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Tilting at Windmills

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February 10, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

SUPERDELEGATES....Chris Bowers unleashes a cri de coeur against the possibility that superdelegates will end up determining the winner of the Democratic primary:

If someone is nominated for POTUS from the Democratic Party despite another candidate receiving more poplar support from Democratic primary voters and caucus goers, I will resign as local precinct captain, resign my seat on the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee, immediately cease all fundraising for all Democrats, refuse to endorse the Democratic "nominee" for any office, and otherwise disengage from the Democratic Party through all available means of doing so.

This is not a negotiable position. If the Democratic Party does not nominate the candidate for POTUS that the majority (or plurality) of its participants in primaries and caucuses want it to nominate, then I will quit the Democratic Party.

I don't quite get this. The very existence of superdelegates assumes that they'll vote their own consciences, not merely parrot the results of the primaries. After all, why even have them if that's all they do?

More importantly, though, who decides what the popular will is anyway? Is it number of pledged delegates from the state contests? Total popular vote? Total number of states won? What about uncommitted delegates from primary states? Or caucus states, in which there's no popular vote to consult and delegates are selected in a decidedly nondemocratic fashion to begin with? And what about all the independent and crossover voters? Personally, I'd just as soon they didn't have a say in selecting the nominee of my party at all, but the rules say otherwise. If I'm a superdelegate, do I count their votes, or do I pore over exit polls to try to tease out how Democratic Party voters voted? And how do I take into account the obviously disproportionate influence of Iowa and New Hampshire, two tiny states that have far more power than any truly democratic process would ever give them?

I'm not very excited at the idea of superdelegates deciding the nomination either, but the only way that will happen is if the primaries end up nearly tied in the first place. Then factor in the number of ways in which the primary/caucus process is nondemocratic from the get go, and it hardly seems practical to insist that superdelegates should all somehow divine a single "democratic" result from a very close race. I'm just not sure how you can do it. Better to simply respect them as human beings and party loyalists, and allow them to vote their consciences.

Kevin Drum 1:22 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (106)

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"I'm not very excited at the idea of superdelegates deciding the nomination either, but the only way that will happen is if the primaries end up nearly tied in the first place."

Great, so say that if it Isn't a close tie (say some number like

I can figure which side might try to push a decision there way if it's not, since the Clintonistas have already supported a lawsuit to disenfranchise caucusgoers (in NV) and are reneging on a pledge to discount FL and MI delegates.

Posted by: riffle on February 10, 2008 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

Bah, I used a "Less than" sign and it ate the rest of the sentence.

Great, so say that if it Isn't a close tie (say some number like under one percent of the pop vote / delegates , both for the same candidate) then the superdelegates shouldn't change the will of the voters.

I can figure... (continues in comment above)

...

Posted by: riffle on February 10, 2008 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK

I don't quite get this. The very existence of superdelegates assumes that they'll vote their own consciences, not merely parrot the results of the primaries. After all, why even have them if that's all they do?

Wow. Zero comments. Chris Bowers should have threatened to fall on his sword at the time the process was announced if he didn't like the setup. Personnally, I don't like the caucus setup that my state has but we live with it. Maybe I should have left the party when that was determined here.

Bowers is a whiner that is doing one of those Obama-baby 'I'll hold my breath till I turn blue if my guy doesn't win' threats.

Posted by: SteveO on February 10, 2008 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

There's another way to look at Super Delegates. Nancy Pelosi defended the system today noting that Super Delegates were part of the allocated State delegates. Now, in theory, the bigger and bluer a state is, the more super delegates it should have because each Democratic Congressman and Senator is going to be a Super Delegate. So a big, blue state should have a lot of super delegates. A mid-sized purple state should have a decent number. And a bright red state should have fewer.

Now, in a case where you have two very close candidates, it might make sense - as a Party - to have big blue states and even purple states have the most say in the nominee since they are from states that form either the Democratic base or swing states. And I don't think it's crazy or unfair or undemocratic if these Super Delegates vote with their states. In other words, most of Ohio's Super Delegates would vote for the candidate who wins Ohio. Since Super Delegates are mostly part of state allocations and the pledged delegates from states are hardly 100% representative of popular vote outcomes, it doesn't strike me as undemocratic to have the Super Delegates vote with the majority of their constituency.

I can see an argument that in a closely divided race, the democratic party would rather nominate the winner of Ohio than Montana, to use two states who haven't voted yet as an example.

Now, of course, the candidates are going to argue what ever gets them across the line. I've heard Obama folks suggest that Super Delegates should vote for the pledged delegate winner (these may just be supporters, however). I've also seen where Obama has urged Super Delegates in districts and states he's won to endorse him. At the same time, today he said that he didn't think Super Delegates representing districts or states he lost should change their minds and support Clinton.

The most important thing I think is for folks not to get too dogmatic about it. This entire process is a mess and the idea that there's only one way out of it that is good and true is ridiculous, IMO.

Posted by: BDB on February 10, 2008 at 2:52 AM | PERMALINK

Obama could fix this issue quite easily, I think--he could just make a pledge that he will drop out of the race if, at the conclusion of the primaries, he trails Hillary Clinton in pledged delegates. He could then ask Hillary to "observe will of voters" and sign the pledge as well. Either way she chooses to go, he wins.

Posted by: Lev on February 10, 2008 at 2:52 AM | PERMALINK

Chris Bowers should give some serious thought to growing up.

Posted by: Zeno on February 10, 2008 at 2:52 AM | PERMALINK

What part of that cri de coeur against manipulated electoral decision making don't you understand?

At least from a Democrat after the 2000 results - I'm pretty sure that Republicans have mastered manipulating electoral decision (from voter suppression to no trail ballots to the Supreme Court) and quite proud of their skills.

After all, any number of Democrats are waiting for the chance for a simple majority of voters to finally decide an election in favor of a Democratic president. Where all votes count equally, in a transparent process.

Such touching faith in school book lessons is hard to grasp among the politically aware.

Posted by: rent_to_own on February 10, 2008 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

Also, should the superdelegates vote on the basis of this overall democratic will, or on the basis of the 'democratic will' of the respective localities which they represent?

Posted by: rufustfyrfly on February 10, 2008 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

I should've added that I'm beginning to hear conflicting things from Obama supporters (and I'm sure it won't be limited to Obama, I just haven't gotten as good a read on Clinton).

Basically, I've head them argue that Michigan and Florida absolutely must not be seated because the rules are the rules. But then they add that unless Super Delegates vote for the pledged delegate leader the entire thing is undemocratic and illegitimate. Now, there's nothing in the rules that requires Super Delegates to vote that way, so essentially, the Obama supporters are trying to create a NEW rule, while forcing Clinton to abide by the original rules.

I don't think you can do that. To me, you either say the most important thing is that voters aren't disenfranchised and so you seat Michigan and Florida AND the Super Delegates vote for either the pledged delegate leader/popular vote leader (hopefully they are the same person). Or you say rules are rules and we're following the ones we started with which means MI and FL don't get seated unless the credentials committee approves them and super delegates can vote however they want.

In other words, I don't think it's okay to argue that it's okay for Obama to win because the rules permit the disenfranchisement of MI and FL voters, but it's not okay for Clinton to win because the rules permit Super Delegates to support the candidate who did not win the pledged delegate count (arguably disenfranchising voters, assuming the pledged delegate leader is also the popular vote winner). Either counting every vote is important (and then the popular vote winner should also matter) or following the rules is important.

It's less clear if this is an issue for Clinton because we don't know yet if the pledged delegate leader will also win the popular vote (and given how caucuses are done, we might never know). But the argument that super delegates must vote for the pledged delegate winner or else it's disenfranchisement seems to me predicated on the idea that the pledged delegate count accurately reflects the will of the voters. That may or may not turn out to be true.

Posted by: BDB on February 10, 2008 at 3:05 AM | PERMALINK

Until we start holding a national primary, this is a painfully stupid threat that requires Bowers to have long mistaken the nomination process as a perfectly democratic effort. It isn't. And it won't be no matter who wins the "popular vote". I don't even know how you define that when you have caucuses and primaries. And what of Florida and Michigan? By the time the final states hold their elections, voters in the first states may have changed their minds. What about the people who backed ultimately futile campaigns? They played an important role in the process, but they didn't get to decide between these two candidates.

