've become experts at the manipulation of the rules to get the outcome that they want, instead of crafting them to make democracy as accessible as possible,” said Taylor. He said rules changes during the 2020 convention made it possible for only the “most well-connected, organized candidates” to be considered for party chair.

One path around the rules committee would be for a convention delegate to speak right from the convention floor about the resolutions, a more difficult task, according to Taylor.

As part of its strategy, PDPR is hoping to have representation of its own on the Rules & Bylaws Committee. Otherwise, they’ll have to find an existing member on the committee to represent their ideas, which also poses a challenge.

Either way, Taylor says, informing the public that “the DNC is not run as a democratic organization” is key to PDPR’s long-term strategy.

The party’s leadership is increasingly seen as disconnected from the rank and file. Most recently, top Democrats have split with party voters over Israel.

Last week, activists held a candlelight vigil outside DNC headquarters to mourn the thousands killed in the Israel-Hamas war and to demand a ceasefire. Organizers said they targeted the DNC because the Democratic Party is ignoring its base.

Democratic leaders are backing Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. But according to polling from Data For Progress, 80% of Democratic voters support a ceasefire.

The split even extends to the head of the party. Biden is widely expected to secure the nomination easily, despite his own party’s low enthusiasm for the incumbent president and abysmal approving ratings.

Referring to the broader schism, Taylor says, “The only way it’ll change is with a groundswell of outrage.”

Taylor says that taking PD PR’s resolutions to the convention floor in front of the entire DNC body will force the democratic process to take place.

Candice Cole is TYT’s Washington correspondent. You can find her on Twitter @CandiceColeNews.