It’s Obama… Hilary… no, it’s Superdelegate! by John Ostrander
We’ve now had the Pennsylvania Primary and I guess one of the candidates saw their shadow because it looks like we’re going to have six more weeks of Primaries. It’s like the end of the first Rocky film – we’re getting to the end of eighteen rounds and neither fighter can score the knockout blow. And both fighters are looking beat to hell.
I’ll make my preferences known upfront. Between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, I prefer Barack Obama. There’s a variety of reasons but let’s just say that, while I prefer Obama, I could support Clinton if she won the nomination. I can’t reward the Republican Party for eight years of screwing the country by voting to put another Republican in the White House. I admire John McCain as a person but he’s for continuing some policies that I think are ruinous.
That said, there’s one scenario I can conceive that I think would keep me from voting Democratic. It involves the super-delegates and it’s more likely to involve a Clinton candidacy than an Obama one.
Right now, the math doesn’t favor the Senator from New York. Obama’s lead is sufficient that, given the way the Dems award delegates proportionally in primary votes as opposed to the “winner take all” method that the Republicans use, Clinton won’t win the nomination based on either delegate count or popular vote. She’s makes claims to having “won” the Michigan and Florida primaries and argues that she should get those delegates. That would certainly help her but those primaries were already disallowed by the DNC; no one campaigned in Florida and Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan. Yeah, it’s messy and it cheats the voters in those two states and the DNC pulled a boner in handling the situation but you don’t hand the votes to Senator Clinton. She didn’t really earn them; the results aren’t valid.
Her real hope lies with the so-called “super-delegates” – the appointed, anointed delegates. After the McGovern reforms of 1968 opened up the party by reducing the power of the party bosses, new rules were introduced in 1982 to seat delegates not elected by primaries or caucuses but seated because they were leaders of the state parties, or they were the Democratic governors, the Democratic members of Congress and some others. The purpose was to “moderate” the votes of the elected delegates to insure that the candidate nominated would be the most “electable.” Since that time, we’ve had one – count ‘em, folks; ONE – Democratic presidency, that of Bill Clinton. Two out of six elections. Thank heavens for them superdelegates, huh? Do they know “electable” or do they know “electable”?
The superdelegates now account for about 20% of the total delegates and Hilary is counting on them to make her the 2008 Democratic Presidential nominee. Those are the delegates she really has to win to get the nomination. That’s where I have my problem – if Obama has the lead in the elected delegates AND the overall votes and the superdelegates decide Hillary is the more “electable” and hand the nomination to her, I don’t know as I would be able to vote for her. The same would be true if it was Senator Obama getting anointed but that’s not how it’s likely to play out.
The superdelegates are inherently UN-democratic. They’re designed for that purpose. In a close delegate count such as this one, they look to be the deciding factor. If they decide against the one who is the leader in delegates and the popular vote, then what was the purpose of all these primaries, of all the sound and fury, which went before?
As I MAY have mentioned once or twice before in these columns, I’m from Chicago originally and I grew up under the reign of the first Richard Daley as mayor. I was a boy during the height of his machine so I understand about party bosses and back room deals. On an occasion when one of his selected candidates for a given position actually lost the election, Hizzoner Da Mare (one of Daley’s Chicago-ese titles) was asked why his guy lost. Daley shrugged and replied, “He din’t get enough votes.”
Daley was not above stuffing the ballot boxes with those who were interred or those not out of diapers (just ask our esteemed EIC, Mike Gold, how long he has technically been voting in Chicago). However, Daley understood that, if you didn’t have enough votes, your guy didn’t win.
If Obama walks into the Democratic Convention with the majority of delegates and the majority of popular vote, then the so-called superdelegates need to respect that and make him the candidate. I’d say the same thing if it was Hilary Clinton with the delegates and the votes. Ultimately, it’s not about “electability” – something that the superdelegates have proved to be rather bad at determining anyway – but with keeping faith with the process and the voters.
The voting process has taken a lot of battering in recent years. In 2000, the Supreme Court intervened and circumvented a recount in Florida. In the last election, voting machines were used especially in Ohio that were made by a company whose owner boasted before the election that he was going to hand it to Bush. And now the Dems may decide that “electability” is more important than the actual number of votes cast. Or maybe I am hearing the correct message – your vote counts unless the Powers-That-Be decide that it doesn’t.
What does it say to black voters? They have perhaps the most electable potential Presidential nominee ever, he has the lead in delegates and the popular votes, and the superdelegates decide he’s not as electable enough. African-Americans have been a solid core for the Democratic Party for a long time. What happens if you break faith with them in such a basic and profound way?