I'm an Obama supporter. Was an Edwards supporter. WILL be a Hillary supporter if need be. Frankly, if the race NEEDS to be decided by super-delegates, then it was a tie. Its that simple. Given the way the process is structured, there is simply no other way to regard it because none of it really involves everyone getting a say. You just can't treat primary results like that.

Posted by: BStu on February 10, 2008 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

On a more practical political level, the elected-official superdelegates will have the freedom to try and put at the top of the ticket whomever they think will help them out the most. That's why all of this counting of superdelegates at this early stage of the game is silly. They can change their minds.

Posted by: Monica on February 10, 2008 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

Rules are rules. They help bring order where chaos might otherwise creep in.

1. Let the pledged delegates be allocated according to each state party's rules

2. Ignore MI and FL delegates because that was what all candidates agreed to

3. Let the superdelegates vote however they see fit. That was how the rules were laid out before the game started.

Add up all the delegates and the candidate that gets more delegates than the other is the nominee.

Let the candidate with the most delegates win. If Hillary manages to win more superdelegates using whatever persuasive powers she can bear, so be it. Same with Obama.

Perhaps each one of us should email/phone our state superdelegates asking them to vote for the candidate of our choice. If enough of us call a superdelegate, they are likely to have a good idea which way to lean. They care about getting reelected to their office and ignoring the voice of their voters is one way to lose their support. They won't risk that.

Posted by: rational on February 10, 2008 at 3:54 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum >"...Better to simply respect them as human beings and party loyalists, and allow them to vote their consciences."

Yes indeed

Obama "toasted" Hilliary here in WA...amazed am I

wooeee

"...This is not a game." - Lorie Van Auken (2001.09.11 widow)

Posted by: daCascadian on February 10, 2008 at 4:02 AM | PERMALINK

Look, this is not going to be happening in a vacuum. There will be enormous public pressure, booming from the media, for the loser in popularly elected delegates to concede, particularly if there is a 100 delegate or more gap. There will also be private pressure: I can see a group of superdelegates, including some of her owned superdelegates, approaching Hillary and asking her to step aside for the good of the party. And for the good of the Senate, where she'll need goodwill of her fellow party members in order to be effective.

It does seem more likely that Obama will win 100+ delegates, even before March 4, since his wins are huge and his loses almost even. (I've seen some number crunching on this, over at Kos, that makes a pretty convincing case. And that even left out Dems Abroad, where he is likely to do very well!)


Posted by: KathyF on February 10, 2008 at 4:04 AM | PERMALINK

And that even left out Dems Abroad, where he is likely to do very well!

Well, from friends who took part I heard that Tokyo went 80% Obama.

I too don't get Chris Bowers reaction. It's not the most democratic system in the world but then neither are caucuses... most of the superdelegates are at least elected themselves (it's not dissimilar to the selection of a leader via peer vote in most parliamentary systems) and as Kevin notes the % of superdelegates is low enough that their votes can't really sway things unless the votes of delegates chosen through primaries/caucuses are close to a tie, anyway... There are bigger electoral issues to worry about.

Posted by: snicker-snack on February 10, 2008 at 4:23 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin here,100%. The superdelegate idea makes no sense UNLESS each superdelegate is free to cast his/her choice on whatever grounds each sees fit, independently of the popular will or the delegate count per the states. My guess is that, if it comes down to where the decision by the superdelegates counts, many will make their choice based on which candidate they believe has the best coattails. I also think the Florida and Michigan vote will count and their delegates seated BEFORE the decision is thrown to the superdelegates.

Posted by: Erika S on February 10, 2008 at 4:54 AM | PERMALINK

chris bowers, a significant leftwing blogger demostrates the biggest weakness of the leftwing.. they are quitters.. when faced with adversity, they quit. he's entitled to a fair election or he'll quit..

on the other hand,instead of calming down, malkin says fight harder..

leftwing is the quitterwing.

Posted by: Mark on February 10, 2008 at 5:22 AM | PERMALINK

Not sure why Chris Bowers feels that way, but a willingness to disengage from the Democratic party is understandable. Indeed, widespread discontent with each respective party is roiling. Is it any surprise?

For the past 10 years or so routine criticism of the two parties, often called Demopublicans and Republicrats, has been mentioned but largely ignored as a profound issue by the media. In large part this is due to a lack of a viable independent movement - a sign that discontent produced a viable alternative. Just because there isn't an alternative doesn't mean the public is happy with the categorically bivalent, yet in many ways similar, choices.

Ron Paul has disappointed, but in certain instances - Paul vs. Rudy - did surprisingly well. But not well enough to indicate mass discontent. Huckabee is a clearer sign of right wing discontent, but on a marginal scale.

Obama, on the other hand, is the clear beneficiary of the discontent the public is having with the Democrats, which is illustrated in Matt Taibbi's RS piece (See: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/18349197/the_chicken_doves ).

The most surprising fact is that the widespread dissatisfaction is being expressed in less populated states, e.g., Iowa, Idaho, Nebraska. The Clinton machinery successfully worked the big state and big city circuits. Why there isn't the same level of dissatisfaction among New Yorkers, California dreamers, and Bostonian liberals is enigmatic to say the least. Are they more content with the way things are going?

No end to the war after the '06 elections? Political stalemate except for the stimulus package? Lethargy and apathy dominating DC? What has Washington in general, and the Democrats in particular, done to provide progressive voters even a modicum of satisfaction in the past two years? Ensured that Usama didn't bomb your local shopping mall?

That's the zeitgeist undoing Clinton's candidacy, and snowballing in favor of Obama. If Obama leads in the race going into the convention and either a. the Michigan and Florida delegates are used in favor of Clinton, or, b. the super delegates choose Clinton despite Obama's popular advantage, then it's going to be a zero sum game for many Democrats who feel cheated. Unfortunately, the same is true for many Clinton supporters who felt she had this race wrapped up a year ago.

To a great extent this unrest is due to the weakness of core party values and a strong, unifying platform. To begin with, the party should be ashamed about MI and FL; there's no excuse for having botched it so badly. Then there's Universal Healthcare achieved mostly through redistributive write-offs and payouts rather than a major overhaul; ending the war, which should've been done two years ago; taxing the rich who will simply move funds into shelters; and making college more affordable? The package is tantamount to putting a toy in every box of popcorn. Promises, promises. Where's the heft?

What about the homeless and helpless John Edwards strove to protect? What about a serious economic philosophy - a contemporary version of Keynesian economics - to address the erosion of the middle class? Clinton's freezing interest rates for five years? How about a specific plan to minimize influence peddling? How about public financing of campaigns? How about more specifics regarding each candidate's plans?

Be real, there's not much other than hope that one would leave behind if they turn their back on the Democrats. Team Clinton's Third Way has been, especially in terms of foreign policy, little more than capitulation to the right. W's war on Saddam in '03 was merely a continuation of Clinton's Operation Desert Fox in '98, inspired in part by the PNAC (See: http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm ).

NAFTA? An assault on the middle class, manufacturing and wage hikes. Globalization? A threat to safe dog food, toys, jobs, trade balances, credit stability, and monetary reliability. The deregulation of the media promoted by Bill? A disaster.

Who needs more of the same? And if Team Clinton is going to give us more of the same, if elected, then please, don't call it liberal or progressive. It's the same old same old that's severely hurt this country over the past 15 years. And that's why many Democrats would be willing to walk away from the party. Because too often the party's walked away from them.

Mutuality is a two-way street. In order to ensure widespread support, it's about time the Democrats returned to the humanistic values that once made it a great party. After that's solidified, walking away from them would seem inconceivable for most Democrats. Until then, the relationship between party and supporters is tenuous at best, as it should be.

Posted by: arty kraft on February 10, 2008 at 5:57 AM | PERMALINK

It doesn't matter if superdelegates vote their conscience.

