Taking a chomp out of the mess that is US politics, one issue at a time...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

An Undemocratic Democrat Candidate?

The Democratic Party recently instituted the notion of superdelegates, a term largely overlooked and undervalued before the current democratic primaries. With the neck and neck race between Clinton and Obama, it seems that superdelegates may make their mark on this nomination process, whether the majority of voters agree or not. So what exactly is a superdelegate?

Superdelegates are high ranking members of the democratic party, like senators and governers, who do not represent specific states. And unlike pledged delegates, they are not required or expected to vote for the winner of their state's primary vote. While they can pledge support for certain candidates, they can also change that vote up until the minute they actually place it.

As of the February 12th primaries, Barack Obama has a total of 1,262 pledged delegates compared to Hillary Clinton's 1,213. (cnn.com) To win the democratic nomination, a candidate is required to win 2,025 of the delegate votes. Despite Obama's overwhelming victories in the last eight primaries, Clinton and Obama are within 50 pledged delegate votes and it looks like the race will continue to stay close, with the possibility that neither will win the necessary 2,025 votes before the convention. If this is the case, the responsibility to choose the democratic nominee will fall to the party elite - the superdelegates. A recent article in Fox News made the claim:

"A top Hillary Clinton adviser on Saturday boldly predicted his candidate would lock down the nomination before the August convention by definitively winning over party insiders and officials known as superdelegates, claiming the number of state elections won by rival Barack Obama would be “irrelevant” to their decision." (Fox News)

This particular aspect of the democratic convention could be deadly for the current overwhelming favorite, Obama. Harold Ickes, part of the party elite for over 40 years, "said superdelegates — who “have a sense of what it takes to get elected” — would determine the outcome and side in larger numbers for Clinton." (Fox News)

But how democratic would this be? Would the democratic party be gutsy enough to essentially throw out the results, and thereby the entire primary election, and vote in favor of the unfavored candidate? I doubt that the political momentum Obama has gained in the past eight primaries with the possibility of two more in the next three days can be completely ignored. I will be personally outraged if the party that ideally represents the common man in America turns to the politically elite to choose their candidate. And if they do vote against the winner of the popular vote, they obviously do not know "what it takes to get elected" in this country and we could very well end up with a Republican president yet again.


Christopher Nicholson said...

"recently instituted the notion of superdelegates..."

Maybe we have differing notions of what the word recent means, but superdelegates became a part of the nominating process back in 1980, in response to the fiasco that was the 1968 convention.

Read more of my response to this post @ politicalmath.blogspot.com

Rex345 said...

I consider within the last 30 years relatively recent when you take into account that the first elected president took his oath in 1797.

Christopher Nicholson said...

True, but this is the 8th convention where we've had them, and it has never been an issue before. Previously people took it as a given (as I suggest) that it makes sense that party insiders be the ones who determine what the party stands for, rather than people who only bother to show up at a voting booth for 15 minutes.

You make it sound like this is something we dreamed up last week to take away the power of "the people" to determine who the nominee is, when precisely the opposite is the case.

Superdelegates are the last vestige of a system designed to allow people who've invested time in a label to define what it means.

I'm no fan of the Democratic party, but they have a right and an obligation to their members to make decisions rather than just count votes as you'd have them do. If the whole process is just about numbers, then the label is meaningless.

Rex345 said...

I do believe that we should simply "count the votes" and hope that the random voters who show up to the polls on voting day are insignificant compared to people who know exactly why they are voting. Your attitude is exactly why people don't vote; they don't think their vote makes a difference and in a political system that ultimately allows the "insiders" to choose the party candidate, I guess they would be right. And don't get me wrong, I never meant to sound like "you" dreamt anything up. You are just as insignificant a voter in our political system as the next person.

Christopher Nicholson said...

You're right. If all I do is vote, I likely will make no difference. If however, I get all my friends to vote, I have a chance. If I donate, and get my friends to donate, then I have more of a chance. If I run for local office, just like the superdelegates did, then I can really make change.

Party "insiders" are insiders because they care enough to really involve themselves in the party.

In politics, 90% of winning is just showing up. I think we should give a lot more credit to the people who come to every meeting than those who just show up to vote.

Charles said...

I just want to point out that this left-leaning blog failed to mention the fact that the Republican Party has far fewer superdelegates. In fact, the elites make up less than 5 percent of the convention delegates; minimizing their total impact to approximately a quarter of what a democratic superdelegate has on the primary outcome.

Don't be fooled. Political elites are political elites, across the board. It would be naive to believe that a liberal superdelegate is looking out for the best interest of the "the party that ideally represents the common man in America" more than his own self interest. In reality, he or she most likely has more to gain by disregarding the popular vote than the average voter.

If you find this superdelegate practice so atrocious you should really consider the GOP. It seems to be the more truly democratic party of the two. Maybe another republican president wouldn't be so bad after all. At least we'd know we had actually elected him.

Rex345 said...

As persuasive as your argument may be, voting for the GOP would just mean four more years in Iraq, deteriorating healthcare, and tax cuts for the upper class. Hardly a democratic future.

Rex345 said...

As persuasive as your argument may be, voting for the GOP would just mean four more years in Iraq, deteriorating healthcare, and tax cuts for the upper class. Hardly a democratic future.