What Will the Democratic National Committee Do in 2024?

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The 2024 presidential election cycle is quickly approaching. Already, the Republican Party is heated and making headlines. And while voters should expect a lot of attention to be on candidates like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, a big question lingers:

What about the other side of the political aisle?

Historically, a sitting president doesn’t get major challenges from their own party – and for easily understood reasons. If the incumbent faces competition from within their own camp, it gives off the impression that there is a lack of confidence.

There is also the issue of cost and a risk to morale that can hurt the party in power’s chances in the general election. There are backroom deals and pressure from party leadership to ensure the incumbent is protected. 

So, what will the Democratic Party do in 2024? At the time of this article’s publication, there are two declared Democratic candidates who have emerged to challenge President Biden: Marianne Willliamson and Robert F Kennedy Jr. 

Politicos will not take either candidacy seriously, and in the past that worked to the party’s advantage. If candidates deemed by the press to be unworthy of coverage emerged to challenge an incumbent the party could mostly ignore them.

The 2024 election cycle, however, will be different because there is a Kennedy in the race, and regardless of how one feels about Robert F Kennedy Jr, as Boston Globe contributor Joan Vennochi notes, there has always been an “allure to the Kennedy name.”

A recent Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll shows Kennedy at 15% among likely Democratic primary voters – which is enough support to qualify for the debate stage. 

Once again it must be asked: what will the Democratic Party do? Will the Democratic National Committee allow debates? Will they honor polling that shows one or more candidates surpassing the debate eligibility threshold from previous election cycles?

Will voters see a fair and neutral nomination process?

Former presidential candidate and Forward Party Founder Andrew Yang doesn’t believe the DNC will play fair in 2024. “They are going to completely short circuit the process,” he says.

“Let’s say they set a debate threshold of ‘hey you need to be polling at 15%,’ and then you have a couple of upstarts polling at 15% then I think they will just raise it to 25%. They will screw with the dials and make it into as much of a non-race as possible.”

His concerns are not unfounded. When it comes to candidate favoritism, the parties have asserted their right to change or ignore their rules and nomination proceedings to get the outcome they desire – something they can and have done in the past.

Many voters likely remember what happened to Bernie Sanders in 2016. When superdelegate counts showed Hillary Clinton garnering as many convention votes in states Sanders won by large margins, then DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said:

“Unpledged delegates (aka superdelegates) exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.“

But the superdelegate controversy was only the beginning. Wikileaks released 20,000 emails among DNC staffers in July 2016, some of which revealed negative bias and suggested actions among top DNC officials to derail Sanders – including Wasserman Schultz.

The revelations from were so serious that Wasserman Schultz resigned from her position. A year later, Donna Brazile (who served as interim DNC chair after Wasserman Schultz) published a tell-all that confirmed many of the scathing allegations that came out of the emails.

The 2016 election cycle was a wakeup call for many Americans across the political spectrum on the need for systemic electoral reform. Since then, voters have seen an explosion in citizen-led initiatives. 

Many Democrats, frustrated with what they saw in the presidential election, joined with nonpartisan coalitions of voters to pass game-changing reforms like ranked choice voting in Maine and New York City.

These voters called on the DNC to support open primaries and helped push the needle on Top 4 and Top 5 nonpartisan primary reform in Alaska and Nevada, respectively. 

Meanwhile, changes made to DNC rules were marginal. In 2020, the party came under fire again for how it handled its debates and the rules for candidate inclusion. 

The Democratic Party treated the 2020 nomination process as a done deal by mid-March after nearly all of the candidates had suspended their campaigns and Biden had secured most of their endorsements. Yet, millions of Democratic voters hadn’t cast a ballot. 

As for 2024? The DNC pledged its "full and complete support" for the re-election of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris back in February. This declaration has not changed since Williamson filed her candidacy in March and Kennedy filed in April. 

There are also no plans for debates between the candidates, despite many Democrats wanting to see the candidates debate. A June USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll found that 8 in 10 Democratic voters surveyed would like to see a series of Democratic debates.

To be clear, this includes most Biden supporters surveyed as well. It's almost as if voters want competition and choice in elections -- even when their candidate is the sitting president.

What message will the Democratic Party send to voters? Is it that the party doesn’t care what its own members think or want? Because this is the message people have received loud and clear over the last few election cycles.

Faith and trust in the electoral process is in a dismal state. Dissatisfaction with the options the two parties give voters is at all-time highs and the lack of competition and choice at all stages of the electoral process has degraded the integrity of elections. 

With all the bluster we hear from Democratic Party leaders about the need to protect and strengthen elections, can they say they care about the preservation of democracy if they give voters less choice in the upcoming presidential election?