If they push the nomination to someone who up till then was behind, it will look really, really bad. I can see the headlines. "Dem Party bosses dictate nominee despite will of the people." This will badly damage the nominee in the general election. And that headline would not be far from the truth.

Posted by: captcrisis on February 10, 2008 at 6:10 AM | PERMALINK

Tokyo was a little better than 80% for Obama (83% I think it was). London was 69% Obama. Jakarta was about 75% Obama. These are the in-person voting results, though. Democrats Abroad permits voting by Internet, fax, and mail as well. Voting ends on February 12th, and pretty good results should be known then, although a few postal ballots will take another 10 days or so to arrive.

Posted by: Timothy on February 10, 2008 at 6:15 AM | PERMALINK

I would like to know how Timothy gets his "results" and if they are official results, why Democrats Abroad is allowing him to publish them since the official results will not be available until later this month.

I live in London and voted in person at Porchester Hall. An estimated 2000 people showed up, (and Obama supporters were a large contingent) however, there are (I believe) over 200,000 American expats living in the UK. So, even though not all these expats are Democrats (and there was also in person voting in Oxford) his numbers for "London" are pretty meaningless.

Posted by: Susan1234 on February 10, 2008 at 7:35 AM | PERMALINK

The very existence of superdelegates assumes that they'll vote their own consciences, not merely parrot the results of the primaries. After all, why even have them if that's all they do?

Well, why have that many, period? I can see having a much smaller number of supderdelegates - say 5% of the total - to tip the balance in a virtually tied contest.

But if 20% of your delegates are superdelegates, then the superdelegates can potentially undo a 62%-38% advantage in pledged delegates. Pardon me, but that's insane.

And while the likelihood of the superdelegates' voting in unison is infinitesimal, it wouldn't be that improbable to see them voting by a 3-1 majority for an establishment candidate over an insurgent, given that random chance doesn't control their votes. That would be enough for superdelegates to quite plausibly overrule a 56%-44% majority amongst the pledged delegates.

I think it's obvious how disastrous something like that would be for the Democratic Party.

I can understand the need for superdelegates' being the ones to make the decision if the pledged delegate count is essentially tied at the end of the primaries - say, if Obama leads among pledged delegates, but not by enough to still be ahead if the disputed MI and FL delegations are seated.

Otherwise, I expect the superdelegates to ratify the results of voting amongst the pledged delegates, and will be just as upset as Chris if they reverse the pledged delegate outcome.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on February 10, 2008 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

Susan, Dems Abroad membership for the UK is closer to 8000, after the increases of the last couple of weeks.

Results should be known by the 21st.

Posted by: KathyF on February 10, 2008 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Do these superdelegates get to vote in a regular primary or caucus AND vote as a superdelegate?

And BDB: You make a good point. I support Obama and I do support the actions of the DNC and the punishment taken against MI and FLA. I don't like either the superdelegate form of nomination nor disenfranchisement...but both of these things should've been taken to task before they started to count IMO. I think it's too late to bitch about it now, you can be angry about it, but leaving the Party isn't the answer. However, if one candidate has a majority of delegates and then the superdelegates break the other way...I will not be a happy Democratic camper, but I'll accept it and then move to have this nomination process changed.

This last scenario is highly unlikely IMO, but it wouldn't surprise me that the Democratic Party would take our best chance chance to win the White House (with Hillary or Obama) in a decade, drag it out in the street and shoot it in the face!

Posted by: drosz on February 10, 2008 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

The process is messed up. Personally I've always disliked caucuses and I say the DNC just gives them up and let the states duke it out. What ever order they take it can't be as bad as the current process.

Obama supporters may have found a new love for caucuses but they always have considerably lower turnout than any similarly timed primary state. Primaries should be a process by which we get the maximum number of people registered not a process by which unions and precinct captains and cool people feel the power.

It looks to me like the current structure is mainly about keeping party leadership from the precinct to the ex-senator happy.

I see no good reason to exclude the 20% of Florida's democratic voters who turned out and include the 5% -10% caucus turnout states. Florida's voters had no direct control over the timing of their primary.

Michigan obviously got hosed and needs to have another vote.

Posted by: B on February 10, 2008 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, and throw out the superdelegates. Replace them with a panel of 9 individuals in wigs and black robes. We might as well make the process as similar to November as possible.

Posted by: B on February 10, 2008 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

To paraphrase one of the candidates, superdelegates are people, too. Well, almost, they're party bigwigs. If the Demooratic electorate is split, odds are these supposed tiebreakers will be, too.
I suggest one hand of Texas hold 'em to break the tie.

Posted by: JMG on February 10, 2008 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

If the elected delegate race is plus or minus, I would say the supers should consider the overall popular vote margin and any strengths/weaknesses in the candidates' support bases.

As noted by James Dyer in the NYT yesterday, Clinton's persistent strength among Roman Catholics may be a harbinger of victory in November.

Posted by: bob h on February 10, 2008 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Of course you don't get it, Kevin. You often don't. Yes the point of superdelegates is to vote their conscience. And that's the problem. Superdelegates exist as a check on rampant democracy. Their function is to make sure that primary voters and caucus goers, i.e. we the people, don't get carried away and pick someone the party establishment can't handle.

Fortunately the role of superdelegates has been watered down over time in favor of democracy. But to have the nomination in 2008 come down to a decision by superdelegates is inherently undemocratic and elitist. But that's how it's supposed to be, so you don't see the problem with it. Typical of you, Kevin.

Posted by: wtf on February 10, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

> I don't quite get this. The very existence of
> superdelegates assumes that they'll vote their own
> consciences, not merely parrot the results of the
> primaries. After all, why even have them if
> that's all they do?

Where did the "superdelegates" come from? Well, the hired managers of the Democratic Party decided they were needed. And who were those hired managers at the time? Surprise - the same people who became the "superdelegates". Funny how that worked.

As a non-influential Democratic voter in flyover country I see this as fundamentally the same as the Lieberman situation: the Democratic Party voters chose Ned Lamont as the Democratic Party candidate. And the hired help at the top backstabbed Lamont and supported Lieberman (covertly and overtly) "for their own good".

I won't abandon the Democratic Party myself. Yet. But I see where Chris is coming from on this.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 10, 2008 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

The fundamental flaw in this op'ed is the phrase "allow them to vote their consciences". Donna Braizille would have us think that super-delegates are a cross-section of America, representing almost equally the entire economic and social spectrum of the Democratic Party. I submit that an analysis of just who the majority of super-delegates really are will reveal that they are primarily upper crust, well-entrenched present and/or former elected or appointed officials and activists. A super-delegate is not a long-time, union-card-carry-Dem electrician or plumber who you've called to do work at your house!

Super delegates have a personal interest in this process. I won't go so far as to say their vote is for sale. However, the carrot and stick approach by the candidates will definitely be one of the primary tactics employed should their be a "brokered" Convention.

All of this having been said we Dems should not consider ourselves to be victims of the process. Convention protocols and processes have long been established. This is OUR process, like it or not. If you don't like it and want "change" then you have to throw the current DNC leadership out and press for a rewriting of the process in time for 2012 or 2016!

Posted by: JerryG on February 10, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Michigan (my beloved home state)...

No one is mentioning (especially the corporate media) the possibility of cross-over voters skewing results in the primaries. Some might think the matter inconsequential, but here in Michigan we've lived through it more than once. *shudder* You can't imagine the horror of seeing Geoffrey Feiger debate Ollie Fretter/John Engler.

In the 1972 Michigan primary, more than one precinct saw the popular vote go for George Wallace (eeeeeeeewwwwwww) while the McGovern precinct delegate got elected.

I would have voted FOR Edwards in the same way I voted FOR McGovern. I can't bring myself to vote FOR either Clinton or Obama.

I'm fairly confident that the next POTUS will be a representative of the corporate wing of our modified one-party political system. We're down to three of its candidates now.

Posted by: noman on February 10, 2008 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

I think Bowers should just go and vote Nader like his heart is telling him.

