Why have superdelegates?

Tim Hames in the Times of London argues that the superdelegates should make Clinton the nominee:

The chances are that Mr Obama will end the nomination season with more pledged delegates than Mrs Clinton. His admirers argue that it would be profoundly wrong for those who have not been elected as delegates to overturn the will of those who have. It’s a seductive claim, but there are good reasons why the superdelegates should ignore it and instead endorse Mrs Clinton.

The first is, what is the point of the superdelegate system if all they do is follow the majority of pledged delegates? Why bother with them? Why not just allow them to turn up at the convention as mere observers? The Democratic Party created the superdelegate system about 25 years ago because it feared that the party’s most ideological supporters were quite capable of choosing a candidate who many ordinary Democrats would not feel able to back at polling stations. If the primaries and caucuses were to be the gearbox of the nominating procedure, then the superdelegates were designed to serve as the handbrake. That is their role.

Secondly, any advantage that Mr Obama will have among pledged delegates is misleading. Not only will Mrs Clinton have won in most of the largest states but she will probably have secured the bulk of delegates won in primaries – where turnout is comparatively high, while he has romped home in the caucuses – where participation is notoriously feeble.

Furthermore, if all the superdelegates were compelled to vote for the person who won the most votes in their state (which they should not be, but it is an interesting exercise), then Mrs Clinton, who is likely to end the season having triumphed in eight of the most populous ten states (including Florida and Michigan, which had their results discounted by the Democratic National Committee as punishment for scheduling their primaries too early), would benefit hugely.

[via Harry's Place]

: By the way, here’s a list of fellow bloggers who are not “raving Clinton-hating Obamabots.” Says Hillaryslist, on a bit of a roll:

These are the seeds of a new progressive blogosphere in the making. The Obamabots are poisoning the original netroots, transforming what used to be an arena for progressive politics into nothing more than a rabid, mindless He-Man Woman-Haters club. The Democratic Party — or at least the high-visibility Obamabot segment — is morphing into the Young Republicans: all the misogyny and callowness and ignorance and blind hero-worship of the old GOP, but with a self-congratulatory aura of imaginary cool to make the YouTube generation feel at home. And where does that leave the women of America?

Well, I think it’s giving them too much credit for taking over netroots and the internet. Netroots were, since Dean, a self-important clique. But I do think we have not begun to discuss sexism in this campaign.

As Obama chose to run as as black man, I think that Clinton should have chosen to run as a woman. Instead, she ran as a none-of-the-above-demographics, just her. Clinton was well-known enough to do that. But it meant she really couldn’t fight back as a woman. And she lost the opportunity to turn her campaign into a cause: a woman president as change, indeed. Oh well, it’s probably too late.

  • http://bloggasm.com Simon Owens

    After Clinton dropped the F-bomb (Farrakhan) in the last debate in what was perhaps her most blatant attempt to scare white people away from Obama, I pretty much decided I wouldn’t vote for her if she was the nominee in the presidential election.

  • tim bray

    You have to admire the GOP process it is mean (winner takes all) but it is orderly; the democratic process on the other hand and in this case has not serve them well. They are not only spending time and money, but also weakening by virtue of this protracted battle for the nomination. I agree that having super delegates it’s superfluous and I would say that it is also patronizing.
    The problem as I see it is the chasm in democratic party. Will the new guard represented by Obama’s coalition young and black voters vs Hillary’s old guard represented by older women and blue collar rural vote, will they have enough time to heal and come together in the course of two month before the general election? It remains to be seeing only time will tell.

  • http://vichydems.blogspot.com Thersites D. Scott

    The purpose of Superdelegates is to address the problem of three-candidate primaries where the nominee could only muster a plurality of the popular vote. It’s extremely difficult to enter a general election with that albatross — majority of your own party doesn’t support you — around your neck. The Supers let the Convention “vote” in a way that’s likely to result in a majority for one candidate, giving him or her a big boost going into the general.

