January 27, 2008

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Super Delegate!!

I like the fact that the Dem primary race is still competitive. I even like the fact that no clear front-runner has emerged. All good in my estimation.

But then I heard tonight a factor that could make things very, well, icky, and could end up in a scenario that would leave a lot of Dems very much unhappy and crying foul.

First of all, bear in mind that it's not the number of caucusessessssesss or primaries that a candidate wins, it's all about the delegates. Going into South Carolina, Obama held a slim one delegate lead over Hillary Clinton.

But here's what's got me a bit concerned.

Looking at the numbers, it's utterly impossible for any of the Dem candidates to emerge with enough "non-super" delegates from the primaries and caucuseesessses to sew up the nomination, even if any one of them won every single delegate from here through super-duper tsunami Tuesday, February 5th.

What the hell you may be saying, I know I did.

It all started with rule changes instituted by the Democratic party in the early 70's to try to wrest inordinate power away from power brokers such as the Daley's and other party bosses and correct the balance of power to allow grass roots activists, minority, women, and other factions a voice in the process.

Then after the Dems nominated George McGovern who went down in flames, the muckety-mucks of the party decided that they needed to take some of that power back in order to try to restore some sort of control by the establishment and provide a check against the Dems nominating someone they supported even if they weren't likely to win.

To accomplish this without reverting to the old boss system, they devised the plan to add so-called "super delegates" to the process.

Super delegates aren't Dems in tights and a cape, (that's more like what you'd expect to catch a bible-thumping Republican wearing in a motel room.) but rather they're party big wigs, usually elected officials such as governors, senators, state chairs, ex-presidents (yep, Bill Clinton gets a vote) vice presidents, and the like.

The idea was to involve people who have a personal stake in the nominee in hopes of avoiding nominating someone deemed too extreme or out of step with the rest of the party.

There's 842 of these super delegates, making up a full FORTY PERCENT of the total delegate count. That's a damn big chunk and represents a lot of sway.

Now here's the deal; even if Clinton, Obama, or Edwards single-handedly won every single one of the primaries on Super-Duper-Tsunami Tuesday February 5th, none of them would have enough "un-super" delegates to cinch the nomination.

What this means is that the contest will go on beyond that date, the date from which nearly everyone had assumed a clear nominee would emerge.

With no clear winner, it raises the likelihood that the Dem nomination will boil down to who can secure the votes of enough of these super-delegates to put them over the top.

This of course opens up the thing to the modern equivalent of back room deals at conventions, with deals being struck left and right in exchange for support.

Perhaps worst of all, it essentially invalidates the votes of millions of Dems, Dems who've showed up at the polls in record numbers, numbers that has included many newly energized voters including masses of young people.

How disillusioning it would be to realize that after all their enthusiasm and excitement, that the choice was taken out of their hands and decided by a relative handful of professional politicians. It would be a terribly demoralizing situation, and doubly tragic in light of the fact that this election cycle seemed to be ushering in a newly involved and activated electorate in contrast to the increasing apathy and non-participation which has grown steadily for years.

Now at last there's a sea change of sorts, partially due to people's fervent desire to be rid of the gang of incompetent crooks in the White House, but also inspired in large part by Barack Obama's vision of a better tomorrow, particularly among new young voters.

If it turns out that the decision is thrown to "the past" represented by entrenched politicians and political types, it can't be good for party morale.

Will any candidate benefit from this?

Many of these super-delegates have already endorsed a candidate, and based on that criteria, Clinton is ahead.

You can track which super delegates are pledged or endorsing what candidate here.

Note that various news organizations all have different numbers for how many super delegate are pledged to each candidate, with Clinton ranging from 182 to 207 and Obama ranging from 86 to 112.

What are your thoughts on this likely scenario?


At 1/27/2008 1:46 PM, Blogger Saul said...

Thanks for this post, TID. The superdelegate system is outrageously undemocratic. Have you seen the rational for the system given in the wikipedia article on superdelegates? "The aim was to accord some say in the process to people who had been playing roles in the party before the election year." Actually, these people already had "some say"--one normal vote just like anyone else. What they wanted was "some MORE say" than us mere peons. I prefer your explanation--the muckety mucks would rather keep the decisions out of the hands of the voters.

