Superdelegates: Establishment Politics Going From Bad To Worse Or You Are Too Stupid To Make The Right Decision…Ours!
Superdelegates are the creation of a bunch of old White Men known as the establishment who don’t like to share power and think you are too stupid to make the right decision…their decision.
In this election cycle the Democratic Party establishment has been prepared for the coronation of the 1st Woman President, Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that she and her husband have the most well-earned negatives and dubious reputations in today’s “political elite”.
The establishment’s corporate whore has run into a real problem and all her whining about being victimized by questions and scrutiny just isn’t washing of the political corruption and corrosion that is sticking to her, in a campaign built on lies, distortions, deceit, innuendo, rudeness, entitlement and unbridled attempts to suggest that the opposition has no right to its opinions, nor to expose the truth, a campaign devoid of details except the vow to continue the past offering no hope of change or the improvement of the quality of life for our citizenry.
It is a campaign that lacks enthusiasm and each day becomes more unraveled as it sinks into the good old politics of demonize and destroy.
These delegates make a mockery of any democratic process and reduce the regular delegates to the status of a bunch of rubber stamps to fill up the convention floor for the TV cameras.
Let’s look at enough of the History of those Superdelegates so we can understand why they should be abolished.
(The following is adapted from "Structure as Strategy: Presidential Nominating Politics Since Reform," a doctoral dissertation submitted to the political science department of the University of California, Berkeley in 1986.)
Lessons of the 1980 Democratic convention and nomination race were not lost on the member of the Hunt Commission (named for its Chair Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina) as they met to write delegate selection rules for the 1984 nomination season.
The 1980 race had concluded in an especially bitter and contentious convention fight between President Jimmy Carter and Senator Edward Kennedy. The convention fight had centered upon Rule 11 (H) that bound delegates to support the candidate in whose name they were elected.
Senator Kennedy’s campaign, in an effort to convince Carter delegates that they should abandon Carter and support him, waged a series of platform and rules challenges culminating in the fight over Rule 11 (H).
In short order the Commission agreed to get rid of the controversial Rule 11(H) and replace it with a less intrusive rule, but one that, nevertheless, urged delegates to vote for the presidential candidate they had been elected to support. The new 11 (H) read:
“Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.”
(This rule exists today, in 2008, as Rule 12 (J) of the delegate selection rules and has not changed since.)
Yet the exorcism of Rule 11 (H) was not sufficient to solve the deep doubts about the nominating system that had arisen as the result of the bitter rules and platform fights at the 1980 Convention.
Congressmen, stung by the lack of impact they had been able to have on the 1980 process, and fearing that 1984 would be a repeat, banded together to ask that 2/3 of the Democratic Members of the House be elected by the House Caucus as uncommitted voting delegates to the 1984 Convention.
Led by Congressman Gillis Long, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Members asserted that they had a special role to play in the nomination process and in the platform process. In his testimony before the Hunt Commission, Long put the views of the Democratic Caucus as follows:
“We in the House, as the last vestige of Democratic Control at the national level, believe we have a special responsibility to develop new innovative approaches that respond to our Party’s constituencies." (Testimony before the Hunt Commission, November 6, 1981)
Governor Hunt, Chair of the Commission, also made the inclusion of more elected officials a top priority. In a statement that reflects the sense of helplessness with which many elected officials had watched the events of the 1980 nomination season, Hunt said,
“We must also give our convention more flexibility to respond to changing circumstances and, in cases where the voters’ mandate is less than clear, to make a reasoned choice. One step in this direction would be to loosen the much-disputed “binding” Rule 11 (H) as it applies to all delegates. An equally important step would be to permit a substantial number of party leader and elected official delegates to be selected without requiring a prior declaration of preference.