    It’s a wise system — except when it’s a clean two-candidate race, in which case that aristocratic system has no place in a democracy.

  • Ryan

    “Secondly, any advantage that Mr Obama will have among pledged delegates is misleading. Not only will Mrs Clinton have won in most of the largest states but she will probably have secured the bulk of delegates won in primaries – where turnout is comparatively high, while he has romped home in the caucuses – where participation is notoriously feeble.”

    How about this proposal: We “Obamabots” won’t say a peep about superdelegates if Clinton supporters pipe down about caucuses being worthless. Both aspects are pretty silly and their roles should be reduced, if not eliminated, in future campaigns. But both candidates knew the rules going in and neither should complain if they’re shafted because of them. That said, it’s wholly preposterous to suggest that caucuses should somehow be discounted or overruled just because Clinton couldn’t organize people under 50 to care about her campaign. The rules were clear and she ran a shoddy campaign, period.

  • http://sciencevsromance.net josh

    Caucuses aren’t worthless, they’re just a comparatively terrible way of choosing a candidate.

  • Joe

    Obama chose to run as a black man? Really? I can think of a few times Hilary brought up being a woman as a reason to vote for her or why she was being treated in a particular way. I don’t remember Obama doing it with race. Maybe I’m missing something.

  • http://kirkcaraway.com Kirk Caraway

    “As Obama chose to run as as black man, I think that Clinton should have chosen to run as a woman. Instead, she ran as a none-of-the-above-demographics, just her. Clinton was well-known enough to do that. But it meant she really couldn’t fight back as a woman. And she lost the opportunity to turn her campaign into a cause: a woman president as change, indeed. Oh well, it’s probably too late.”

    This part about Clinton running as a woman may be the first thing you have said about this campaign that makes sense. No matter which candidate you back, I think it’s safe to say that Clinton has run a terrible campaign. It had a faulty strategy, was badly managed, and her choices in personnel were awful. That alone makes me wonder whether she is fit to run the country.

  • Jimmy

    “He-Man Woman-Haters club”! Seriously? Come on, Jeff, do you truly believe that. Are you so enthralled by Hillary Clinton that you buy into that crap? You’ve always seemed so much smarter than that; even when I’ve disagreed with your opinion.

    Hillary Clinton has nearly lost this primary for several reasons. First, as Kirk said, she’s run a terrible campaign. She went into the primaries thinking she was the presumptive nominee and when it turned out she would actually have some competition she didn’t rethink her strategy. Instead, she just kept on believing she would be the nominee, and when it finally dawned on her that she would have to fight, like any cadidate, it was too late.

    Second, even as an Obama supporter I didn’t like his responses to the Jeremiah Wright brouhaha and his response to Clinton after the “bitter” Pennsylvanias comment was ill-chosen. However, both of those instances were blow out of the proportion, esepcially the “bitter” comment. Clinton has sunk to the level of the very right-wing machine she criticized during her husband’s administration. That doesn’t help the party.

    Third, there is an impression –right or wrong — that Clinton wants this nomination so much that she will make it damn difficult for Obama to win in November if he’s the party’s nominee. You see that in some of her unnecessary attacks and you see that in her supporters demanding money back from the DNC. She is turning people off to the whole elction proces and that will not help Obama OR her.

    Fourth, people who support Obama, myself included, are not raving Clinton-haters. That whole charge is immature and a little pathetic. Sure, there are some Obama supporters out there who say unkind things about Hillary Clinton, but that same is true of Clinton supporters about Obama.

    Finally, everyone needs to get their collective heads out of their collective rear ends and remember what the real point of this election is supposed to be: defeating John McCain. If somehow Hillary Clinton turns out to be the nominee I will gladly cast my vote for her. Will Clinton supporters do the same for Obama? Increasingly, I get the impression they won’t and that will be a sad day for this country.

  • http://pridepress.blogspot.com Declarations of Pride

    This PA queer voted for Hillary, and will gladly support Obama if he is the nominee. He isn’t yet, and that is what everyone seems to forget. The process is still continuing, so we have to choose.

