Sunday, February 10, 2008

Criticism of DNC's "Superdelegates"

With the prospect of a brokered Dem Convention seeming increasingly likely this year (especially after Obama went three for three yesterday in states as different as Louisiana, Washington, and Nebraska), Chris Bowers, an Obama supporter, indicates that he would quit the Dem party if the "superdelegates" don't vote for whom "the majority (or plurality) of its participants in primaries and caucuses want it to nominate" at the convention. Out of fairness to the Clinton campaign, he also advocates that the delegates from Florida and Michigan should be allowed to vote at the convention, which would give her a few more delegates.

I can understand Bowers' frustration with the process, but this is not an argument to put forward now if you're an Obama fan. According to the latest CNN vote totals, Hillary has received just over 420,000 more votes than Obama when the vote tallies from Florida and Michigan are included. RealClearPolitics currently has Hillary having 3 more delegates than Obama, though that's without Florida and Michigan given that they won't have delegates seated at the convention at this time (though the DNC could change its minds on that decision), and the RCP polling national polling average has her beating Obama by 2.9%. However, Obama now has the momentum in this race and should continue to do well this month in states like ME (which is today, though this is the only race that I think is still "up in the air" left this month, given no current polls and New England having gone for Hillary thus far despite the Kennedy's), the VA-MD-DC trifecta on 2/12, WI (which usually votes similar to IA), and HI (where he grewup).

Yet, despite all this, what if Obama can't close the 400K voter gap, or there remains a razor thin delegate margin in June? Even though there is a lot of criticism against superdelegates, the fact is that we do not hold a national primary in this country. Instead, we have primary voters going to the polls during a six month period, during which they learn more about the candidates and make a decision at the time that they vote. And even when they vote, they're not voting for a particular candidate, but for the delegates to represent them at the convention, which is held more than eight months after the first caucus/primary contest. Because of this, I think it's very premature for an Obama supporter to say that he'd "quit the party" if the superdelegates don't support the "will of the people," because it's hard to claim a "will of the people" in the primary process. How many people who've already voted in the primary now regret their decision? What if something new transpires, or a scandal is revealed, against the "favored candidate" before the convention? Should the superdelegates vote for the candidate who received a plurality of the vote, or has a slight lead in delegates, then? And let's say that Hillary still has a slight lead in the vote total and delegate count then, but polls still show that the more liberal senator from Illinois has a better shot against McCain than Hillary, and the superdelegates decide that it's better for the party to nominate Obama in such circumstances? I'm sure under the latter scenario, Mr. Bowers would be singing a much different tune...

1 comment:

Rottenchester said...

Bowers is being a bit excitable here, I doubt that he's going to quit the party over this, and all such pronouncements are silly and egocentric.

That said, superdelegates in general are a bad idea, and I'd say that whether I supported Obama, Clinton or someone else. They leave too much power in the hands of the old guard, and they also could promulgate a party-splitting appearance of an anti-democratic convention. They were instituted in the 80's when the anti-McGovern forces re-took the party and decided that they'd guarantee that another McGovern-type insurgent candidacy wouldn't happen.

Unfortunately, because there hasn't been a disputed nomination since superdelegates were invented, they've hung around. If Obama wins, they'll probably be purged, or at least their influence will be lessened.