We would then return a measure of decision-making power and discretion to the organized party and increase the incentive it has to offer elected officials for serious involvement.” (Remarks of Governor Jim Hunt, Institute of Politics, JFK School of Government, December 15, 1981)
Hunt was joined by the AFL-CIO and the Democratic State Chairs’ Association in calling for a plan whereby 30% of the 1984 convention would be composed of uncommitted delegates drawn from the ranks of party leaders and elected officials.
Ironically, this number is close to the number of delegates (38%) who had gone into conventions “unaffiliated” in the pre-reform years. Only a large number of unbound delegates – who had not been required, by virtue of filing deadlines and fair reflection rules, to declare a presidential preference early – could return a modicum of flexibility or deliberativeness to the post-reform conventions.
Opposition to this proposal came from supporters of Senator Edward Kennedy (who, at the time was expected to make another run for the presidency) and from organized feminists.
Kennedy supporters on the Commission feared that a large number of Senators and Congressmen at the convention could stop him. On the other hand, former Vice President Walter Mondale, felt certain that a large number of these delegates would favor him and his operatives, therefore, embraced the 30% number.
Organized feminists, on and off the Commission, however, make a new argument. Speaking on their behalf, Technical Advisory Committee Member Susan Estrich of Massachusetts argued that creating a new category of delegates who were not subject to the fair reflection and candidate right of approval rules would create a new status of delegate which she referred to as “super-delegates.
” These delegates, argued Estrich, would be overwhelmingly white and male. Even were they balanced by an equal number of women in the total delegation – there would still be the problem of “equal power.” The “super-delegates” because of their greater flexibility in the choice of a nominee, would have greater power than the female delegates committed to presidential candidates. (“Unintended Consequences,” by Susan Estrich, Memorandum to the Hunt Commission, September 9, 1981.)
The issue was finally resolved through a compromise created by Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro. The Ferraro Proposal reduced the total number of un-pledged delegates to 566 or 14% of the Convention, but it left selection of the Congressional delegates in the hands of the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses. (See, Bringing Back the Parties, by David Price, Congressional Quarterly Press, 1984).
The 14% number was far short of the original proposal that 30% of the convention be unpledged. However, if the number had been much larger, it would have been practically impossible to meet the equal division between men and women requirements in the rules.
Super-delegates today, in 2008, are no longer elected by congressional caucus. There have been some additions over the years and thus the total number of super delegates as a proportion of the convention has increased by about 5%.
For Democrats, Superdelegates fall into two categories:
Delegates seated based on other positions they hold, who are formally described (in Rule 9.A) as "unpledged party leader and elected official delegates" (unpledged PLEO delegates); and
Additional unpledged delegates selected by each state party (in a fixed predetermined number), who are formally described (in Rule 9.B) as "unpledged add-on delegates" and who need not hold any party or elected position before their selection as delegates.
Democratic Party rules distinguish pledged and unpledged delegates. Pledged delegates are selected based on their announced preferences in the contest for the presidential nomination. In the party primary elections and caucuses in each U.S. state, voters express their preference among the contenders for the party's nomination for President of the United States.
Pledged delegates supporting each candidate are chosen in approximate ratio to their candidate’s share of the vote. They fall into three categories: district-level pledged delegates (usually by congressional districts); at-large pledged delegates; and pledged PLEO (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) delegates.
In a minority of the states, delegates are legally required to support the candidate to whom they are pledged. In addition to the states' requirements, the party rules state (Rule 12.J): "Delegates elected to the national convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them."
By contrast, the unpledged PLEO delegates (Rule 9.A) are seated without regard to their presidential preferences, solely by virtue of being current or former elected officeholders and party officials.
Many of them have chosen to announce endorsements, but they are not bound in any way. They may support any candidate they wish, including one who has dropped out of the presidential race.
The other Superdelegates, the unpledged add-on delegates (Rule 9.B), who need not be PLEOs, are selected by the state parties after some of the pledged delegates are chosen, but they resemble the unpledged PLEO delegates in being free to vote as they wish.
