Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Superdelegate Sham

As a "Bernie Bro," I was feeling rather down-in-the-dumps after Super Tuesday, even though Bernie did much better than many polls were predicting. (A Star Tribune/Mason-Dixon poll in January had Hillary winning Minnesota by 34%. Bernie won by 23.4%. They should probably check their methodology.) Websites kept showing Hillary with over 1,000 delegates and Bernie with 400-something. I figured it was over.

Until I saw the front page of the aforementioned Star Tribune (or "Strib") later that week. They showed Hillary with fewer than 600 delegates and Bernie still with 400+. That perked me up considerably. Unlike all those other media outlets, the Strib only showed "pledged" delegates, leaving out the "superdelegates" and actually noting their absence. The websites I checked made no mention of superdelegates, just throwing them in, willy-nilly, with the pledged delegates.

Do I think their oversight was a coincidence? Not at all. The mainstream media are absurdly biased in the current Democratic presidential race, just as they are biased on most topics. Yahoo! had an informative piece this weekend entitled "Bernie Sanders' tax plan is hopeless." I didn't bother to read that, but I did check out their explanation of superdelegates.

It was part of Katie Couric's "Now I Get It" series, which sounds about as enlightening as a G.I. Joe PSA. This installment justified my contempt. The author, whose name (Kaye Foley) induced me to read the article, writes that superdelegates are Democratic "elected officials, like members of Congress, notable members of the party, like President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, and members of the Democratic National Committee."

Foley goes on to explain the origin of superdelegates: "The system was developed in the early 1980s as a way for party leaders to provide some guidance to voters when it came to nominating candidates who could hold their own against Republicans in the general election." Well, that's awfully nice of them! I'm glad there are people in charge of the party who know better than us plebeians.

With a bit more research on Wikipedia (which should also be taken with a grain of salt), I discovered the Democrats created superdelegates in the 80's after the party rank-and-file disobeyed orders in the 70's, nominating George McGovern and Jimmy Carter (twice!). Superdelegates are the prevailing cooler heads who make sure we don't go Fruit Loops again and nominate any more cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs candidates.

Now, this may seem like a silly question, but have superdelegates ever overturned the will of the Democratic voters?  Apparently not: "...since superdelegates were created, the votes they cast have never actually changed the course of a presidential race." Well, that's a relief! It's good to know they're there, just in case, but I'd hate to think we all caucused and primaried for nothing!

If I may snap back out of character now, I'd like to politely disagree with my fellow Foley. Judging by my reaction to those unlabeled delegate counts, it's a safe bet that the superdelegates have influenced the Democratic presidential race many times. Maybe they haven't directly determined who the nominee will be, but their mere presence in the delegate tallies (especially when unnoted) has an effect on how people think about the race. If I were a "Bernie Bro" in a state with an upcoming primary, I might assume his campaign is doomed and stay home.

It seems a bit ironic that the Democrats have the less democratic nominating process. Shouldn't we be more democratic than the Republicans instead of less? Granted, the GOP may not be around much longer, but this is one area in which they have us beaten.

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