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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Super Delegates: Who & Why

Superman emblem
Courtesy of Sriram Krishnan

truthout has a clarifying breakdown of the current situation of delegate allocation in the Democratic primaries. The roughly 60 percent of delegates arbitrated by the primary voting system (popular delegates) are looking to be pretty evenly distributed among the leading candidates. This leaves the "super-delegates" with a great deal of discretion in deciding who is actually the nominee for November's contest.

Who are they (read the whole article)?
There are 852 super delegates, roughly 40 percent of the amount of delegates needed to win the nomination. The category includes Democratic governors and members of Congress, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, former vice president Al Gore, retired Congressional leaders such as Dick Gephardt and all Democratic National Committee members, some of who are appointed by party chairman Howard Dean.

There are 3,515 pledged delegates that are selected by the primary and caucus system.
Why are they?
Many see the system as undemocratic. It was set up as a safety net for party leaders to correct a "mistake" by the voters. It was a reaction to the McGovern nomination in 1972, and partly the Carter nomination in 1976. McGovern was seen as someone outside the mainstream. Party leaders wanted a way to influence the nominating process and rescue the party from a nominee they didn't think could win. They also felt Jimmy Carter didn't have the name recognition or experience; so if they had the system, then they probably would have attempted to block his nomination.
While I have some sympathy for the Party as to the genesis of this "safety net," I come away with this:

With the overriding theme of the Democratic platform shaping up to be all about "change," I find it ironic and not a little depressing that the Democratic Party has put a mechanism in place precisely to thwart any really significant change. Again, I understand how butt-hurt everyone is over McGovern and all, but there's something to be said for standing for something, win or lose.

It's the only voice the populace has against entrenched interests.

Update: Olbermann & Schuster discuss. Thanks, Nicole Belle at Crooks & Liars.

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