Unpledged PLEO delegates should not be confused with pledged PLEOs. Under Rule 9.C, the pledged PLEO slots are allocated to candidates based on the results of the primaries and caucuses. Another difference between pledged PLEOs and unpledged PLEOs is that there are a fixed number of pledged PLEO slots for each state, while the number of unpledged PLEOs can change during the campaign. Pledged PLEO delegates are not generally considered Superdelegates.
After the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party made changes in its delegate selection process, based on the work of the McGovern-Fraser Commission. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGovern%E2%80%93Fraser_Commission ) The purpose of the changes was to make the composition of the convention less subject to control by party leaders and more responsive to the votes cast during the campaign for the nomination.
(The events at and around the Democratic national convention of 1968 left the party in disarray, unable to support its nominee and divided over matters of both substance and procedure. The 1968 convention was disastrous for the Democrats, as much because of the demonstrations and violent police responses outside the convention hall as because of the convention itself. What took place in Chicago went well beyond party leaders’ ignoring one candidate, Eugene, who could claim to have demonstrated his appeal to voters in the primaries and nominating another, Hubert Humphrey, who had not entered a single primary. Disgust with the nominating process led Democrats to create a commission that would improve the conditions of how nominees were selected. The convention approved the establishment of a party committee to examine current rules and make recommendations designed to broaden participation and enable better representation for minorities and others who were underrepresented.)
Some Democrats believed that these changes had unduly diminished the role of party leaders and elected officials, weakening the Democratic tickets of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter.
The party appointed a commission chaired by Jim, the then-Governor of North Carolina, to address this issue.
In 1982, the Hunt Commission recommended and the Democratic National Committee adopted a rule that set aside some delegate slots for Democratic members of Congress and for state party chairs and vice chairs. Under the original Hunt plan, Superdelegates were 30% of all delegates, but when it was finally implemented for the 1984 election, they were 14%. The number has steadily increased, and today they are approximately 20%.
In 1984 only state parties chairs and vice chairs were guaranteed Superdelegates status. The remaining spots were divided two ways. The Democrats in Congress were allowed to select up to 60% of their members to fill some of these spots.
The remaining positions were left to the state parties to fill with priority given to governors and big-city mayors. In 1988, this process was simplified.
Democrats in Congress were now allowed to select up to 80% of their members. All Democratic National Committee members and all Democratic governors were given Superdelegates status.
This year also saw the addition of the distinguished party leader category (although former DNC chairs were not added to this category until 1996, and former House and Senate minority leaders were not added until 2000).
In 1992 was the addition of a category of unpledged "add-ons", a fixed number of spots allocated to the states, intended for other party leaders and elected officials not already covered by the previous categories. Finally, beginning in 1996, all Democratic members of Congress were given Superdelegates status.
In the 1984 election, the major contenders for the presidential nomination were Gary Hart and Walter Mondale. Each won some primaries and caucuses. Mondale was only slightly ahead of Hart in the total number of votes cast but won the support of almost all Superdelegates and became the nominee.
The Superdelegates have not always prevailed, however. In the Democratic primary phase of the 2004 election, Howard Dean acquired an early lead in delegate counts by obtaining the support of a number of Superdelegates before even the first primaries were held.
Nevertheless, John Kerry defeated Dean in a succession of primaries and caucuses and won the nomination.
In 1988, a study found that Superdelegates and delegates selected through the primary and caucus process are not substantively different in terms of viewpoints on issues from each other. However, Superdelegates are more likely to prefer candidates with Washington experience than outsider candidates.
At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the Superdelegates made up approximately one-fifth of the total number of delegates. The closeness of the race between the leading contenders, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, led to speculation that the Superdelegates would play a decisive role in selecting the nominee, a prospect that caused unease among some Democratic Party leaders. Obama, however, won a majority of the pledged delegates and of the Superdelegates, and won the Democratic presidential nomination.
