20 May 2008

Nothing Super About Superdelegates

Today is Primary Day in Kentucky and Oregon. Senator Clinton is going to win Kentucky by a very wide margin. Senator Obama will probably win in Oregon, and will in all likelihood clinch a majority of pledged delegates and send the latest signal that he's the nominee for President. I'm excited to vote, and I think the close contest with two very strong candidates has helped the Party and helped the country - for starters, it's encouraged a new generation of political junkies and it's given a lot of exposure to the candidates.

However, I'm bothered by my Party's absolutely ridiculous nomination process. The process itself has harmed both candidates and the party.

First, many years ago the Party hierarchy decided that its voters can't always be trusted to nominate a candidate who can win. So they invented this thing called an "unpledged delegate," more commonly known as a "superdelegate" - a member of the party establishment answerable to no one to vote for the "party's choice." About 1 of every 5 delegates at the convention this year will be an unpledged delegate. Predictably, there have already been questions about hand-outs to superdelegates.

And to think, this was the plan they came up with as a way to make the convention MORE responsive to the voters and representative of minorities. Seriously.

Then, no matter what happens, the Democratic Party says Iowa and New Hampshire have to vote first. I have nothing against people in these states, but they get the bulk of the attention from candidates and most won't make it past the first few states. This really does change the way the race plays out. For example, if a Southwestern state held an early primary or caucus, Bill Richardson may have gotten an early bump over, say, John Edwards and been a much more influential figure in this campaign.

But NO MATTER WHAT, says the party, Iowa and New Hampshire go first - and if you try to move your primary up (I'm looking at YOU, Michigan and Florida) to be more relevant, no delegates for you. At least that's what the DNC bylaws committee said back when everyone assumed Senator Clinton would be the nominee and there wouldn't be a big contest.

The party told the candidates not to campaign there, so they didn't. Senator Obama went so far as to remove his name from the ballot in Michigan. But now the same bylaws committee - stacked with allies of Senator Clinton - is meeting in less than two weeks to figure out how to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida. Senator Clinton has declared herself the "winner" of both contests and, finding herself behind in the all-important delegate (super or otherwise) count, wants the races to count again. And they'll probably figure out a way to seat their delegates, but probably not the way the states want.

So because the party insisted that things start in Iowa and New Hampshire, Senator Clinton looks like a power-hungry hypocrite and Senator Obama looks like he's trying to disenfranchise voters in two important states.

And here's another dirty little secret -as an incentive to not pre-empt Iowa or New Hampshire, states that "agreed" to hold later primaries were awarded extra delegates by the DNC, even though most of the states who were awarded extra delegates weren't even considering changing their primary dates. So my vote in Kentucky theoretically counts more simply because I vote later - but only for the two remaining candidates.

So, to sum up:
  • One out of five delegates is selected by party elders and answerable to absolutely no one - just in case the unwashed masses choose a candidate the party elders don't like;
  • Anyone who tries to vote before New Hampshire or Iowa doesn't count - until we say otherwise, but then probably not under the same system; and
  • States who vote late get more delegates than states who vote early, regardless of population.
The party should throw out the bylaws and rewrite the rules. Rotate the states that go first. One person, one vote - no matter when, no matter where, with a single exception. If a state passes a law that says they have to vote first, the party says it's winner take all and they get only one delegate. So their "delegation" is seated but it's just not worth it for the candidate.


Alison said...

I agree with you. Let's hope it's different in 2012.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand something. I went to the polls to vote today. I just don't understand why my vote doesn't count. Only the delegates' and superdelegates' votes count. I was listening to a West Virginia Senator on television the other day and he said that even though Hillary Clinton won the state, his superdelegate vote would go to Obama. I believe that if the state votes for a certain candidate, so should the delegates of that state. Can someone please explain to me how it is possible that a state's citizens vote one way, but the delegates, who decide the nomination, can vote a totally different way.

Marta said...

I totally agree the system is flawed and the DNC knew exactly what they were doing. They did so that they could control the nominee and that does not include Hillary Clinton. I will not vote for Obama unless Hillary is he V.P. If not I will stay home or maybe vote for McCain