Superdelegates to the rescue, or not

By Jonathan Jacobson

Let’s assume for a moment that you are one of the lucky Democratic Party representatives who have had the fortune (or misfortune) to be a member of the Elite Superdelegate Squad, the party leaders who will likely decide the Democratic nominee. Let’s also assume that you are a rational and honest politician devoted both to your party and your constituency. Perhaps that’s a bit much, but give it a shot anyway.

Do you vote the way of your district, city or state, or do you counter their vote with yours because you know better? Such is the million-dollar question facing the 712 superdelegates, 256 of whom have not yet made their call.

This conundrum gets to the root of American democracy and representation, and what these two fundamental concepts mean in the 21st century.

On the one hand, the people should have the most powerful voice. Barack Obama will probably secure the greatest number of pledged delegates – those elected directly by the voters in primaries and caucuses throughout the country. Shouldn’t the superdelegate in a district that voted for Obama do the same, in the name of just representational government?

Not entirely. American politics are loaded like a fast food baked potato with contradictions and inconsistencies. The Democratic National Committee adopted the superdelegate system because they believed in the notion of a second opinion.

    Join Our Newsletter

    The superdelegates, nearly all of whom have won an election at some point in their lives, know what it takes to win. They understand the system better than the average voter. But does this mean that they are more equipped to choose the best candidate, or the one most likely to win? That also begs the question as to whether or not there is a difference.

    Obama’s camp firmly believes that the decision should be left to the voters and that the superdelegates should follow their lead like the good elected men and women that they are.

    Clinton’s camp – and imagine this – sees it a bit differently. According to them, the superdelegates should pick the best candidate, even if it means disregarding the pledged delegate tally. Clinton aide Harold Ickes even had the nerve yesterday to note that pledged delegates aren’t bound to their candidate when they actually show up to the convention.

    “That binding rule was knocked out in 1980,” he told Politico’s Ben Smith, reminding Smith that the Clinton campaign had no plans to woo pledged delegates.

    Sticky situation, indeed.

    All delegates to the Democratic National Convention have a responsibility to vote for the person most likely to win, but how do they come to that conclusion?

    The honest answer – and the only one – is that the greatest measure of a candidate’s ability to become the next president is how he or she fared with actual voters.

    To listen to the primary voters is to put a wine glass on the closed door of the general electorate. Although primary-goers tend to skew more radical, they are still significantly representative of the voting population and the superdelegates should listen to them, not only because it is the right thing to do but also because it is the fastest way to the Oval Office.

    A superdelegate who votes against the desires of his district is doing a disservice not only to the people who elected him – and who will probably repay him with a giant boot – but also to the party.

    Those voters who showed up late to work on a busy Tuesday afternoon deserve more than to be trampled on by politicians who think they know better. They don’t, and the irreparable damage that superdelegates can do the Democratic Party by voting against the will of those they represent is not worth the price.

    The final voice in this country should always be the people, even if we haven’t always been so lucky (see Al Gore for details).

    Jonathan is a senior in English and rhetoric who wishes his dreams were no longer haunted by CNN’s election ticker bar.