Posted by: jerry on February 10, 2008 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

At the end of the day, the candidate with the most pledged delegates wins. End of story. The odds makers in Las Vegas wouldn't bet on an exact tie, but if you are worried about a tie simply make sure there is always an odd number of total delegates. The idea of party hacks determining the winner doesn't sit well with me as a independent. If you look at the total number of delegates now without superdelegates, Obama is leading by 30+ delegates. So already these "suppervoters" are having an effect. Better watch it, you democrats are starting to look like republicans.

Posted by: independent on February 10, 2008 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

As I read Bowers' post, he was saying that he objected to super-delegates deciding the nomination against the will of a clear majority of primary voters. I don't think Bowers had a problem with the super-delegates breaking a virtual tie.

Rather than chastise him for whining, we should see clearly what he's trying to do: build popular political momentum for this position. If the party bosses (i.e., the super-delegates) see a significant percentage of Democrats willing to abandon the party in the case of super-delegates contravening the popular Democratic primary vote, he hopes they won't do it.

The problem with Bowers' position is 1) it won't work, and 2) it's not necessary. It won't work because too few Democrats are so thoroughly plugged in to the process and aware of the primary rules to act as a significant voting bloc, and in the end we all want to win enough that we'll eventually support the nominee no matter how (s)he is chosen. At best it would be a bluff that the party leaders would call. However, this whole stance is unnecessary because, if there is a clear majority in favor of one candidate or the other before the convention, the super-delegates will fall in line behind the leader. They may be selfish, mercenary, and stupid, they're not that stupid.

Posted by: FearItself on February 10, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

“Basically, I've head them argue that Michigan and Florida absolutely must not be seated because the rules are the rules. But then they add that unless Super Delegates vote for the pledged delegate leader the entire thing is undemocratic and illegitimate. Now, there's nothing in the rules that requires Super Delegates to vote that way, so essentially, the Obama supporters are trying to create a NEW rule, while forcing Clinton to abide by the original rules.” Posted by: BDB on February 10, 2008 at 3:05 AM

I’ve been seeing the same kind of trying to eat their cakes and have them too. In another thread I tried to point out that demanding Michigan revote because Obama took his name off voluntarily with the apparent intent to appeal to Iowa caucus goers while Clinton took the hit with them in Iowa (because we all know Iowa caucus voters jealously guard their prerogative to be the first in the nation) would open up an argument from Clinton supporters to redo Iowa because of that fact and that by making this argument Obama supporters want to have it both ways. That Obama gets to get the political advantage in Iowa for not being in Michigan while Clinton doesn’t but then getting a second chance in Michigan after Iowa’s delegates are already settled. That is a double standard, and to my mind clearly an example of gaming the system for your candidate and not any consideration of principles first despite the declarations of such.

“I don't think you can do that. To me, you either say the most important thing is that voters aren't disenfranchised and so you seat Michigan and Florida AND the Super Delegates vote for either the pledged delegate leader/popular vote leader (hopefully they are the same person). Or you say rules are rules and we're following the ones we started with which means MI and FL don't get seated unless the credentials committee approves them and super delegates can vote however they want.

In other words, I don't think it's okay to argue that it's okay for Obama to win because the rules permit the disenfranchisement of MI and FL voters, but it's not okay for Clinton to win because the rules permit Super Delegates to support the candidate who did not win the pledged delegate count (arguably disenfranchising voters, assuming the pledged delegate leader is also the popular vote winner). Either counting every vote is important (and then the popular vote winner should also matter) or following the rules is important.” Posted by: BDB on February 10, 2008 at 3:05 AM

Yep, agreed. Personally, I think the Democratic Party would be making a major mistake to not treat Florida in particular as a valid vote given all names were on the ballot and there clearly was massive turnout by Dem voters who were also obviously aware of who Obama was after all the media coverage alone after Iowa let alone after S.C. and the Kennedy endorsements. Given the fallout of not having their voices counted for in 2000 to pull that again when it was the GOP legislature that pulled this on them I think is just asking to for it in the GE.

A case can be made for Michigan to be done over (although I personally don’t think so, no one put a gun to Obama’s head and made him take his name off, that was political calculation on his part, he should have to live with the consequences IMHO) but it must be done in another primary since that is the format used by that State and I also think the DNC should be made to pick up the costs on any do-overs in either State since it was the DNC that decided their delegates/voices/votes would count for nothing. The DNC could have done what the GOP did and cut their value in half and this situation wouldn’t be happening now for the Dems,

Both campaigns are going to argue for what profits them and hurts their opponents, as are their partisans. Me, I prefer that every vote cast is reflected in the end result, which means Florida and Michigan should be seated as they are, and the Super delegates go as their States/districts go in this case. However, if Florida and Michigan aren’t seated then the SD’s should go where they will and that whichever sides loses does everything possible to prevent their supporters from walking away in a huff claiming the race was “stolen” (something I have heard far more from Obama supporters than Clinton ones, although I have seen it from a few of the latter).

As I understand it, the SD’s were a result of the popular will elected a candidate that was totally politically useless in the GE causing major defeat. Therefore they should be primarily concerned with who they see as the best chance to win in the GE before any other consideration to fulfill the function they were designed to perform. Whatever the end result of this one thing is certain, the DNC has made a major mistake in disenfranchising Florida and Michigan as they have so far, especially given the massive turnouts in both primaries despite that decision by the DNC. So whose voices matter more, the DNC’s or the voters of Michigan and Florida?

I really dislike the idea of disenfranchisement, and I think the results are what they are and should be recognized accordingly, it is not like either side had an unfair advantage in either Michigan or Florida. If it takes binding the SD’s for either the pledged delegate leader/popular vote leader to do this then that is fine by me, I think it is more important for those voters to be heard than it is for the SDs to be free in terms of what better reflects the will of the people, which is supposed to be what counts most in any democracy.

Posted by: Scotian on February 10, 2008 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

The candidates agreed not to campaign in Florida or Michigan. Obama and Edwards took their names off the ballot. Why didn't Clinton-maybe to get a unfair advantage. At best she didn't keep her word to the DNC. I wonder if she will keep her word to the voters

Posted by: independant on February 10, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Who is Chris Bowers...?

Posted by: steveconga on February 10, 2008 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

The idea of party hacks determining the winner doesn't sit well with me as a independent.

I just don't understand this statement at all.

Scotian, interesting analysis, thank you.

Posted by: jerry on February 10, 2008 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Matt Bai wrote about a superdelegate who was told to not to come to work the next day if he didn't vote for . . . Mondale.
I think if someone tried that now, they stand a high chance of being the subject of a DailyKos fatwa, and all over cable the next day. There may be too much transparency now for backroom deals to stay in the backroom.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on February 10, 2008 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Jeebus cripes, the American political system is corrupt. It has always been corrupt. That's why I shrugged my shoulders at the stolen election of 2000 -- it wasn't the first time an election was stolen by crooks (1960? 1876?) and it won't be the last.

Chris Bowers is clutching his pearls and declaring that he's shocked -- shocked! -- that the Democratic Party's nomination process is undemocratic. This is disingenuous of Bowers. He should take his winnings and go home.

The Republicans must be beaten this year. They must be beaten even if the Democratic candidate turns out to be a sleazy pol beholden to corporate interests.

It's better to build up political capital in the party by working to elect the sleazy pol (whichever of the two gets the nod at the convention) and then work for democratizing the party.

Posted by: Alan Bostick on February 10, 2008 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

"Jeebus cripes, the American political system is corrupt. It has always been corrupt. That's why I shrugged my shoulders at the stolen election of 2000 -- it wasn't the first time an election was stolen by crooks (1960? 1876?) and it won't be the last."

Maybe it's the effect of the Internet. We can all see the sausages being made now and this is building a rising, widespread disgust with the entire process, on both sides.

I'd also say the economy plays a big part. Politicians can get away with being corrupt when the largesse is widely spread. When the economy sours, the well-being of the corrupt and their court becomes a lot less forgivable.

Posted by: Wm. on February 10, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

The history of the whole superdelegate issue is interesting. The fight against superdelegates (at that time just party 'bosses') began as a result of the 1968 Convention in Chicago (Humphrey/McCarthy), which, as some of us remember, was met with rioting in the streets when Humphrey was named the nominee despite not having won a single primary. It's been back and forth with superdelegates since then. See:

Not So Superdelegates, Berman, The Nation

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

A good page to have on hand is this delegate/superdelegate tracker site (updated daily) with the names and positions and states of superdelegates, both those who have endorsed a candidate and those who have yet to endorse. There is also a breakdown of how superdelegate endorsements from each state compare to the primary/caucus results. (Hint: not a close match).

