Superdelegates and the role they play in Democratic primaries

Published: 2/11/2020 10:30:24 PM

At the start of every election cycle, we once again see the political establishment shift into high gear. Its many operatives fan out over the vast political landscape in an effort to drum up support for the various candidates and we are incessantly cajoled into phone banking, visibilities, door to door canvassing, fundraising, signage, etc, etc - all in an effort to secure that winning vote on election day. We are reminded how precious – sacred even - is our vote and our right to exercise it, how the race could be decided by just one vote - how every vote counts, and is equal to that of every other citizen.

But is it really? Let’s take a look at the “super delegates” and the role they play in the selection of candidates in the Democratic primaries - how these ‘special delegates’ are given special privileges in the process.and how they represent the elites of the Democratic party - the governors, senators, congressmen, and other party heads - the very people who have made careers of lifelong political involvement.

In 2016, New Hampshire primary voters chose Sanders over Clinton by a stunning 22 percentage points - 62 percent to 38 percent, or a margin of 56,332 votes, yet both left the state with an equal number of delegates. How could this have happened you ask when one candidate did so much better than the other? The ordinary delegates were awarded to each candidate based on the percentage of the vote - 15 for Sanders and 9 for Clinton - a fair deal so far. But 6 “super delegates“- those “special delegates” who, unlike ordinary delegates, are free to choose whoever they want irrespective of the popular vote - chose Clinton, giving each candidate 15 delegates apiece. The 6 super delegates combined effectively canceled the 56,332 vote gain of Sanders. Each super delegate canceled the votes of 9338 ordinary citizens! This 9,338 figure negated all the votes cast for Sanders in the 16 Monadnock Region towns - where I live – plus 40 percent of the votes for Sanders in Nashua!

Now imagine the SNHU arena filled to what would be near capacity for a hockey game - over 9,000 Sanders supporters on election night cheering for the tremendous victory of their candidate. Suddenly one of the “super delegates” takes the mike at the podium, and announces to the ecstatic crowd “I know you all love Bernie, but my vote is going to Clinton and will cancel all of yours.”

Now imagine this scene being repeated an additional 5 times throughout the state. That was the effect of the votes of 6 - just 6 super delegates! Super delegates who had announced by November 2015 their intention of voting for Clinton - months before any ordinary citizen had ever cast a vote. Nor were they alone in announcing their intent before any voting had taken place. By mid November, 359 super delegates across the country had come out in support of Clinton [vs 8 for Sanders ], giving her a nearly 45 to 1 lead, and 15 percent of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination at the Democratic Convention [2,382]. Had this been a 5 mile race, Clinton would have started nearly three-fourths of a mile ahead of Sanders. Nor was what happened in New Hampshire an anomaly. There were similar outcomes in a good number of other states where the super delegates gave the prize to the loser : Sanders won Wyoming by nearly 12 points , but walked away with 4 delegates less than Clinton - 7 to 11; Missouri was a tie at 49 percent, yet Clinton received 10 more delegates than Sanders - 47 to 37 ; Michigan another virtual tie - Sanders 49.6 , Clinton 48.2, but Sanders gets 6 delegates less than Clinton - 67 to 73 ; in Indiana, Sanders wins by 5 points , but leaves the State with two less delegates than Clinton - 44 to 46.

Can anyone look at the foregoing, and reasonably argue that this represents the highest ideals of a democracy that is touted as representing the will of the people? And consider the sense of inevitability given to a Clinton nomination when 359 super delegates declared their vote for her months before a single citizen had reached the polls - a sense of inevitability reinforced by a nonstop 24/7 media narrative that included those votes in their reporting, both before and during the primaries.

The outcry from a large percentage of the electorate concerning what was an obvious tipping of the scales by the party establishment was not something that would go away. And some in the party establishment, to their credit, have weighed in on the unfairness of the super delegate system.

Senator Tim Kaine, Clinton’s VP pick, stated in 2017 “I have long believed there should be no super delegates. These positions are given undue influence in the nominating contest and make the process less democratic.”

New Hampshirites should be particularly concerned that their choices are equitably considered during the nominating process at the Democratic Convention in July.

Henri Vaillancourt lives in Greenville.


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