What’s amazing to me is that if there was ever a time when you think the Democrats were ripe to win back the White House, it would be after eight years of Bush mismanagement, when the incumbent has one of the lowest approval ratings ever for a sitting president. Yet, they are finding ways to screw it up and, for me, one of the most egregious would be if the superdelegates pick a candidate based on anything other than delegate count and popular votes. Using an undemocratic way to select the Democratic presidential candidate. They would lose me. I think they would make themselves vulnerable to attack by the Republicans and lose the election as well.
Incredibly, I heard Howard Dean, the head of the DNC, say on TV the other day that the superdelegates should consider who the candidate should be based on the nebulous and phantom goal, “electability.”
There was a famous alderman in Chicago, the genially corrupt Paddy Bauer, who allegedly remarked “This town ain’t ready for reform.”
Neither, apparently, is the Democratic Party.
GrimJack, Star Wars: Legacy and Munden’s Bar writer John Ostrander will be spending tomorrow afternoon creating a new comic book title. Honest.
You're witnessing reform, which, in a democracy, isn't pretty. I remember the pre-primary, all-boss days and it wasn't working one whit better. We're in the middle of changing that process to one we like better. The process in four years will reflect what we've learned since then. Hang on.And, btw, the Florida mess is a Republican dirty trick, put through by a Republican legislature and a Republican governor listening to their bosses in Washington. If I turn the stereo down from eleven all I can hear is the Republicans laughing on the way to the bank.
How did the FL Republicans trick the DNC into refusing to seat FL's delegates? It seems to me that it was the DNC who decided my vote shouldn't count.
Actually, according to the St. Pete Times (no fan of the Republican party), this one is all on the DNC and the Florida Democratic Party: "The sponsor of the original Florida Senate bill setting an earlier Florida primary was Sen. Jeremy Ring, a freshman Broward County Democrat. Also, Democrats initially dismissed Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean's calls for Democrats not to set a January primary."For more check out this story by the Times' political editor Adam Smith.
Back in 2006, the Democratic National Committee set up rules for when states could schedule primaries . This was BEFORE Florida had decided the date for their primary. The rules were drafted, voted on and unanimously approved by a group of 450 Democratic activists. Unanimously. No dissent. Many representatives from Florida and Michigan. I don't know how the 450 activists were chosen. But how do you set up the rules to select the people (the activists) who are supposed to set up the rules to select people (the delegates) who are supposed to select the people (the nominees) that we the people are then going to get a chance to select for President? Actually, technically we the people don't elect the President. We select the members of the Electoral College, who THEN elect the President. It's a very convoluted system of rules and laws that deserves some reform.One of the rules made by the DNC was that states could not schedule their caucus or primary before Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. This was done for several reasons. This makes sure the candidates pay attention to at least a few smaller states. It also allows candidates to ramp up their campaigns in smaller states, where it is cheaper to campaign and build a name for themselves. This gives them a chance to raise money to compete in the larger states. If the largest states went first, then (in theory) only the candidates with the biggest name recognition or largest initial bank accounts would be able to compete and smaller states would get ignored. This also gives the candidates a smaller forum to fine tune their message; it's the off-Broadway, workshop road show. It's a place where mistakes can be made and where candidates can refine their style, because advertising and polling are cheaper on a much smaller scale.Another reason the DNC sets rules is that they don't want the CHAOS (and that is what we have) of various states squabbling and scrambling to be one of the first primaries on the calendar. This is what happened in Michigan. Michigan had scheduled a primary that would have seated their delegates, but after Florida decided to move it's primary earlier, Michigan changed the date of theirs, refusing to come after Florida. At one point, Michigan was threatening to hold it's primary in December! It became a primary scheduling game of chicken where BOTH Michigan and Florida crashed and burned.The states KNEW the rules. If they scheduled their primary before they were allowed to by DNC rules, their primary would be disqualified. It was not the DNC that decided your vote shouldn't count, it was the states of Michigan and Florida. But this is how the DNC, the Democratic party, and the Democrat Voters in Florida (namely YOU, GameCouch) got SCREWED. The Republican Florida Governor and Republican controlled Florida Legislature scheduled when the primary happened in Florida. The DNC didn't take into account the question, "What if a State (controlled by the Republicans) INTENTIONALLY schedules their primary against DNC rules JUST to throw a monkey wrench in the gears and disenfranchise Democratic Voters?"It wasn't the DNC who decided your vote shouldn't count; it was the Florida Legislature and Governor.The Florida Governor and legislature KNEW that by scheduling Florida's primary too early (before February 5) they would make Florida's delegates' votes void at the Democrat's convention. They just didn't care! Maybe that's exactly what they wanted! What the Florida Governor and Legislature did was ultimately unsportsmanlike and rude, a dirty trick. Dirty Pool. The Florida officials played a political chess game and disenfranchised their own people! Wow, Florida Republicans doing all they can to make sure the votes of Florida Democrats don't count. Hmm. Is this a recurring theme?If I were you, GameCouch, I would PISSED as HELL, but not so much at the DNC. I would be writing letters, making phone calls and working to make sure that your elected officials have a sense of fair play, including playing by the rules. I would make sure your elected officials are concerned more with making your vote count and less in the Pyrrhic victories of winning pissing contests with other states and/or political dirty tricks.
