That’s What Superdelegates (Like Friends) Are For

I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with the talk during this year’s presidential elections about the unfairness of the status of “superdelegates” in the primary process. Of course, this issue has only arisen in the Democratic party contest this year, as the Republican race is all but settled in favor of my candidate, John McCain (I was a McCain supporter at the beginning of all this when he was only polling 10 percent, I might add).

In the Democratic race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, of course, superdelegates are likely to play an important role (this, from the Washington Times, is some evidence). This seems to have many people upset, as they see this as intrinsically “undemocratic”. The flames of this fire are, of course, fanned by the news media. However, I’m not sure why Americans should be upset about superdelegates and their status. Consider first this fact (often insisted upon by fellow Republicans): The U.S.A. is not a democracy, in the pure sense of the word. It is is a federal republic. We practice representative government, not direct democracy. We do not take national votes on issues of the legislature, and we vote for people to hold offices in which they are entitled to make decisions affecting the actions of the government. Second, consider this: superdelegates are (mostly) elected officials, part of whose responsibilities are to exercise their own judgments (not those of the polls) in order to come to decisions on whom to support. If their votes “count more than ours”, it is because they have responsibilites beyond ours for which they have been selected by vote. It is similar to the case of Presidents selecting Supreme Court nominees.

So please, my Democratic friends, please…stop complaining about the superdelegates or expecting them to “validate the will of the people”. Ought they not, as we would expect of a responsible person, decide what they think is best, rather than following the tide, changing with the wind?

2 responses to “That’s What Superdelegates (Like Friends) Are For

  1. Hi Alexus,

    Who wrote that, Elton or Stevie? Dionne? I understand your view about superdelegates and I agree they were created to exercise some independence, *when desirable*, from the voting masses. But I think there’s a good reason why it actually *would* be more desirable for them to go with the majority of primary voters’ preference this time around.

    Superdelegates are not exactly junzis yet a lot of them are very deeply embedded in Democratic Party echelons of power; that fact combined with recent history of disempowering the popular vote (from the Gore-Bush election endgame and onward) behind a very thin sham of objective oversight (Rehnquist and gang) seems to me to tell in favor of honoring the party’s popular vote.

    Does Rahm Emanuel, or any number of former Clintonites, really know any better than I do what’s best for the Democratic party? As Steve/Elton/Dionne said, “I’ll be on your side forever more…” But is that meant in a paternalistic way or a more egalitarian way? I’ve had parents; I don’t need “superparents.”

  2. Hey Manyul,

    “Superparents”–I like that one. Sounds very Confucian. What kind of filial respect would we owe such characters, I wonder? Good point about the Gore-Bush election, lots of people are (understandably) still quite upset about that one. That seems a bit different case, though, because the legal (constitutional) justification for stopping the vote count was on shaky ground, and really had no precedent. Even the Justices themselves probably didn’t think of themselves as having the authority to decide who became president in 2000, although that was the actual result. They would have explained their decision as resting on legal grounds. So their “choice” in some sense was a foreseen consequence of a legal decision rather than an immediately chosen end.

    I see your point about the timing of this. If nothing else, going with the leader in the popular vote will certainly motivate the members of the party, giving them a feeling of empowerment, that they can take into the fall general election. This can help present the Democratic party as the “party of the people.” I hadn’t thought of it that way before. But I don’t want Democrats to feel empowered and motivated in the fall, man!

    Also–what would happen in the case of a nasty near-tie in the Democratic primaries (which looks possible if Clinton pulls out Texas and Ohio). What if one of them is only leading by 20 or so pledged delegates by the convention? Then it looks like there won’t be a clear favorite as far as the vote, and whatever the superdelegates do will be in some sense thwarting the will of the people.

    …now that I think of it, maybe they should be called “superfriends”–that has a feel of comradeship with just a touch of paternalism.

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