You're very right that if Obama wins the normal delegate count but loses out to Clinton because of the superdelegates, that would be a huge blow to party morale. I guess the party apparatus is going to do everything it can to make sure that Clinton wins enough in the other primaries to give her a secure lead so that the superdelegates won't have to turn things around.

On the other hand, as far as I understand, the superdelegates can change their minds at any time up to the vote at the convention, so if it seems that there's a huge popular groundswell for Obama, many of those who now say that they're for Clinton might switch their votes and go with the flow.

Interesting to see that a substantial number of the superdelegates currently pledged to Obama are from Illinois, and that Clinton doesn't seem to have any from Illinois. Obama, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have any from New York, though I'm sure that some politicians there must support him. I believe that there's nothing that requires superdelegates to declare their support for one candidate or another at any time before the convention. I suppose that those who do so (and those who are keeping quiet) are doing it for "political" reasons that might not have to do with the views of any of the candidates on the issues.

At 1/27/2008 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like Edwards is staying in the campaign solely to mess it up. The egotistical fool!

At 1/28/2008 11:11 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 5:47.

That's the shortest straw man crap I've seen. You get the prize.

First you assume Edwards' motives for staying in the race, then condemn him for what you imagine are his motives.


Anyway, the idea that Edwards is staying in for the sole purpose of "messing things up" is pretty goofy, if you ask me.

He beat Obama and Hillary among white males in South Carolina, he consitently beats them both among registered voters in match-ups against all possible Republican nominees.

In short, why the hell should he get out?

Are you concerned he's going to take votes away from Obama? Or will he take votes from Clinton?

Either way, he's certainly got every reason to stay in the race. He may go into the convention with a decent amount of delagates and therefore be able to have some influence.

At 1/28/2008 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on - he won SC last time around, with 45%. Now he cannot muster even 20%!

He has no chance. This is indeed a 2-person race and he is just mucking it up. His camp has even made a stament, likely a slip, but a specific statement that they are looking towards a split convention.

He is not a factor in the nomination, but is trying to put himself into the process - to the long-term detriment of the party.

At 1/29/2008 2:15 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Again, please explain how Edwards carrying his support to the convention, as candidates have always historically done, is somehow "to the long-term detriment of the party."

I fail to see anything remotely "detrimental" there, and certainly not any more detrimental than Clinton or Obama continuing to the convention.

If you're concerned about a rift in the party, I think it's a big silly to be worrying about Edwards rather than the titanic battle between the front-runners.

At 1/29/2008 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, of course, it has been done in the past. Bill Clinton received oral sex in the OvalOffice in the past as well, I'd suggest that this does not make it right.

The statement was that Edwards is doing this due to his ego - why else would he remain in a race that he does not have a chance to win?

In addition, just because it has been done in the past, does not mean that it is not detrimental to the party, and has not been detrimental to whichever party has done it in the past.

His extra 15% - 20% would likely put one of the two top candidates into a stronger position, a position to gain the needed momentum.

At 1/30/2008 2:09 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 7:45

Your views on this simply make no sense. I don't see any way around that fact.

It seems clear you just pulled them out of your ass without any thought, and now you insist on making it worse by embarassing attempts to make it seem remotely sensible.

Quit while you're behind.

At 1/30/2008 10:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing Dope, Edwards is dropping out. Shocking that you were questioning my thought process - and YOU were wrong, and...I was right.


Have a nice day...

At 2/01/2008 8:51 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Anon 10:48.

I'll be easy on you since you're clearly a loser of major proportions.

How else to explain your desperate need to pretend you "won" something when it's only in your imagination?

First of all, you suggested that Edwards should drop out because he was harming the party, correct?

Now you're trying to say that because he did drop out, you were "right"?

Hate to point it out, but that doesn't follow at all.

It doesn't prove your notion was right whatsoever.

That's like your saying as a basketball player drives down the court that if he takes a shot, he'll surely miss.

I say not necessarily.

Then the player passes the ball instead, and you stand there like an ass and shout, "SEE! I was RIGHT!! YOU were WRONG!!"

