Presidential Campaign

Democrats’ superdelegate system is unfair and undemocratic

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On Monday night, right before the Michigan Democratic primary, I heard Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) explaining how he would overcome Hillary Clinton’s big lead in the delegate count for the Democratic nomination. Sanders said that once he started winning, the superdelegates would start coming his way.

{mosads}By this, I believe he meant that those who had not yet committed would commit to him or that those who had already committed to Clinton would change their stance and move to him. Underlying this logic was Sanders’s supposition that the only way to secure the votes of superdelegates was to win.

You see, the superdelegates were obviously not motivated by ideology or principle; no, these people were easy to figure out. They were the hardnosed pros and they were with you only when you looked like the winner. No other factor or consideration was important or relevant. The whole superdelegate business has a sorry history to it. You have to go way back to 1972.

Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) was the ultimate anti-establishment candidate. He was vehemently against the Vietnam War, which was raging at the time. Sen. Edmund Muskie (D-Maine) was the overwhelming choice of the Democratic Party establishment. Scores of elected officials lined up to back his candidacy. McGovern was believed to be too much to the left and far too radical to be nominated or elected.

But McGovern in the end, with the war as his issue, put together a truly grassroots effort and trounced Muskie and even 1968 nominee and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey. McGovern, with the avid and fervent support of legions of young people and party outsiders (sound familiar?) upset the established order and ruling class.

McGovern was crushed by President Nixon in the 1972 general election, winning only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. The major casualties were well-known elected officials who ran not as McGovern delegates. Those bigwigs and big names vowed never to let themselves be the victims again. So the Democratic Party created a separate, exclusive category so that the 1972 humiliation would never again be repeated.

A super-VIP category would be established. A guarantee would be determined by eliminating the chance of defeat. That would simply be done by deleting democracy and removing elections as the determining factor. There would be no elections for 30 percent of the delegates to the convention.

There will be 2,382 delegates going to Philadelphia in July, but 712 of them will not be elected. No, they will be anointed. As designated leaders, legislators, governors and others, they qualify simply by title. The messy process of getting elected doesn’t apply to them.

Right now, Clinton has over 400 of these VIP superdelegates. Sanders doesn’t want to get closed out and wants to get some of those remaining. So what will now occur is that the 300-plus special souls will be lavished with super attention by each of the campaigns. This will include personal calls and visits from the candidates themselves. What a treat for those superdelegates who have now been transformed into “super people.”

The whole deal stinks. It’s wrong, unfair and undemocratic. The central element of democracy is elections. Why, oh why, should the supposed “party of the people” reserve nearly one-thirds of their delegates for a select group of individuals who don’t have to stand for election? The only people who should be called superdelegates and not have to be elected should be past nominees for president or vice president. That’s it! They and they alone deserve that singular honor and distinction.

This “House of Lords” category within the Democratic Party is unjustifiable and cannot be defended. For the 2020 convention, the process of eliminating this elitist exercise and exclusionary result should immediately begin. At the 2020 Democratic Party convention, no one (except past party nominees) should be accorded super status. That’s what, I repeat, democracy is all about. The Democratic Party should practice what it preaches.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.

Tags 2016 Democratic primary 2016 presidential election Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton superdelegates
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