Since they were introduced in 1982, superdelegates have rarely been a very public controversy. Sure, they give a single person the same voting weight at the Democratic National Convention as an entire community, but usually they both end up voting for the front-runner candidate anyway. With such a closely contested race for the Democratic nomination, it is increasingly looking like the superdelegates, not the public, will get to choose which candidate they want to run for President this fall.
First, a reminder of what superdelegates are. Each district has a set number of “pledged delegates.” After you all go vote, these pledged delegates will go to the Democratic National Convention and vote for whichever candidate won your district. The candidate with the most delegate votes, will become the party’s nominee. There are 3,253 pledged delegates. Usually one candidate will win a vast majority of these delegates and the 796 superdelegates won’t matter. Superdelegates are current or former elected officeholders and party officials. For example, every Democratic Congressmen or state governor is a superdelegate. Bill Clinton is a superdelegate (wonder who he’s voting for?). Because each of these people get a single vote at the DNC, they have as much influence as entire communities of people.
Now that it’s becoming clear that Obama and Clinton will most likely split the pledged delegate votes, it is becoming more likely that the superedelegates will get to decide which candidate gets the nomination. Obviously, this is more than a little controversial.
“If 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit the Democratic Party. I feel very strongly about this,” said superdelegate Donna Brazile.
“This is a complete disaster,” blogged Chris Bowers this week on his Open Left website.
“It will shine light on complicated bylaws, and the questionable democratic nature of the delegate selection process instead of on voters. Fascinating as it might be for political junkies, it is not the kind of image Democrats need,” Bowers wrote.
Other liberal pundits are piling on against what they call the “tyranny” of the Democratic Party’s super delegates.
“Strengthen our democracy by reforming the super-delegate system so that the people, not the party establishment, choose their candidate,” blogged Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation.
Obama, who according to some sources is already leading in pledged delegates, is obviously upset about the power of superdelegates, calling for them to vote the way their states and districts did. “”If this contest comes down to super delegates, we are going to be able to say we have more pledged delegates, which means the Democratic voters have spoken. Those super delegates, those party insiders would have to think long and hard how they would approach the nomination,” he said.
Hillary, of course, doesn’t feel the same way.
Clinton said she thought super delegates often had the unique position of having “first-hand knowledge of the candidates” and “if people want to go after delegates in places that I’ve won who are supporting somebody else, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Huh? Goose and the gander? How old are you? Clinton also added that “anything can happen in politics,” but caught herself before adding “including disenfranchising the public in the interest of making sure I win.”
It’s a complicated system that has been ignored for too long. Regardless of how you feel, you should check out this great article by ABC News that clearly presents the why this is so controversial. I’ll also link a U.S. News story that details the origins of how and why superdelegates were created.
Obama vs. Hillary: Will Voters or Elite Decide? – [ABC News]
Obama, Clinton Head Toward Contested Convention -[U.S. News]