2008 Democratic Convention Watch

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if all the folks who don't see the issue with superdelegates making a different choice than what is indicated by the popular vote had the same feelings about the Supreme Court in the 2000 election.

Posted by: Quinn on February 10, 2008 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

I don't follow the uproar re MI and FL. Anyone, please feel free to explain this to me. If you want to argue that states should be able to move their primary or caucus dates at will, fine, just don't complain when states keep moving their dates earlier and earlier. To me, it looks like simple common sense that the DNC decided that trend had to nipped in the bud. Hillary and Obama as members of the Democratic Party must abide by the rules of their party. I take a dim view of anyone wanting to change the rules mid-stream to their benefit. Rules help keep order in the process.

Ditto re the SuperDelegate structure which was setup before this electoral cycle, therefore we should abide by their power to vote their conscience. If you don't like the way the Party selects its candidates, work to change the rules after this electoral cycle. Btw, I don't view superdelegates as particularly undemocratic since most of them were elected to their positions by us the voters. It makes sense to me that individuals who have worked hard within an organization would accrue some power to influence events concerning that organization. Frankly, a superdelegate is likely to be more informed and experienced than a regular voter and can vote to maximize the Party's interest. I compare the Superdelegate setup to how a town's Little League Baseball organization is run by parent volunteers who have lots of influence over and experience about how things are run simply because they show up and do the work.

Posted by: don'tknow on February 10, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

ok, after reading here http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080218/berman

I can understand the dissatisfaction with the superdelegate structure. In any case, a Party needs a way to break a tie and for now superdelegates are it.

Posted by: don'tknow on February 10, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Clinton is up by more than 400,000 in the popular vote total so far, according to Sunday's "This Week". My guess is that with Pa, Tx, and Oh coming up, she runs this up to at least 500-600,000 at the finish. That advantage, not a close elected delegate total, is the most representative of the popular Democratic will, and it is that # that should be uppermost in the minds of superdelegates should the need to break a tie arise.

The caucuses which Obama is so good at winning actually de-magnify his popular vote, so it cuts both ways.

Posted by: bob h on February 10, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

don't know,

I agree with you about not changing the rules in this electoral cycle. I do see the logic of the DNC ruling regarding FL and MI. I also see the logic about having superdelegates, but I don't like that logic. You really have to look to the past to see that superdelegates don't act as wise guardians of party interests but as guardians of entrenched power and the status quo, with all the power of old-time wheeling and dealing. I'm all for getting rid of them completely. If there's a delegate tie after the primaries/caucuses, then the nominee is the popular vote winner.

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

I think the mainstream media's collective cri de coeur against the super-delegates is really too much, and you couldn't do more to start setting Democrats against each other and set us up to fight a lot if it ends up going to a brokered convention.

I don't want to defend superdelegates too much, and they may have been an invention of corruption, but now the people who are superdelegates are people who are going to use their judgment to pick the right person. It's the mainstream media that is corrupt. If anyone's looking for someone or something influencing politics illegitimately, they should look for a billionaire buying up the media to spread lies (Rupert Murdoch), or they should look to the mainstream media in this country which has developed a habit of spreading lies and distortion and giving us distortion, emotional manipulation, and fluff in place of analysis. In an era where elections are close and there's a lot that can go wrong with counts and recounts, superdelegates we can trust provide a clear process for a decision when the election is very close. In that case, despite what Katie Couric's slick pieces about the subject might say, superdelegates can preserve precious party unity, and the superdelegates aren't really taking anything away from anyone anyway, since the people themselves are so unsure of what the right decision should be.

Posted by: Swan on February 10, 2008 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on February 10, 2008 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

This is talked up way too much, and it's just an opportunity for the media to try to convince Democrats and everyone else that Democrats are screwed up.

Posted by: Swan on February 10, 2008 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

"and the superdelegates aren't really taking anything away from anyone anyway, since the people themselves are so unsure of what the right decision should be." Swan

!!! Really? Are you unsure?

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Kevin (oops, sorry, I meant Kevin's moderator) will delete banned commenter mhr's comment soon enough, but just to make it clear:

The superdelegates are or have been elected by the people. Nobody elected Rupert Murdoch or the thousands of greedy spoiled rich kid executives who decide what Fox News says or what the Republican candidates and politicians are going to say and do.

Posted by: Swan on February 10, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Or caucus states, in which there's no popular vote to consult and delegates are selected in a decidedly nondemocratic fashion to begin with?

Drum buys into the Hillary spin. First, democracy is not simply about voting; it is about participation as well. Second, the turnout levels in the caucuses have approached those of primaries, so the caucus results are pretty much what the results would have been in a primary.

Posted by: lifelongdemturninggreen on February 10, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Swan,

You're right that 'most' of the superdelegates have been elected (although possibly 40 or 50 years ago), but not 'all' superdelegates have been elected. Non-elected party officials are also part of the mix.

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Let's put this plainly: Unless the results are ambiguous enough to where people are practically asking for a brokered result, there's no political advantage in it.

The Current Democratic surge is very much a popular movement. If the superdelegates get in the way of things, that will gut a lot of faith that movement has in the Democratic leadership. That could be very bad, politically speaking, across the board. Democrats that support Obama will resign themselves to supporting Hillary in the coming election if the popular vote and pledged delegate count goes against them, but they will not stand for having their candidate's victories be negated by insiders. Hillary's supporters would likely be the same way.

Put simply, a strategy of winning at all costs will be a strategy of winning at high cost. Politics works bests when it smoothly interacts with the popular will, rather than running roughshod over it. Winning by manipulation of the Superdelegates will be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty on February 10, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Nepeta, when do the superdelegates step in? Only when there's a difference in the votes for the two canidates that amounts to a portion of a percentage point of the total number of Democratic primary voters?

Think- have you ever been wrong about something that you were just a smidgen more convinced on the wrong side about than you were on the right side? Also the superdelegates are more educated and experienced in politics than many of the rank and file voters. And the rank and file voters elected them. The rank and file voters are more expert at being soccer moms or welding stuff than the superdelegates are, but we Democratic voters specifically elected the superdelegates so they could become expert at politics.

Posted by: Swan on February 10, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly right, Stephen...

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Very well said, Arty at 5:57AM.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08! on February 10, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

At the time of the Nevada Caucus, Obama and the media echo chamber said that Clinton did not oppose the open caucuses in the casino at the time the rules were made and to protest and change them because one of the big unions came out in support of Obama was playing dirty. It seems to me that Obama and the media echo chamber (including the blogosphere) are doing exactly what he claimed was dirty politics. The super delegates were part of the nominating rules and for Obama to complain now about how they are unfair and should be thrown out because the rule works against him is the same tactic that he accused Clinton of in Nevada as being dirty politics. The difference is that the frame that Obama's slogan of change and bipartisanship means he is incapable of being a manipulative triangulating politician.

Posted by: CyclingLeft on February 10, 2008 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Swan,

It appears to me that the superdelegates are stepping in at this very moment, adding to the delegate totals of both candidates, and much favoring Clinton, with about half of the superdelegates yet to endorse. As far as I know, those superdelegate endorsements are figured into the delegate count leading to the 2025 vote necessary to gain the nomination. (If I'm wrong about this, give me a holler). In the event that no one reaches 2025, then the superdelegates, who are free to change their votes, are those who would be most active in a 'brokered' convention.

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Cycling Left,

I haven't heard that Obama wants the superdelegates 'thrown out.' Can you give me a cite? Obviously, his supporters don't like the 'system' which is so far lining up against our candidate. But as an Obama supporter I'm certainly not calling for superdelegates to be 'thrown out' this year. You just can't change the rules in the middle of the game. But it can be instructive to point out the anti-democratic influence of superdelegates for future conventions. See the history link I cited at 11:04 AM.

