Looking Ahead to the General Election - Part 1: The Democratic Nomination and Superdelegates
Chris Bowers (an Obama supporter) wrote a post recently titled "How I Could Quit The Democratic Party". In partial justification of that title, he refers to Democratic superdelegate Donna Brazile's recent statement:
If 795 of my colleagues decide this election, I will quit the Democratic Party. I feel very strongly about this.
I am not sure what Donna Brazile meant by her statement - since the full context of her statement was unavailable in the article. Standing by itself, it is a weird comment because superdelegates, per the rules of the Democratic party that she is a part of and has been a part of for long, will have to play a role in deciding this election one way or the other. Is she afraid the party rules would not help the candidate she happens to support? Anyway, I'll give her some benefit of the doubt since context is missing. So, let me quote Chris to discuss his reasoning (emphasis mine):
If the Democratic Party fails to respect those principles, and their "super" delegates nominate someone for POTUS other than the person who received the most support during Democratic primaries and caucuses, then I fail to see any reason to continue participating in the Democratic Party.
If, during the electoral process, they reject the popular choice of members of their own party for the most important office in our country, then it will be clear the entire process has been nothing but a vicious ruse.
Well, maybe it's just me, but I would have said the same thing without threatening to quit the Democratic party - maybe because I'm a little bit more interested in unity, winning the Presidency and ending Republican rule and not using prematurely harsh and divisive rhetoric at this stage. What Chris doesn't clarify is what he means by "popular choice of members" and "most support during Democratic primaries and caucuses". My position is simple. I would like the Democratic superdelegates to support the Democratic candidate who gets the majority (or plurality) of the popular vote in the United States at the end of the Democratic primaries and caucuses - regardless of who that candidate might be (Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton). To me, that is, in fact, the most Democratic outcome - it would be a reflection of the will of the people who voted in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. (It would also be consistent with progressives' long-standing claim that Al Gore should have been President in 2000 because he won the popular vote.)
What do the leading candidates think? Let's start with Sen. Obama's position discussed by Big Tent Democrat (emphasis mine):
I must admit I am more than somewhat confused on what Barack Obama's position is. First Read reported:
Obama would not commit to a position he had put forward previously that superdelegates should vote the way their states did -- should the Democratic nomination come down to their votes.
"I think those superdelegates and elected officials and party insiders would have to think long and hard about how they approach the nomination if the people they represent have said that Obama is our guy," Obama said the morning after the February 5th primaries.
(Emphasis supplied.) It is obvious why Obama will not stick to that position - having lost California, New York, New Jersey, Florida* and Michigan* - he would be guaranteeing a huge loss for himself among superdelegates. Having won in states like Alaska, Idaho and the like, he will be giving away the game with that position.
Thus he now says:
Asked . . . if superdelegates should vote the way their states votes, Obama hedged. "We haven't had a lengthy discussion with all of our superdelegates -- our super delegates they should vote for me," Obama said.
. . . The question for those not yet committed and the superdelegates that are still out there … trying to make up their minds -- my strong belief is that if we end up with the most states and the most pledged delegates from the most voters in the country that it would be problematic for the political insiders to overturn the judgment of the voters. . . .
Well, there are a lot of contradictions in that position. Why make that cutoff now, as opposed to all superdelegates? Why not respect the wishes of the voters from the states these superdelegates represent? Why most pledged delegates as opposed to most votes across the country?
This is a mess and it is not clear that Barack Obama can in fact articulate a comprehensible position on the issue that will favor his campaign.
Mr. Obama, talking to reporters in Seattle on Friday, said he believed superdelegates should follow the will of the voters.
“My strong belief is that if we end up with the most states and the most pledged delegates from the most voters in the country, that it would be problematic for the political insiders to overturn the judgment of the voters,” Mr. Obama said. “I think it is also important for superdelegates to think about who will be in the strongest position to defeat John McCain in November and who will be in the strongest position to ensure that we are broadening the base, bringing people who historically have not gotten involved in politics into the fold.”
Mrs. Clinton, campaigning Saturday in Maine, disputed Mr. Obama’s interpretation of how superdelegates should make their decision, arguing, as her aides have in conversations with superdelegates, that they should make an independent decision based on who they thought would be the strongest candidate and president. She brought up Senators Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts; both men have endorsed Mr. Obama, but Mrs. Clinton won that state on Tuesday.
“Superdelegates are, by design, supposed to exercise independent judgment,” she said at a news conference in Maine, according to MSNBC. “But, of course, if Senator Obama and his campaign continue to push this position, which is really contrary to what the definition of a superdelegate has historically been, I will look forward to receiving the support of Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry.”
It is easy to win a lot more states even if you lose the popular vote by a big margin - so there is nothing more anti-democratic than using the number of states won to somehow determine how superdelegates should vote. I also happen to strongly disagree with the notion that Sen. Obama is more electable against John McCain and will bring more voters to the polls than Sen. Clinton (more on that later), but let me close by reiterating my view on superdelegates - they should support the candidate who wins the majority/plurality of the popular vote at the end of the 2008 primaries/caucuses. That's simple - no arcane rules or smoke-filled rooms for bartering - and is the best representation of the will of the people.