Random thoughts on the superdelegate system, in hopefully its final year of existence.
- Some people look over at the GOP side and say, “that’s why we need superdelegates, to protect us from nominating someone like that!” And yeah, it would suck if we nominated someone like that. But if we are to be a party fueled by its grassroots, we have to trust the grassroots to make the right call. And if it doesn’t? Tough shit. The idea of having a crew of paternalistic “adults” ready to rectify our mistakes is utter bullshit.
- Hillary Clinton asked the remaining undeclared superdelegates to hold off on commitments until today. Too many didn’t and it screwed her. So instead of having the voters push her over, which will happen today when she wins a majority of the pledged delegates, she had the supers do it. Shitty optics that stepped on her celebration. This is a small thing soon to be forgotten, but given the history that’s happening, would’ve been nice to do it right.
- It’s not the AP’s fault they declared Clinton the presumptive nominee. They are reporting the facts, and if enough supers have committed, that’s that. They shouldn’t be withholding news because it steps on Clinton’s coronation or it might make some California, New Jersey, or New Mexico (or wherever) voters sad. It’s the fault of the Clinton supers who couldn’t wait an extra day to let their intentions be known.
The Sanders campaign’s handling of the superdelegates really left much to be desired. They were against them before they were for them and then they were for them while still railing against them. What the hell was that all about? The superdelegates suck. They were right at the beginning. There was no principled reason to step away from that message.
You don’t get to argue that the supers matter when looking at the pledged delegates, but then refuse to include them in the calculation. I’m very clear—the only number that matters to me is the pledged delegates. The supers should be nothing more than a rubber stamp for the choice of the voters. I’ve seen some of you put it really well: The idea that you can't count supers in the numerator, but MUST count them in the denominator, when determining if a majority has been met is among the craziest arguments this cycle. Pick one or the other. Either the supers matter, so count them, or they don’t matter, so don’t count them.
This is a good argument too:
If we can declare a president-elect on election night in November when he or she is projected to win 270 electoral votes, even when a full 43% of those electors can vote for whomever they prefer, you bet we’re going to recognize our presumptive nominee on June 7 when she is projected to have won 2,383 delegates to the convention.
- If you think the system is “rigged” because a bunch of supers endorsed Clinton early, then explain how Barack Obama won in 2008, despite the same supers endorsing the same Clinton at the same early time. Fact is, those endorsements are just that—endorsements—and they carried as much weight as an endorsement from
Magic Killer Mike or Susan Sarandon.
- All that said, has anything having to do with supers been a positive this cycle? Or the last one in 2008, for that matter? They allow candidates to pretend to be in the race long after they’ve lost. They muddy the waters. They take candidates who are otherwise appreciative of (small d) democracy, and turn them into enemies of the people, demanding the party establishment rescue them from the whims of the party electorate. Superdelegates are like Tolkien’s One Ring, corrupting people with their promise of power. Thus, it was weird seeing Clinton argue that they should rescue her in 2008, and it’s been even weirder seeing Sanders do so these last few months.
- Look at the GOP. Once Trump won, he won. Everyone else had no choice but to drop out. They couldn’t campaign for superdelegates, demand that they overturn the will of their electorate, and stay in past their sell-by date. They just … lost. End of story. End of primary drama. So let’s do the same on the Democratic side. End the supers. Whatever benefit they might confer are far outweighed by the problems they create.
- All that doesn’t mean you don’t invite the supers to the convention! Those superdelegates are the people doing the hard work to make the party work, from elected officials, to state party chairs, to super-volunteers and activists. So still reward them with VIP passes to the convention, where they can party and organize with the elected delegates. They can cheer the speakers and the nominee. They just don’t get a veto on what the voters decided.
Update: One amendment, per several suggestions in the comments:
They should exist and get to vote on rules and platform, but they should not get to vote on the President or Vice President. That way you won’t have them running against local activists on the ballot for the delegate slots either, although I suppose you could prohibit that regardless as well.
Yeah, let the party people vote on party infrastructure stuff, since that’s not what primary voters are focused on.