While I understand the vilification of Florida Republicans, Florida Democrats supported the earlier primary as well. Like MookieFL above notes, the bill's sponsor was State Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate. And the GOP also punished FL for having an early primary by pulling half their delegates.
"Florida Democrats supported the earlier primary as well." Their bad. Stop whining and get your party to either follow the rules or get them changed. The last thing we need is to move the damn primaries up even EARLiER. This madness has to be stopped, and the DNC's mistake was in permitting ANY primary or caucus to happen before May. Give the whiners from Michigan and Florida their way and we might as well start holding the 2012 primaries this coming December.BTW, the Michigan and Florida delegations WILL be seated at the convention. If they had fair primaries on a level playing field, maybe their nomination votes would count — but now it's irrelevant. The Democrats will have a candidate two months before the convention.
"It was not the DNC that decided your vote shouldn't count, it was the states of Michigan and Florida." The DNC should take its share of the blame, as the party whose name is derived from the word democracy should not be disenfranchising voters as punishment. This is not to let the idiots who run the Democratic party in Michigan (can you tell where I live?) off the hook. By moving up the primary they violated the rules put in place, but by nullifying the Michigan primary, the Michigan Democratic voters are unable to have meaningful participation in the process. There had to be a better compromise available than making us non-entities. Fine, fire or horsewhip the Michigan Democratic leaders, but don't take away our chance to be heard. Not that anyone would be listening.
One argument that I heard about the Michigan Dems wanting to push up the primary was that they felt that the initial frontrunner shouldn't be decided ONLY by states that are, primarily, white (as Iowa and NH are). That the concerns of Michigan economically as a post-industrial state and its racial make-up better mirror America. I think there a lot of truth in that. I don't think either Iowa's or NH's position in the primaries need to be sacrosanct.You could make the same argument for Florida with its heavy Latino base. Shouldn't that also be an earlier factor in determining who a Presidential candidate should be? Latinos represent a growing percentage of the population.That said, i think both the individual state Dem organizations and the DNC went about this is the worst possible way. The rules WERE agreed on in advance. To unilaterally move up your state's primary in defiance not only of the National Organization's warnings but rules to which the individual states involed agreed to operate under was folly.The DNC HAD to take some action or they would've been made impotent. If would have invited chaos — but the actions they did also created chaos. IMO, a BETTER choice would have been to hold the Primaries with the WARNING that those delegates might not be seated or some other punishment enacted but to wait until primary season was over to determine what that punishment would be. Elections would have been held with all the candidates free to campaign and you would KNOW the TRUE result.OR the DNC could have paid for new primaries or caucuses to be held in both NH and FL on a one time only basis. That would've been a lot harder to pull off but it would have solved the problem.There's a whole mess of people to blame for this debacle. The result, however, is to put the decision probably in the hands of the superdelegates and that, IMO, is undemocratic. Unless they choose the candidate who leads in the delegate and popular vote count. IMO.
I also meant to add that I appreciated your post. I think the point we disagree on is that this was a FL Republican initiative intended to disenfranchise Democrats. Both parties (at the state level) supported this push to raise Florida's awareness/importance, and it bit them in the ass. I think the problem is that I live in a state that looks like a wang.
