The last few weeks have revealed a variety of Democrats in print, on tv, and in blogs go on about the terrible possibility that the Automatic Delegates (a/k/a Super Delegates) to the Democratic Convention might decide who the nominee is.
I find this whining to be anywhere from mildly annoying to extremely funny. Let’s face it…all these folks are upset and whining because the Super Delegates may do exactly what they were created to do. They exist because historically the party professionals on both sides of the aisle fear the spontaneous will of the non-professional class.
This is not a new condition. In fact, if you go back to 1884 you will find Speaker of the House Thomas Reed grousing because the GOP convention nominated James G. Blaine as their standard bearer. Reed was convinced that the somewhat loose morality Blaine had applied to his public career would be poison in a national election regardless of how much people liked him. When challenged to be more enthusiastic about the nominee, Reed replied, “We elected officials don’t worry about personality…we only care about little things like actually winning the election.”
The current class of Democratic Super Delegates has its origins in the 1972 Democratic convention, where delegation after delegation tossed out elected officials and instead chose “cause advocates”. The whole exercise is capably described by Hunter Thompson in his marvelous book Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail 1972, especially when the convention-in a full fledged attempt to find political purity-seated the delegation led by young Jesse Jackson and tossed out the one led by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
In the wake of the Nixon-McGovern debacle, the Democrats instituted new rules to create the “Super Delegate” class so that the elected tier of the office would not be disenfranchised in selecting the party nominee. The assumption was that the Super Delegates could be counted on to put the brakes on some runaway effort for a popular candidate who through some mass hysteria or popularity would sweep the elected delegates but lose in the general election.
That is why they were created…and given carte blanche as to who to vote for. That is why the Super Delegates are not under the Democratic Party by-laws not required to reflect the elected delegate result in their state, either individually or proportionally. And that is how they were empowered this year.
But now the institutional candidate is running behind in the elected delegate totals, and with all the backbone of a chocolate eclair no one is defending their right to vote as they were created to vote. Speaker Nancy Pelosi does the sidestep when asked her take on the Super Delegates:
These superdelegates are all part of their state delegation, so that state will speak,” Pelosi said. The superdelegates “work out their preference, working with the people of their state.”
Her assertion is silly. The Super Delegates have always been designed to vote as they see fit. They have no restrictions, but no one is willing to say so. Instead they engage in moralizing about what the SD should do, and how failing to vote with their states will jeopardize the party.
Amazing…the Super Delegate rules have been in place for over a generation, and only now is there suddenly concern about their independence.
Of course, part of the problem is the front end loading of the primaries…there has never been so much pressure for the Super Delegates to commit this early in the past because the primaries did not happen so early. It seems like every time the Democrats go and change their rules, there are unintended consequences…and never in a way that makes people happy.
I suggest that if the Democrats think so highly of the men and women who qualify as Super Delegates to elect them to high office, then these same people should be trusted to vote their will at the convention. That is the way the rules are written. If you want to change the rules, fine. But don’t go whining about the Super Delegates doing exactly what they were created to do.
You see, in the end these folks are going to vote in the way that best ensures their own electoral survival…so please stop the whining and turn your attention to the whole matter of Florida and Michigan, which is going to be a credentials fight for the ages.