    I am absolutely with Jimmy…Let’s not attack one another over this, when the real target is John McCain. Don’t abandon the goal to overturning the White House, and effecting change just based on the name of the Democrat running for the job. We are, and need to remain, in this together! Passion is great, just keep it focused on the big picture, and we can’t lose in November.

  • http://www.knightopia.com/journal Steve K.

    Jeff, Your argument here seems to be, “F*** the unwashed masses. Let the bigshot superdelegates give the prize to my gal, Hillary, over here.” Who’s the elitist in that equation?

    Trust me, if it happens, my vote (and millions of votes like mine) are gone. We will stay home in November and be finished with politics for a good long time. We aren’t cynical yet, but we will be if you screw us over like that.

  • Anatole

    to Obamians: LOL since it looks like a part of democratic constituency is going to vote McCain no matter what, lets just have the remaining superdelegates endorse him… to be fair.

    to Clintonians: she brought up cognitive dissonance in an interview the other day! do you realize that her slow and shifty rebuttals might well be a part of premeditated manipulating strategy?…

    to Republicans: the third man comes out clean in a sewage throwing contest.

  • Zola Daniels

    It really comes down to who do you want leading our country?????
    Hillary that is just like McCain that loves war and the profits or Barack that wants the killing of people to stop and who wants the old politics changed. More open government,serve the people . It would be so wonderful if the people could be REALLY be involved with our president!!!!! I think what scares me the most is Hillary threatening to NUKE INNOCENT PEOPLE. Has she LOST IT???? Last thing Barack has most DELEGATES,POPULAR VOTE, PLEDGED ,And HAS WON MOST STATES SO HE IS OUR NOMINEE!!!!!!! So if you think the SUPER DELEGATES should go against the majority I DON”T THINK SO!!!

  • BA Benedict

    As to the role of superdelegates–in addition to the plurality problem–there certainly is a role for them to upset a popular sentiment, as expressed over the prior months, when “necessary.” But it’s the preliminary decision of determining when that threshold has been crossed that matters here. It is difficult to believe that one of the reasons for playing this backstop role is because there are two strong candidates and the party elite prefer one over the popular sentiment tallies.

    One could imagine internal or external events that might make the popular leader substantially less tenable as a nominee; in that case, the superdelegates are there to step in. But there appears to be no such need this season, as we have two strong, popular candidates.

    As for your need to take a reductionist shot at the kind of candidate Obama is running as in order to make a point about how Clinton should have ran her campaign, well, let’s just say it’s of a piece as to your favorite in this race.

  • Fred

    Hillary should have campaigned as a woman? Come on, Jeff. Isn’t this the essence of reactionary identity politics, the internal contradictions of which will keep the Democrat nominee out of the White House in January?

  • chico haas

    Superdelegates are there to correct the mistakes of the people.

  • Beckwolf

    Wait a minute, did this person actually say that Hillary didn’t run as the “woman candidate?” Biased opinion much? Obama seemed to at least try to keep from mentioning his race until it was forced upon him, whereas Clinton came in with her ANNOUNCEMENT speech even saying that she was going to stick it to the men in politics by being the first women President, that it was time for a women to come in and change the way things work. Ummm, sounds to me like SHE’S the one pushing for an unfair advantage based solely on things beyond her control and of which have nothing to do with being qualified to lead a country, as a figurehead and an economist. Personally, I find myself morally obligated to vote Republican, because as a lower middle class citizen I know that I can’t afford a Democrat in office, that only through strong support of business growth can consumer costs lower, that the Robin Hood ideal of robbing from the rich only jacks up costs to the rest of us, hurting the lower classes more than the wealthy. But between the two candidates, neither of whom I support, at least Obama didn’t make his entire candidacy about race. Clinton…well, she just relies on the tactic that she’ll be the alpha leader feminist and control all the “egotistical old men.” No way is someone with that attitude good for any country.

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