Howard Dean (Chairman of the DNC) was an idiot for being so cavalier about not trying to help fund some process of redoing the primaries. But over all, I think Dean has done an AMAZING job as Chairman of the DNC. I think Dean can be credited for his part in energizing the Democratic Party to regain control of the House and Senate in 2006. And I think that his grass-roots mentality and guidance toward not just investing DNC money in Blue states, but contesting in every state at every level is (again, in part) responsible for the STELLAR voter turn out in the Democrat's Primaries. It also helps that Obama and Clinton are both capable and charismatic campaigners, leading history making charges for the White House. Both Clinton and Obama are GREAT candidates. It's also has helped the Democrats that Bush has been such an incompetent douche bag over the last 7 years. (Oops, I've let my freak-flag colors show.)Some folks might not know this, but the DNC actively worked against Dean's campaign for President in 2004. How did Dean retaliate? He quietly organized and took over the Chair of the DNC! And when he did that, Dean promised not to run for President in 2008.Dan, Michigan voters will still be able to have a VERY meaningful participation in the process come November! And, as far as I can tell, the delegates from Florida and Michigan will still get to go to the convention. It's my understanding they will still get to vote on very important but overlooked stuff like the Party Platform and the RULES for future elections. It's just their votes for Presidential Candidates will be nullified.The GOP punished Florida by pulling half their delegates. This seems like a more measured punishment than the draconian complete disenfranchisement by the DNC (but those were the rules set in place). My HOPE is that some compromise will be reached before the convention that will give Michigan and Florida Democrats a sense of participation and thus a greater level of emotional investment in the outcome in November.GameCouch, you can't help that Florida is shaped like a penisinsula any more than Dan can help that Michigan is shaped like a giant hand. And it's not the average voter's fault that Florida, Michigan and the DNC ended up in a such big circle jerk.
John, the superdelegate is NOT reform. It was brought in in 1982 because it was felt the party bigwigs weren't really supporting the Dem Presidential candidates because they didn't have a big say in the process. So the head and chief assistant of each Dem state organization was made a delegate, and then they added in all the Dem governors and most of the Democratic congressmen and a few others because they felt like it.I'm not advocating a return to the political boss days at all. I quoted Daley only as an example that even he, as a Big City Boss, understood you needed the votes or your guy lost. Yes, he would try to steal, alter, or somehow else get the votes but, if he couldn't, he took the loss and went on.The superdelegates have proven themselves no more adept at picking a winner than anyone else. "Electability" is a mirage. Go with the one who has the most votes, the most delegates. i don't care if it's Hilary or Obama. But let's at least TRY to pretend that the votes cast thus far matter. And we shouldn't need to wait four years for that to happen.
I was describing the process from the all boss days to whatever we have now as reform, a process, not a destination. Reform wouldn't be anything I could support if I had to settle for any status quo, including this one. Excelsior. And I didn't and would try not to suggest any person's advocacy of any position, or even yours.But now that I think of it, some votes are more equal than others aren't they? Adults more than children. Registered more than unregistered. With ID more than without ID. Citizen resident more than non-citizen resident. I've got no problem setting up a due process for votes. The different cases from state to state seem like mischief to me and my solution would probably seem mischief to my political opposites.
No matter which candidate they choose, they will lose THOUSANDS possibly hundreds of thousands of voters who only wanted to vote for their candidate and no one else. If they decide to go for a third more "electable" candidate, that number doubles, and possibly more as people who will be upset by that complete throwing out of the popular vote. Like you, some people will be put off by the very "back-room" feel of the whole thing, and walk away, or vote for another candidate.The convention is going to be the first one WORTH watching in decades. We will not see a decision made beforehand. And there simply won't be enough time between then and the General Election to mend those bridges.Rush talks about "Operation Chaos"; I'm in "Operation Snapwatch". Mark my words, one of these two candidates is going to lose their temper, and say something in the heat of the moment so un-PC and so vile, it'll not only wreck their chances, but may render the entire Democratic party unelectable for years. They won't mean it; it'll be the kind of uncontrolled invective that slips from your mouth in the safety of your own car with the radion on while in heavy traffic after someone cuts you off or actually hits you. But it'll be inexcusable. The only response may be to burn the crops and salt the earth.
You have to have a little more faith in John McCain and the Republicans, Winnie. McCain is very capable of sticking his foot in his mouth between now and November, the grassroots Far Right (especially Christian) branch isn't turned on by him, and economically things are only going to get worse between now and then. McCain won't be able to distance himself from Bush. Whatever the Dems do to each other may be inconsequential compared to what Bush may do to McCain.And I'm not so sure the Dems won't work out who their nominee is before the Convention. Let's see what happens after the final Primary is over.
About the cast vote mbeing counted and mattering for something, if I lived in Florida over the last bunch of elections my head would explode.The people in that state must have no faith whatsoever in the system.I have to say. I'm so glad they are long gone from PA.It was 6 weeks of agony and I drove back from a long weekend in Charleston PA with the sole purpose of voting.After that I wanted them to count my vote and GO AWAY!
Comics, so far, have no political advertising. Turn off that television and open up a comic book. And if a penguin offers you a hostess fruit pie, take it.
re: "The DNC HAD to take some action or they would've been made impotent. " Yes, that pretty much gets to the root of the issue. The main purpose of the DNC and the RNC is to make sure there are no viable political entities other than the DNC and the RNC. So better to look stupid and churlish rather than impotent.