Democratic Party rules writers agreed quickly yesterday to bury the "faithless-delegate" purge provision and its memories of Carter-Kennedy bloodletting, and reaffirmed the 1980 guarantee that women will have half the seats in the party's convention hall.
But the members of the new party commission on presidential nominations reached no conclusions on two other prickly matters: steps to shorten the primary season and to allow many elected and party officials to come as uncommitted delegates.
The day-long meeting at the Mayflower Hotel was designed to clear away a number of noncontroversial issues before the three-day session in mid-January, when the commission hopes to hammer out its final recommendations.
When North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., the commission chairman, asked if anyone wanted to debate the rule mandating "equal division" of each state delegation between men and women, there were no takers. While formal action awaits the January session, it was evident that the provision--for which women in the Democratic Party waged a 12-year fight--is now permanently embedded.
There was equal reluctance to go back to the "faithless-delegate" issue that provided the final chapter of the 1980 Carter-Kennedy civil war.
Supporters of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) sought on the convention floor to knock out a rule allowing the replacement of any delegate who "seeks to violate" his or her pledge of support to a candidate.
Kennedy backers charged that it made the delegates "robots," while President Carter's supporters defended it as a compact of good faith with the primary-election voters who had given Carter his convention majority.
But yesterday both sides were ready to agree that, whatever loyalty pledge the party enacts, it should not be enforced by the removal of a delegate from the convention floor and the substitution of a pledged alternate. "We have a consensus on that," Hunt said.
But there was no consensus on the way to bring more members of Congress and other elected officials into the next convention hall. On Friday, both the AFL-CIO and the Association of State Democratic Chairs recommended that 30 percent of the 1984 convention seats be reserved for uncommitted elected and party officials.
In 1980, only 10 percent of the delegate slots were reserved for them, and they were required to pledge that their presidential votes would fall in line with the other delegates from their states.
Rep. Gillis W. Long (D-La.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said that the reason only 37 House members served as delegates was that they did not want to choose between Carter and Kennedy and thereby align themselves with one faction at home.
He said the caucus wanted to choose two-thirds of its members as 1984 delegates--but only if they could go uncommitted, adding: "If they do not have that freedom, I assure you they will not participate."
The AFL-CIO endorsed the proposal, with the incoming director of its Committee on Political Education, John Perkins, explaining, "We feel comfortable lobbying any of these people."
But several of the Hunt commission members said the members of Congress may be less important in winning the election than big-city mayors, governors and legislative leaders and party officials. If the members of Congress want to be delegates, they argued, they should come before their state Democratic committees to demonstrate their interest in the party.
"Some congressmen in my state run unopposed and they could care less" about the party, said state Sen. Rosalie Abrams of Baltimore, the Maryland Democratic chairman. "I'm not so sure that dragging members of Congress kicking and screaming into the convention is going to make a big difference."
Hunt and others argued that more participation by members of Congress would make the convention more representative of rank-and-file Democrats and would close the gap between Congress and president, not just in the campaign, but in office.
But others pointed out that 64 percent of the 1980 delegates were either elected or party officials and questioned the desirability of creating a big block of uncommitted delegates who might act as power brokers and swing the nomination to someone other than the winner of the primaries.
Barbara Fife, a reform Democrat from New York, said, "I'm opposed to having these super-status, super-delegates come in and pick our nominee."