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

My advice to Bower in the comments was to resign now. The current process is already not democratic, and if he's not willing to work on changing it (instead, relying on the good will of strangers to divine what outcome he would prefer), then he's a liability to the party. And throwing around threats like that from his soapbox is destructive. I don't care which candidate his post theoretically favors (and at this point, who can know), he's a loose cannon now.

Posted by: Steve Simitzis on February 10, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

if anyone gave a god damn what the people in this country thought they would dump the primary system, the electoral college and cut straight to the chase

the winner of the popular vote would win the election and that would be that

all of these layers and layers of filters are designed to guarantee that only a small handful of people who DO NOT have anyone's interests at heart except their own greedy ones, becomes the "nominee"

getafuckingclue

Posted by: getaclue on February 10, 2008 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

it is not like either side had an unfair advantage in either Michigan or Florida.

Having Hillary's name as the ONLY NAME ON THE BALLOT in Michigan was a bit of an advantage. And this was in a state for which she signed a promise not to "participate".

Do you think these simple facts cease to be facts if you wrap them up in several hundred lines of confused rhetoric?

Posted by: bobb on February 10, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't heard that Obama wants the superdelegates 'thrown out.'

That's because he hasn't said anything of the sort.

Posted by: bobb on February 10, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Many of us fear that Obama will be shunted aside by the DLC and the dynastic democrats, even after it is clear he is candidate supported by the bulk of us. I think we might see a re-run of 1860 (multiple factional candidates), with Obama being the Lincoln candidate. I would advise Obama, if he were to be denied the prise based on belt-way insiders, to launch a Third Party. He would win.

Posted by: Sparko on February 10, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

One last thought. I hear Dean and others bemoaning the thought that this race may go on for a few months more while the GOP one is settled. That this tight a race is a bad thing. I don't see it this way, indeed the tight race makes BOTH candidates have to tighten their message and skills in campaigning and that makes for a better candidate to face the GOP in the fall. Why isn't that point being made too?

Posted by: Scotian on February 10, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

To quote Will Rodgers: "I belong to no organized political party, I am a Democrat!" Thank God we are not like the R's, where you either march in step or get tossed out.

Posted by: fafner1 on February 10, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

" it is not like either side had an unfair advantage in either Michigan or Florida. (me being quoted, nice attributation there bobb)

Having Hillary's name as the ONLY NAME ON THE BALLOT in Michigan was a bit of an advantage. And this was in a state for which she signed a promise not to "participate".

Do you think these simple facts cease to be facts if you wrap them up in several hundred lines of confused rhetoric?" Posted by: bobb on February 10, 2008 at 1:15 PM

The facts are Obama was not required to take his name off the Michigan ballot by the DNC, he chose to for his own reasons. If it HAD been required then Clinton would have been sanctioned by the Party for not doing so. Therefore the facts ARE as I stated them in this no matter how much you want to spin them for Obama. I also never said it wasn't an advantage for Clinton, but that it was one Obama voluntarily ceded to her for his own reasons (which as I have said before was to suck up to Iowa caucus goers who guard their first in the nation place quite zealously, which is normal political maneuvering but he has to accept the cost of such choosing/maneuvering too same as any other candidate and should not get to have it both ways as you appear to want), why should he get a second bite at that apple since it was his voluntary choice to do so? Let's not also forget that before he lost Florida he pledged to seat the delegates from Florida during a press conference after a fundraiser (which btw was a breech of the rules about campaigning in Florida), yet now because it would hurt him then he doesn’t want them seated and his supporters all start screaming that to seat them as they voted would tear the party apart. These ARE facts, and no amount of spinning is going to change this. Deal with it.

Posted by: Scotian on February 10, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

That's a lot of fancy talk, but if the super-delegates end up deciding this thing, the Democratic Party will implode.

If Hillary wins because she's buddy buddy with more super-delegates than Obama, I will leave the party and actively campaign for McCain.

Drum's argument comes down to: "I am confused, it's written in the by-laws, etc. etc. etc."

That dog don't hunt.

If those super-delegates actually care about the party, they will vote exactly for the person who won the most delegates through the regular voting process.

If they want the Republicans to win, they can vote because Hillary promised them a cushy ambassador job.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on February 10, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

What do you call it if you don't want the super delegate to count because to add them to the state awarded delegates would mean your opponent would win?

Posted by: CyclingLeft on February 10, 2008 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Nepeta wrote:

It appears to me that the superdelegates are stepping in at this very moment

Please don't confuse people here, Nepeta- the superdelegate votes won't change anything unless the count of pledged delegates (determined by popular vote) is very close, indeed.

Posted by: Swan on February 10, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Super delegates are either elected officials or democrats who have spent long years building up the Democratic party. They are not recent converts to the politics of hope. They are pretty hard nosed realists.

I think we can concede that they know who it would be in their own self interest to support. If Clinton can help a delegate draw more female or latino voters in a close election then that delegate will support Clinton. If Obama can help a delegate draw more black voters in a close election then that delegate will likely support Obama.

But they also probably are better placed than the average voter to judge which of the two candidates are better for the overall prospects for the democratic party now and into the future. I suspect whatever the decision they make both individually and as a group will be acceptable to the party.

I fully expect that Obama will make sure his black supporters turn out to vote for Hillary in November. If Obama is not willing to do this then he does not deserve to be the party's nominee.

Conversely, he can trust that Hillary will give her all to make sure her female supporters vote for Obama should he win the nomination. That has never been in question.

But as for myself, if Obama is the nominee I am voting for McCain. Nothing can change that.

Posted by: ken on February 10, 2008 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Please don't confuse people here, Nepeta- the superdelegate votes won't change anything unless the count of pledged delegates (determined by popular vote) is very close, indeed.

How so? Super-delegates are 20% of the total. Right now, Obama is leading 918 - 885 in elected delegates, but Hillary is leading 1108 - 1049 when super-delegates are included.

By the way, there are almost twice as many super-delegates (about 800) as caucus-elected pledged delegates (about 500). So if one wanted to look for "undemocratic" or "voter-suppression" rules, one should look at the super-delegate selection before looking at the caucuses.

Posted by: JS on February 10, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Swan,

I'm not trying to confuse people. I'm just trying to understand the 'system' myself. I thought it was clear now using simple math that neither Obama or Clinton will be able to get the 2025 pledged delegates necessary for the nomination. So let's assume the two candidates are 'close' in delegate numbers at the end of the primaries. It seems very unlikely they'll be tied. So at that point it's possible that the superdelegates will be able to choose the candidate with the fewer number of pledged delegates as the nominee, correct? And obviously, the candidate who has a few less delegates but more superdelegates will be at an advantage, right?

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

the 2025 pledged delegates necessary for the nomination.

Nepeta, the 2,025 figure is half of the total 4,049 which includes super-delegates. The super-delegates vote from the beginning.

Posted by: JS on February 10, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

JS,

Thanks. That's what I thought initially. Here's an interesting paragraph.

"The influence of superdelegates became apparent almost immediately. In June 1984, at the end of primary season, Walter Mondale found himself just short of a majority in the delegate count. He picked up the phone, made a few calls, held a few meetings, and by the time the convention rolled around in July, he had won enough superdelegates to pitch the decision in his favor. The convention was not brokered as in 1952, but the primaries had certainly left the issue of nominating a candidate unresolved.

Obama, Clinton Head Towards Contested Convention, US News & World Report, 2/8/08

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

With current trends, Hillary is likely to get more of a boost out of super-delegates than Obama is likely to get from caucus-elected delegates.

No doubt we will soon hear from frankly0 why super-delegates are more "democratic" than caucus-elected delegates because (let me guess) many of them have been previously elected to office themselves.

Posted by: JS on February 10, 2008 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

If either Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama (placed alphabetically) loses both the popular vote and delegate count there will be no problem.
Only if one takes the popular vote and the other the delegate count will all H*ll break loose.
In that case I would be tempted to say that the superdelegates should support the person with the most popular votes as that person has demonstrated the ability to garner the most votes nationwide.
I'm certain that many will disagree.

Posted by: Doug on February 10, 2008 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

The Obama creed: The rules are the rules.

