Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The superdelegate thing

Superdelegates must go.

This type of politics should be banned from our system of representative democracy. The Democratic party is currently tripping over the self-inflicted shortcomings of this complicated and undemocratic method of choosing a presidential nominee. Apart from the Byzantine rules and partisan jostling, the system makes a mockery of "one person, one vote."

The superdelegate system slyly says, “Well yeah, you can vote all you want, you poor dumb animals, but if we wealthy smart elite people don't approve of your choice, we'll just change it to suit our narrative.”

The masses can't be trusted with democracy.

And that's how we arrived at this point.

Superdelegates were created as a result of deals cut with Democratic party insiders in 1980. Prior to this, the McGovern Commission had determined that party bosses had unduly influenced the nomination of Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 elections. The Democrats were unable, as a result, to beat Richard Nixon.

By 1980, after Nixon/Ford, and Carter, the party elders decided to take their power back. As Gary Hart was challenging Walter Mondale for the presidency in 1984, he ran into an establishment buzzsaw that defeated him behind the scenes far more soundly than his narrow loss in the popular vote.

Again, the establishment candidate was trounced by a conservative in the general election. Thus began nearly 30 years of conservative rule, and a painful dissolution of the Constitution.

Does anybody remember this?

Right now there is a quiet movement of superdelegates who are asserting that they'll follow the will of the voters regarding the Democratic primary. This is a positive trend, but these people shouldn't be in this position to begin with.

Delegates, we get. If 100 people vote, 60 for A and 40 for B, and your group gets 10 delegates to a county convention, A gets 6 and B gets 4. We can live with that. We're sending representatives to vote our wishes. Representative democracy.

But superdelegates are appointed by dubious means: Favors, recognition, deals—the stuff of politics, the stuff of gambling, the stuff of cronyism. This is not how the system should work, and it should be exposed for what it is: Oligarchy. Power in the hands of a privileged few.

Call it anything but American.

We're looking with a great deal of concern at what might become of Michigan and Florida's votes. Both were electoral fiascoes this primary season; Florida still has bitter memories of the 2000 general election where so many people simply lost their votes. Michigan's party currently is in disarray, despite a strong governor. Arbitrary rules were imposed on these states' Democratic parties; the states resisted, and as a result, the national ruling body of the party punished them by not allowing their delegates to be seated at the national convention in August.

But nobody thought Obama and Clinton would have such a highly contested primary season. Depending on who's counting right now, only 70 or so superdelegates separate the candidates, but Senator Obama clearly has an edge in the popular vote. Now, every delegate counts, and Senator Clinton wants Florida and Michigan delegates counted in August.

The party has painted itself into a corner: Superdelegates could contravene the will of the people.

The only real solution, short-term, is to have a second vote in these states, either by caucus or primary, at the cost of the DNC. Having voters lose their voice because of party arcana obviously violates democratic principles. If both candidates had campaigned, and had their names on the ballots in both states, no one can argue that the results would have been different. Maybe Clinton does win, but certainly not by the margins encountered while running against “Uncommitted.” Or being told well ahead of time your votes won't count.

Simply admitting these votes as-is would be unfair, given the dynamics of the current situation. If there is another equitable way of expressing the will of Democratic voters Michigan and Florida, let's hear it.

But it must be settled soon. After that—as progressives, and as Americans—we must keep it fresh in our memories so we can devise a more equitable system for choosing our candidates. Every time we make mistakes like this, the black and white simplicity—and ruthlessness—of Republican conservatism becomes more and more appealing to people who simply want a say in how they're governed.

And at that point, we're back to square one.


Blogger Bill R. said...

I wonder if the Wash. Senators are intending to over-rule Dem. primary and caucus voters and push HRC on the rest of us. Question is, are the supers suicidal and intent on party destruction to further the ambitions of the Clintons?

February 17, 2008 6:37 PM  
Blogger Blair said...

Oh give it a rest.

The votes are not all counted yet. Let's wait to see how other states vote.

Plus, the superdelegates don't have that much power. They are only 20% of the total delegate count. And you make it seem that they are all magically appointed by "party bosses". That is total rubbish. Most of the superdelegates are elected officials. The others are elected by their fellow Democrats at conventions and party meetings.

Most of the anti-superdelegate BS is from supporters of Obama. But what will they do if it turns out that the superdelegates help him instead of Clinton? That could well happen. Will they continue to attack the system or will they accept the win?

Oh and yeah, Senators Cantwell and Murray should vote for Obama... after Senators Kerry and Kennedy vote for Clinton.

February 18, 2008 12:58 AM  
Blogger scuz75 said...

I saw an interview with a superdelegate who said she was appointed by President Clinton. WTF! How many others did he appoint?

March 7, 2008 2:00 PM  

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