If you can't see this, you're hopeless.

How does Edwards deciding to drop out prove your suggestion that Edwards would harm the party if he stayed in the race prove your "thought processes" right?

How does it prove my view that he shouldn't be criticized for staying in "wrong"?

If you have to reach and scrape that badly to claim a "win", you're a loser, pure and simple.

And yes I definitely DO question your thought process... even more than before. Though I must admit that for me to question your thought process, you have to first demonstrate some thought.

At 2/06/2008 1:24 AM, Anonymous Kyle said...

Dope, you don't have to belittle people. I dig that you're a blogger, and it's what you folks do, but please.

From my understanding, if Edwards had remained in the race, it would have taken away possible votes from either of the other "big two" candidates. Considering how close a race it is at this point, these are important votes that would be, no offense to Mr. Edwards, wasted.

So, with that being said, the belief that Edwards was going to stay in the race did indeed paint him in a selfish light, as there would be no practical reason for him continuing.

I do agree that the "super delegate" system both is ridiculous and sounds ridiculous. It sounds like something kids would call out while playing marbles, something along the lines of "stamp it black magic no erasies!"

At 2/06/2008 10:04 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Kyle, if you had any inkling the amount of mail I get that goes far beyond "belittling", perhaps you'd undertand a little about why I tend to fight back.

I'd also point out that I don't belittle people who don't come out of the box with a confrontational attitude. This commenter was practically freaking out and yelling that Edwards was going to wreck the entire Democratic party.

That's simply ridiculous.

He didn't lay out his case in a calm way as you did. He came out in attack mode, simply because he'd read that I was at one point favoring Edwards weeks ago.

So yes, he was directing all this at me personally. I responded in kind, simply saying why I thought Edwards had every right and even obligation to his supporters to continue, and to frantically scream for him to drop out was uncalled for.

It was then that they came back getting ugly with me, so I simply responded again in kind.

I reserve the right to not sit here and get pummeled like a door mat with pointed attacks and nasty attitudes and somehow be obligated to respond with respect.

If they want to jump ugly, then yes, I just might belittle them. I think they deserve it at that point.

At 2/06/2008 12:03 PM, Blogger g9 said...

Thanks for the explanation of super delegates. The mainstream press doesn't bother explaining. Are we even living in a democracy? Is there anything ordinary non-billionaire voters can do to sway the super delegates or am I being hopelessly naive to even ask this question?

At 2/06/2008 6:29 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

g9 (that sounds like either a government pay grade or a winning bingo call.),

I think you're ahead of the curve.

All of the voting, all of the hype, all of the millions and millions of dollars, all the ads, all the staffers, all the travel, all the stump speeches, and it all boils down to who can get the magic number of delegates.

And as the Dem race is shaping up, it looks increasingly (or certain) that it will all come down to who gets more super delegates, or as electoralvote.com calls them, "PLEOS", or public officials and elected officials.

I heard something a little startling, but encouraging nonetheless today on this subject.

Donna Brazille, Al Gore's former campaign manager and Dem heavy-weight who happens to be a super-delegate, said flat out on CNN's "Situation Room" that if it comes down to the Dem candidate being picked by a handful of super-delegates, she'll quit the party.

Strong words, and perhaps indicative that I'm not the only one who thinks this scenario would be bad for the party and unacceptible to many.

By the way, further info on delegates state by state and a good explanation of the rather complex arrangement can be found at electoralvote.com.

Click on the link above and then make your browser window full size. IF that doesn't work, the same link can be found within the "Psst, who'd you vote for" post.

The link goes to a page showing the Dem map and delegate lists, but they also have one for the Republicans as well as other info on the electoral vote situation.

But I think, while it's not getting too much attention yet, as time goes on and if the final few primaries and caucuses come and go and Clinton and Obama are still knotted up, this will become a huge issue.

The Dems don't want this to go to the convention, both because it would be messy, and mainly because it would give the Republicans too large a head start in the general election campaign.

And this is in addition to the fact that handing the choice of candidate to these politicians and party big-wigs won't likely be taken lightly by rank and file Dems and the millions who have engaged in the process and voted for their preferred candidate.


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