On Delegates and Democracy


The Beamster makes an excellent point over at Slate about delegates and democracy.

The first school of thought says that superdelegates should support whoever wins more pledged delegates. Democratic strategist and delegate guru Tad Devine argued this point in his Sunday New York Times op-ed, in which he called on superdelegates to stop endorsing and wait to see whom the American people choose. Obama said he also believes 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.”

The other school of thought says that superdelegates should decide for themselves which candidate they like better. Hillary Clinton articulated this philosophy over the weekend: “Superdelegates are, by design, supposed to exercise independent judgment.”

More after the jump.

What’s amazing here—but hardly shocking—is how conveniently the candidates’ philosophies align with their political needs. Obama is expected to emerge ahead in the delegate count after the “Potomac primary” on Tuesday, so naturally he wants superdelegates to follow the voters’ lead. Hillary, meanwhile, prefers to maximize her longtime connections to the Democratic establishment. In this situation, Obama is taking the side of democracy, while Clinton is arguing to uphold the party rules.

Notice that this is an inversion of the fight over Florida and Michigan. In that flap, Hillary is the one making paeans to democracy, arguing that the DNC must seat delegates from those two states, both of which she won. Meanwhile, Obama claims that we need to play by the rules of the DNC, which stripped the states of their delegates.

The funny thing is that it’s possible HRC ends up with more pledged delegates (due to winning Ohio and Texas), and BHO ends up with more superdelegates (due to party leaders realizing he is better for the Democratic Party on downballot races nationwide). Which means that their posturing now will screw them later.

Throw my voice in with the chorus who thinks it would be a tragedy if one of the two candidates won the most delegates in primaries and caucuses nationwide, only to see the people’s decision overturned by party elders. Superdelegates ought to pledge to either (1) vote the way their state voted, (2) vote the way the nation as a whole voted, or (3) not vote at all.