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.