The Democratic Party has a problem. Superdelegates are depriving voters of the influence they deserve by injecting themselves into the election so early.
So what’s a superdelegate to do? Should they renounce their votes altogether? Should they agree to support the candidate with the most total pledged delegates in a pact analogous to the state-by-state effort to abandon the Electoral College? Should they vote for the winner of their respective states/primaries? Should they wield their influence only after all the conclusion of the primary season, as Tad Devine suggests in the New York Times last weekend? Or is the status quo just A-OK?
Personally, I’d prefer it if there were no superdelegates at all.
Everyone should agree, though, that by virtue of their influence, superdelegates should be accountable to the public and the Democratic Party members whose interests they are supposedly protecting. Right now, it seems as if most folks see them only as accountable for their roles as elected officials but not as representatives of the members of the Democratic Party.
So far, the Clinton and Obama camps have courted them heavily, but to my knowledge, they haven’t received a ton of pressure from ordinary Democratic voters. Why hasn’t a grassroots campaign (or why haven’t multiple grassroots campaigns) taken shape to get some citizen pressure on these folks?
This is in some ways a totally unfair challenge for me to issue, since my work on issues at a non-partisan organization makes it impossible for me to jump-start this effort myself. But judging by the amazing voter turnout, netroots activity and show of volunteerism this primary season, it’s safe to say that folks want to be heard. I’m just surprised no one has taken this ball and run with it.
In particular, I’m amazed that the people-power-oriented netroots haven’t jumped all over this. Granted, they have a full plate in the middle of election season and with important legislation up in the air — and they probably wouldn’t appreciate an occasional, accidental blogger like me giving them pointers. Still, I would think bringing accountability to so-called “Party elders” and taking some power back for voters would rank pretty highly on their priority list.
In any case, there’s info on superdelegates here and here for any enterprising people who are as frustrated with this hiccup in the Democratic process as I am. May the force be with you.
— Scott Paul
Update: Steve’s post above makes me wonder if this post was originally unclear (though my sense is he’d disagree with the gist of what I’m trying to say here anyway). Here is an adapted version of my comment on his thread. Hope this clears it up.
I don’t think the rival camps should be encouraging their supporters to lobby the superdelegates in an organized way either. I DO think that individual Party members — regardless of who they support — should be contacting superdelegates to remind them that they, too, are accountable to voters. Personally, the message I think they should be hearing is that superdelegates should stay out of the primary fray and, most importantly, should not tip the scales against a candidate who wins the most delegates through the primaries and caucuses. But folks can disagree on that. What’s most important is that they hear something and not get the false impression that they can and should simply cast their votes as if the public isn’t paying attention.
Yes, the rules were clear — but they only make sense if the superdelegates are accountable to the Party whose interests they were chosen to protect. This is not a call to wage a Clinton vs. Obama grassroots war. It’s a call to bring a little transparency and responsibility to a process that sorely needs it.