Clinton won the popular vote in Nevada, but Obama got more delegates. The rules are the rules.

Clinton won the popular vote in Michigan and Florida, but the vote didn't count. The rules are the rules.

Super-delegates are reminded to pay heed to the votes of primary and caucus delegates, but not obliged to mirror them. The rules are the rules. Oops. Not.

From Lewis Carroll:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – that's all."

Posted by: camorrista on February 10, 2008 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

camorrista, you got it backwards. The Obama crowd has not been complaining about the rules. We only pointed out that, if you object to caucuses because they elect delegates without a popular vote, then you should object to super-delegates because even less of a vote is involved.

It's the clinton people who are complaining about caucuses but not about superdelegates, though if you apply their logic, super-delegates are even more undemocratic.

So the contradiction is entirely on the Clinton side.

Posted by: JS on February 10, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

It is interesting how we are having all these soul-searching questions about the meaning of democracy now that a black man is poised to win.

Posted by: Al Sharpton on February 10, 2008 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

My understanding is that the "pledged" delegates are determined by some procedure that actually favors the person who gets less of the popular vote, at least in primaries. All evening during one of these, I heard the commentators noting that even if Clinton got the popular vote, Obama could get more "pledged" delegates. Now Obama is calling them "elected" delegates (kind of a Bush language change that changes the actual meaning of the term, like the "death tax") and challenging the use of superdelegates.

I suggest we go strictly by the popular vote and throw out all the delegate counts. And that if we really want the "voice of the people" as Obama says, we should go for all primaries, not caucuses, which are not representative and include far fewer people.

By the way, it is Obama who raised a legal challenge about the Nevada caucuses, which he did not win.

Posted by: sallywally on February 10, 2008 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

I've heard of Clinton and Obama. But who is Chris Bowers???

Is it going to be a problem that he resigns from the democratic party?

Posted by: ppk on February 10, 2008 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

The most surprising fact is that the widespread dissatisfaction is being expressed in less populated states, e.g., Iowa, Idaho, Nebraska. The Clinton machinery successfully worked the big state and big city circuits. Why there isn't the same level of dissatisfaction among New Yorkers, California dreamers, and Bostonian liberals is enigmatic to say the least. Are they more content with the way things are going?

Posted by: arty kraft on February 10, 2008 at 5:57 AM

I'm sure that question was rhetorical, but just in case it wasn't...simply check the economy in Iowa, Idaho and Nebraska compared with Manhattan, Los Angeles or Boston.

Posted by: Vincent on February 10, 2008 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

SallyWally,

"My understanding is that the "pledged" delegates are determined by some procedure that actually favors the person who gets less of the popular vote, at least in primaries."

No. That would be pretty strange, wouldn't it? Pledged delegates are apportioned by congressional district according to primary votes in the district. It can happen that the winner of the popular vote does not win the most delegates, but so far this year I think Nevada has been the only state in which this has occured occured (NV = caucus).

Pledged delegates ARE elected delegates in the primaries and caucuses. There are other kinds of delegates, such as superdelegates and add-ons that are not elected and are not pledged to a particular candidate.

And finally, it was not Obama or his campaign that raised a legal challenge to the caucus locations in Nevada. It was supporters of the Clinton campaign that did so. Ironically, it turns out that Clinton won NV by getting more votes from the those challenged caucus sites than did Obama.

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

This is all very silly. If the superdelegates overturn the expressed will of the voters none of this will matter because the Dems won't win the WH for 50 years. If either Obama or HRC have the most pledged delegates and the insiders somehow overrule this in the denial of either the first African Amer. or first woman President the Dems will lose in November by a landslide. Either the Superdelegates support the candidate with the most pledged delegates or the Dems lose the general election.

Posted by: Dresden on February 10, 2008 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

blah, blah, blah...nothing is going to change anyway. Read http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/18349197/the_chicken_doves

Posted by: Matthew G Lantz on February 10, 2008 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Dresden,

You might have something there. I just hope the superdelegates figure it out.

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2008 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't follow the uproar re MI and FL. Anyone"
(Posted by: don'tknow on February 10, 2008 at 11:51 AM)

don't know,
I think Howard Dean has the correct take on this. He reportedly remarked: "If you are going to count the delegates which were won by candidates in red states that we have no chance of winning in the GE, then by what sophistry of reason can you exclude delegates from the states where we would be competitive in the general election, unless we have some sort of death wish."
I totally agree.

And, as bob h writes here:
"Clinton is up by more than 400,000 in the popular vote total so far, . . .. My guess is that with Pa, Tx, and Oh coming up, she runs this up to at least 500-600,000 at the finish. That advantage, not a close elected delegate total, is the most representative of the popular Democratic will, and it is that # that should be uppermost in the minds of superdelegates should the need to break a tie arise"
(Posted by: bob h on February 10, 2008 at 12:09 PM)

I also agree with bob h. The popular vote and not the delegate count, is the best reflection of the democratic will. It is precisely because that reflection of the democratic will counts -- and should count -- that the Party's calculus for determining its nominee should NOT ignore the MI and FL results.
However,it is folly to expect -- or to want -- the Party's nominee selection process to be based on pure democratic principles. By design, it is not, and it should not be. After all, the Party's selection process is but the prelude to democratic elections. At this stage, the goal is to come up with the Candidate that will put the Party in the best position possible after the November GE (which, hopefully, will be the expression of pure democracy it is designed to be). At the primary level however, the traditional democratic expression model of one person, one vote, per secret ballot is intrinsically too flawed to ensure that the strongest candidate will emerge. (Too few voters participate in the primaries; some participate as "spoilers"; some cast their vote for illogical or frivolous or wrong reasons, etc., etc.,). So, the group-will model, the caucus system, which is less democratic because it is not secret and not one person/one vote and relies heavily on group thinking and group pressure, is added to the mix. And finally, the superdelegates, the voices of the professional politicians, is also added to the mix. The hope is that these three components together will in the end produce the best result. When the choice is not a difficult one, all three components produce the same result, and the Party has an early candidate. This time, we are lucky --or unlucky -- enough to have too many good choices. So, selecting the best is difficult. Let's hope that the complex process that the Democrats have designed will in the end give us the best candidate.
I think it will.

Posted by: Erika S on February 10, 2008 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

Vincent: The economy in Washington (state) isn't doing so badly. What explains Obama's support there? Whereas the Louisiana economy is doing poorly and he didn't do as well there.

Tough to rely on the state of the economy, particularly in a recession, to judge the efficacy of any given campaign. There are certainly pockets of New York (state) and California that are ailing, yet Clinton triumphed.

One of the points regarding the existing party approach to the electorate that's turning people off is the specifically targeted toy-in-a-box - the economic payoff - policy. It seems voters in the rural areas, perhaps conditioned by forms of geographic asceticism, aren't so easily impressed with overpromising toys in a box. Arguably, they see through it better; at least they're demonstrating a greater hunger for true change. Maybe because they lean more independent, which, for instance, New Yorkers aren't allowed to do in the primaries.

Instead of an overall platform to deal with economic issues on a long-term basis, the candidates, particularly Mrs. Clinton, favor doling out rewards for votes.

How about dealing with monetary policy in a different way than it's been handled since Milton Friedman? How about legitimizing a workable demand-side form of economics beyond the stimulus package and beyond military Keynesianism? How about addressing the deregulation's, both in the financial sector as well as the corporate arena, that are greatly responsible for the subprime mess? How about addressing political problems on a systematic basis rather than mostly through facile, Focus-Group tactics? That's what's resonating with voters on the margins as opposed to big city factions that have traditionally been the political avant-garde.

Michael, thanks.

Posted by: arty kraft on February 11, 2008 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

"The very existence of superdelegates assumes that they'll vote their own consciences, not merely parrot the results of the primaries. After all, why even have them if that's all they do?"

Errr, we have them because all vestiges of anti-democratic, machine politics have not been removed

Posted by: IA on February 11, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

The left has screamed for seven years that Bush stole the election from Gore who won the nationwide popular vote. Then, they have screamed for three years that the election was taken from Kerry with voter irregularities in Ohio. It seems to me that the Democratic nominee must be nominated without a taint of controversy. If the perception is the nomination was "stolen" by rule changes after the fact, the Dems will have a public relations nightmare. The Democratic Party leaders need to jump on this issue immediately, before all hell breaks loose. I personally think Obama wins Texas and Ohio, so all this fuss will be moot.

