In case you just regained consciousness from that beach party last August, you may have heard that we’re in presidential primary season. This is the opportunity for voters to select the nominees for each party; to participate in the democratic process; to have our voices heard! Oh, wait.
Among the peculiarities of nominating process is the use of superdelegates. You can look at the Wikipedia definition, but the short version is this:
- In the Democratic party they’re delegates who are selected on the basis of their role in national or state party leadership, or because someone in the party says the should be. There are about 717 Democratic superdelegates (compared to about 4000 regular delegates) in the race
- Republicans have superdelegates, but they’re small in number, state-appointed, and must stick with the results of the primaries in their respective states. As far as I can tell, the only thing they do is give states with small delegate counts a little more power.
So 1/6 of all the Democrats’ delegates are superdelegates. That’s OK, right, since they’re unaffiliated and can vote for anyone they like? Here’s the problem: We’re still not that far into primary season, and 467 superdelegates have already put themselves in Hillary’s column. Here’s how the Democratic race looks, with and without superdelegates:
How many delegates does a Democratic candidate need for the nomination? 2383. So the fact that Hillary has 20% of the superdelegates pre-baked into her number seems, uh, a little unfair.
Superdelgates can change their vote anytime they want, which is exactly what happened in 2008, when Hillary’s superdelegates mostly marched into Obama’s camp. But that year, Obama was a juggernaut. Sanders is doing very well, but why does he have to overcome this hurdle that she does not have? How does it represent the democratic process?
Here’s the thing: we already use a republican form of democracy to select our candidates and eventually our president. Safeguards are built into the system to save us from ourselves, at least in theory. Superdelegates take it a step further, obfuscating the process and further diminishing the power of the voter.
Of course, we can look across the isle for a compelling counterargument. But as abhorrent as the likely Republican nominee may be, he is also the leading vote-getter; in other words, he’s the embodiment of the democratic process. I most definitely do not want him in the White House, but I would never want us to break the system in order to avoid it. Similarly, I don’t want to be attacked by terrorists, but I would never want the government listening to all of my phone calls or reading all of my emails. Sorry – replacing something bad with something worse does not make sense.
So let’s dispense with the notion that the Democratic party knows what we want better than we do. Let us vote in the primaries, and how about having our votes count for 100%, not 83%? The Constitution used to count certain Americans as 3/5 of a person; is that how we want to be represented today? And by the way, if the majority of Americans really want a reality TV star to run the country, Canada is looking awfully appealing these days.