At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Superdelegates cast approximately 823.5 votes, with fractions arising because Superdelegates from Michigan, Florida, and Democrats Abroad are entitled to half a vote each. Of the Superdelegates' votes, 745 were from unpledged PLEO delegates and 78.5 were from unpledged add-on delegates, although the exact number in each category is subject to events.
There are no fixed number of unpledged PLEO delegates. The number can change during the campaign as particular individuals gain or lose qualification under a particular category.
The unpledged PLEO delegates are: all Democratic members of the United States Congress, Democratic governors, members of the Democratic National Committee, "[a]ll former Democratic Presidents, all former Democratic Vice Presidents, all former Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders, as applicable, and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee."
There is an exception, however, for otherwise qualified individuals who endorse another party’s candidate for President; under Rule 9.A, they lose their Superdelegates status.
(In 2008, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut endorsed Republican John McCain, which, according to the chairwoman of the Connecticut Democratic Party, resulted in his disqualification as a Superdelegates. Lieberman's status had, however, previously been questioned because, although he is a registered Democratic voter and caucuses with the Democrats, he won re-election as the candidate of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party and is listed as an "Independent Democrat". The count for Connecticut's delegates in the state party's delegate selection plan, issued before his endorsement of McCain, appears to exclude Lieberman, and he was not included on at least one list of PLEO delegates prepared before his endorsement.)
The unpledged add-on delegate slots for the various states total 81, but the initial rule had been that the five unpledged add-on delegates from Michigan and Florida would not be seated, leaving 76 unpledged add-on delegates. Michigan and Florida were being penalized for violating Democratic Party rules by holding their primaries too early.
As of February 13, 2008 one analysis found that the 2008 Democratic National Convention would have 794 Superdelegates. The exact number has changed several times because of events.
For example, the number decreased as a result of the death of Representative Tom Lantos, the move from Maine to Florida of former Maine Governor Kenneth M. Curtis, and the resignation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. (Because New York's new Governor, David Paterson, is an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee, he was already a Superdelegates before becoming Governor.)
On the other hand, the number increased when special elections for the House of Representative were won by Democrats Bill Foster, André Carson, Jackie Speier, and Travis Childers.
The biggest change came on May 31 as a result of the meeting of the national party's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which lessened the penalty initially imposed on Michigan and Florida.
The party had excluded all delegates (including Superdelegates) from either state.
The Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to seat all these Superdelegates (as well as the pledged delegates from those states) but with half a vote each.
That action added 55 Superdelegates with 27.5 votes. The total number of Superdelegates can continue to change until the beginning of the convention (Call to the Convention Section IV(C)(2)).
Pledged delegates from state caucuses and primaries numbered 3,566, casting 3,409.5 votes, resulting in a total number of delegate votes of 4,233. A candidate needs a majority of that total, or (as of June 5) 2,117, to win the nomination.
Superdelegates accounted for approximately one fifth (19.6%) of all votes at the convention. Delegates chosen in the Democratic caucuses and primaries accounted for approximately four-fifths (80.4%) of the Democratic convention delegates.
The Politico found that about half of the Superdelegates were white men, compared to 28% of the Democratic primary electorate.
In the Republican Party, as in the Democratic Party, members of the party’s national committee automatically become delegates without being pledged to any candidate.
In 2008, there were 123 members of the Republican National Committee among the total of 2,380 delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention.
By Jim Hunt (The perfect example of establishment arrogance)
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
In presidential election years, Americans see the face of a political party most clearly in the personality, views and character of its presidential candidates. But a national political party is about more than just the president. Its senators and House members pass the nation's laws and budgets. Its governors lead the states. All must work together for progress in America.
I chaired the 1982 Democratic Party Commission on Presidential Nominations that created certain automatic delegates to the Democratic convention -- the "Superdelegates." It was a good idea then, and it is still a good idea. The Superdelegates will be crucial to Democrats winning the presidency in November and governing successfully for the next four years.