Posted by: Hawk on February 11, 2008 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

"party loyalists, and allow them to vote their consciences."
That's kinda oxymoronic, a loyalist paying attention to their conscience instead of the party line.

The crux of the situation is that a lot of people see Hillary as an apparatchik, an operative...and they've had quite enough of that in all the previous botched, gutlessly run presidental elections, in the supine machination of Reid and Pelosi. They want to see a candidate with the guts to speak and courageious conviction. If the nomination is decided by political operatives, a lot of the troops will walk after a brief pause to barf on the feet of the Democratic establishment....which will have retained its hold on what will then be a very, very empty franchise.
I'm not hot on either Obama or Clinton, but Hillary is going about things in a way that will put her in a league with the other "Democratic" losers, Kerry and Gore....supreme calculators, risk evaluators, poll followers...and neither courage nor convictions

Posted by: Stewart Dean on February 11, 2008 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin, the Chris Bowers tantrum is a little out of whack.

I also agree that independents and crossovers should NOT be allowed to pick our party's nominee. Once in the 70s and another time in the 80s my state's primary was completely messed up by significant crossover campaigns.

My experience is that independents are often annoyed with or confused by politics. Many consider voting a chore. And how many of us have talked to independents that just can't make up their minds and end up tossing a coin on election day.

Selecting candidates should be left to people willing to make a commitment. My wife and I pay dues to our state's Democratic Party. We volunteer for a host of party activities; we are vitally interested in politics, good government, public affairs, etc. We are certainly not in it for the money. If anything it costs us plenty, beyond dues, to be politically active. And of course were always hit up for contributions. In local races we personally know the candidates and know who is suitable for public office and who is not.

That brings us to the superdelegates. There seems to be some idea that these people are inherently evil, that they are absent a commitment to nation and party. Those assumptions couldnt be more wrong.

I believe the whole primary system is weak at best. A commenter on Digby put together some interesting numbers that demonstrated the futility of measuring popular will. Picking a few states, some primary states and some caucus states, he made a clear demonstration that the delegate counts and the popular vote simply don't mesh. The candidate with the most delegates got a smaller number of popular votes.

Given the uneven rules for allocating delegates and the corruption of independents and party crossovers it would seem to me that superdelegates, people with a record of dedication to the core values of the party, are in a position to ameliorate some of the contamination inherent in the system.

The primary system has yielded some corruptive unintended consequences that are clear and undeniable. Ive been bothered by the primary system for a few years. So, in the interest of making some heads explode:

Since 1932 we've had four winners and two losers picked in those notorious "smoke filled" rooms.

Since 1972 we've had two winners and five losers picked via primaries/caucuses.

Since we've had primaries in every state the amount of money needed to run for president has skyrocketed completely off the charts, so big money plays a much, much bigger role than in the past. Almost everyone comes out of it beholden to someone. This is one of the unintended consequences of the primary system.

Our four Presidents nominated by deals at conventions enacted the most liberal legislation in our history.

Our two Presidents nominated by primaries have been the most conservative Democrats since Grover Cleveland.

This time around the most liberal of our viable candidates came in third and is sitting on the sidelines.

Explain to me again how primaries are better.

Posted by: cal1942 on February 11, 2008 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

There are some compelling arguments for having the superdelegates vote as they see fit. It is very difficult for a political party to define its values if it has no say in how its nominees are selected. As Fareed Zakaria has said, political parties today are defined by their candidates, instead of the other way around. Giving the superdelegates real power to decide the nominee would reverse this trend.

As has been pointed out here, the main problem with this is the apparent impropriety that would be on display during a brokered convention. Many of the superdelegates would vote their conscious and do right by the party, but others would only vote where their personal interests lie. It also doesn't necessarily follow that the party elders know best; the fickle voters may have brought us McGovern, but the establishment brought us Mondale.

While there are benefits to having greater party cohesiveness, I think we need to realize that the era where we let our elites make decisions for us has past. We live in the age of mass democratization, and any attempt to stand in it's way will meet with rebuke.

I've put together a spreadsheet to keep track of how superdelegates vote compared to the popular vote in the delegates' state or district (if the superdelegate is a US Representative). You can see it at: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pc2KLlWnm1CXCumaTm2UaGQ

Posted by: Matt C. on February 11, 2008 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Chris is right.If the super delegates overturn the will of the electorate then that is not a party that I can belong to either. This is not a Obama/Clinton issue. If Clinton wins the majority of elected delegates and is overturned by super delegates I will still quit this party.
To argue that super delegates therefore we must accept any decision that they make fails address the fundamental question, should 700 Party insiders have the right to overturn the will of millions of voters? If we look to the rules, then we see that they do have that right. We need to ask is this "right" just? is this democratic? For those of us who are willing to sacrifice democratic principles at the alter of entitlement the question is moot. As for me, I was born and raised in a Communist country and I cannot abide a "right" that disenfranchises millions.Though it is a right to ignore the will of the voters it is a "right" that I will not suffer in my political party nor should any of us.

Posted by: marinko on February 12, 2008 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

We should stop complaining about countries failing to institute democratic processes when we can't elect our leaders through democratic means. If either Obama or Clinton is elected by superdelegates, I will actively campaign for the republican nominee even though I have no common interests with republican ideas and have never voted republican during the past 7 elections.

Posted by: dissenter on February 12, 2008 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Democratic principles are far more important than narrow partisan interests. Defending democracy needs to start in our own Democratic Party.
I have been contacting super delegates from my state of Washington as well as Washington State Democrats and simply expressing to them that I expect super delegates to affirm the will of the electorate no matter what that will is. I have also told all of those people that if super delegates overturn this election, that I will quit this party.
We The People must make it clear to our "leaders" that we insist on a transparent democratic process within our our party. I will accept an outcome that expresses the will of the people. I will support ( financially and politically ) either candidate if they are elected by the voters. I will not support a candidate or a party that "selects" it's candidates.

Posted by: marinko on February 12, 2008 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I just think it is so great that in the Democrat party all people are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Posted by: aa on February 12, 2008 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Well, as one of the large portion of the Democratic voters who never get a voice in the nomination because our states either don't have a primary or have a very late one, why would anyone think that it's democratic that a few states should decide the nominee? But that's what usually happens. Usually the delegates from my state go to the convention and just ratify what Iowa and New Hampshire et al have decided.

So the ONLY way my state can have a voice in the nominating process is if the election goes to the convention so that votes can be registered from the delegates from my state, including the superdelegates (who as elected officials probably are more attuned to the Dem voters in their state than, oh, Chris Bowers is).

This is one of those high-schoolish revelations: "You mean this is not a direct democracy!!!"

The sad thing is, if more than half of these delegates would pledge for Obama, this dispute would disappear. Suddenly convention delegates (only some of which are superdelegates) will be the avatars of democracy.

Posted by: apa doc on February 13, 2008 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

By "popular support" he means the people that, you know, go and "vote" for their nominee of choice. By this process of "voting" they select the nominee. The superdelegates are going to overturn this "voting" decision by something different, and that, is what he is pissed off about.

Posted by: gorak on February 14, 2008 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

If i understand this all nomination process, i guess independents are allowed to vote in a party they are not in allegiance too, and you call them New Voters.... well it is strange if those independents voted the Bush adminstrration in 2003; what it means then is that i may be a Republican and for the purpose of the primary i can become a democrat New Voter, and when the real elections come around i can become whoever....a republican i guess?
With these people you call New Voters or Independents the democrats can be undone at the Real Time presidential elections.
If you care to listen, i will give this race to the SuperDelegates the real party people we know, to decide who carries the party flag.

Posted by: Lanre Spencer on February 25, 2008 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

It is hard to take the writer or paper seriously whatsoever with a misspelled word within the first paragraph... way to trash your own credibility.

Posted by: Nathan Ihrke on February 26, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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