This week a quiet storm brewed inside the Alabama Democratic Party (ADP). Emails were forwarded, notarized letters were Fedex'ed, members of the State Democratic Executive Committee met to hand deliver notarized letters ... to what purpose? A formal challenge (filed Thursday with the DNC's Rules & Bylaws Committee, or RBC) to Dr. Joe L. Reed's credentials as an "uncommitted" Party Leader/Elected Official (PLEO) delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
The basis for this challenge is that Dr. Reed appeared as both "uncommitted PLEO" and "Barack Obama PLEO" on the ballot at the April 14 SDEC meeting. From the credentials challenge:
The issue is simple: you can’t hedge your bets. The challenged individual ran in Alabama at the PLEO level simultaneously pledged for opposing presidential preferences. Please see exhibit A. Essentially he “double-dipped” to increase his chance of selection. Rule 12(A) requires all supporters to choose and “be identified as to presidential preference or uncommitted status” at any given level. The language is clear because “or” requires a choice between mutually exclusive options. Rule 12(D) provides further guidance. The challenged became a “bona fide supporter” of Barack Obama when OFA certified him in writing. Therefore, the challenged cannot satisfy Rule 12(J) requiring he “reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.” Simply put, a certified Obama supporter can’t fairly represent uncommitted voters.
The challenge asserts that all males running as "uncommitted" were injured by Dr. Reed's double dipping. They ask that he "be retroactively stricken from the uncommitted ballot as a corrective remedy," a remedy which would cascade through the "uncommitted" male delegates as alternates move up in the PLEO and at-large categories.
The challenge also expresses concern for the integrity of future elections if Dr. Reed's precedent of standing in more than one camp is allowed:
In this case, it can be argued, the challenged individual demonstrated a flagrant disregard for core democratic principles and created a dangerous precedent for 2016. Just like you can’t qualify in multiple districts to increase your odds, you also can’t run for multiple presidential candidates at the same level. Cast in a familiar light, consider it’s 2008 and someone couldn’t choose so they ran for both Barack and Hillary. Left unchallenged we will see this practice deployed widespread next cycle. It is imperative the RBC act decisively to deter further manipulation.
... If unscrupulous people are allowed to run at the same level for multiple presidential candidates they will be unfairly advantaged. Additionally, the RBC’s failure to intervene will greenlight this behavior to other states.
As a remedy, the challengers ask for "a sufficiently punitive remedy to deter future manipulation. The challenged individual shall have his credentials revoked at all levels including PLEO, at large, alternate, standing committee member, delegation chair, and page."
It all sounds very straightforward -- and at one level it is. There's no honor in running as a delegate committed to everyone on the ballot, including "uncommitted." Common sense, as well as party rules, says that shouldn't be permitted. Where's the controversy?
The controversy arises because Dr. Joe L. Reed is the person who did it and his are the credentials being challenged. He's vice-chair of the SDEC, head of the minority caucus, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference and generally the Big Dog in the ADP. I don't know how long it's been since Reed missed a Democratic convention, but for well over 20 years he has done pretty much whatever he wanted in the party -- rules or not. To tell Dr. Reed that the rules apply to him the same as they apply to other people and to revoke his credentials at all levels would be like a cyclone sweeping through the ADP's power structure.
Big storms are unpleasant and dangerous. They also clear the way for new growth.