In creating Superdelegates, the Democratic Party recognized the expertise that its top holders of public office have gained by running for office themselves. They are experts at winning. They know the issues. They are in a unique position to evaluate presidential candidates. They have a well-honed instinct for how candidates will be received in their own states and districts. In short, they can help the Democratic Party pick a winner.
But the Superdelegates' value extends beyond the convention. If they play a role in picking the nominee, they will be more likely to campaign actively for the nominee in the general election.
I vividly remember the presidential election of 1972. George McGovern, a great senator and a war hero, had been nominated at a convention that included few top Democratic elected officials or regular party leaders. The Democratic Party that America saw on television that year and the platform it adopted seemed out of step with mainstream Democratic leaders. We felt the backlash in the elections.
I was a 35-year-old candidate for lieutenant governor that year. As a loyal Democrat, I attended every party rally I could in the fall. But it was right lonesome; I was often the only top statewide candidate there. Leading Democrats were so upset by what had happened in the nominating process and at the convention that they stayed away from party activities in droves.
As a result, we got a licking in November. I won my race, but we lost the governorship for the first time in the 20th century. And Jesse Helms was elected that year to the U.S. Senate.
The Democratic Party has done a lot to make itself more democratic. We no longer have winner-take-all primaries and caucuses. We have made a special place for young people, women and minorities in our party organizations. The decision we made 26 years ago to include in the Democratic convention and nominating process our top elected officials and party leaders who get out the vote is consistent with that history.
I don't know how the Superdelegates will vote this year. None of us will know until they actually vote in Denver, though I expect the Superdelegates will split in a way not too different from the votes in the states and the nation as a whole.
But I do know that the Democratic Party needs these elected officials and party leaders to be involved. They need to help choose our nominee, shape our platform and return home from the convention invested in the nominee's campaign -- on fire to help the Democratic Party win in November.
Yet it's not enough just to win. We have to lead America, and we have to govern successfully. That is another reason our commission created the Superdelegates. We saw what happened in Jimmy Carter's administration. President Carter was a good man with the best of intentions. But he came to Washington without a good working relationship with Democratic members of Congress, which played a big part in his administration's problems.
I am proud of both of the candidates who are headed toward our convention, as I was of my original choice, John Edwards. But we Democrats should not kid ourselves. This is going to be a close, tough election. John McCain, the likely Republican nominee, will have broad support. To win the general election, Barrack Obama or Hillary Clinton will need every bit of enthusiasm and hard work they can get from Democrats across the country. Having the confidence and all-out efforts of governors, members of Congress and effective state party leaders may well provide the margin of victory.
Too often, the Democratic Party has been split between its grass-roots activists on one side and its elected officials and party leaders on the other. It's important to remember: We need both wings to fly.
Democrats established a commission in 1982 under Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina to look into the issue. Hunt's commission designed a proposal that would authorize uncommitted Democrats to participate in the convention. The number they proposed was 30% of the delegates. The commission said they wanted to preserve the "traditional" role of the party which was a "mediating institution between citizens and government, as a guide to constituent and rational electoral choice, as a bond pulling the elements of government together for the achievement of positive purposes."
The commission agreed that the party reforms of the 1970s had been beneficial by eliminating "secret caucuses, unpublicized procedures, closed slate-making, racial exclusions..." But they said, (the Democratic National Committee agreed in March 1982 without almost any debate), party leaders also should have some role in the selection of the presidential nominee.
Critics warned that this new system would create a class of unaccountable elites -- thus the term Superdelegates which was introduced with derision.
The proposal seemed like a throwback to the older era of smoke-filled convention halls that the 1970s reforms had intended to eliminate. In the end, Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro brokered a deal that lowered the number of uncommitted delegates to 14 percent.
The delegates included members of Congress as well as state and local party officials. This group was expanded over the years to include members of the Democratic National Committee, Governors, distinguished party leaders and a few others. The percentage of uncommitted delegates has increased to about twenty percent.
Find Contact The Superdelegates: