Sunday, February 10, 2008

Super-delegates, democracy and the Democratic Party

The Democratic Party has a problem that’s getting quite a bit of press. It’s the super-delegate problem. It was a rule begun in 1981 for the purpose of precluding some maverick politician with absolutely NO CHANCE of winning the general election from getting the nomination. The immediate irony is this rule may preclude a black politician with EVERY CHANCE of winning the election, from winning. But, besides irony, this rule reveals a deep hypocrisy.

The Democratic Party; the name of course comes from, of course, democracy. The last three definitions in Merriam-Websters dictionary are particularly enlightening.

3 : capitalized : the principles and policies of the Democratic Party in the United States *from emancipation Republicanism to New Deal Democracy — C. M. Roberts*
4 : the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
5 : the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges

In the run for the Democratic nomination for president two thousand twenty-five delegates are needed to win out of a total 4049. Nineteen percent or 796 are “super-delegates”, delegates who can switch their vote at any time. They are non-elected delegates and come from the elite of the party, who can basically usurp the democratic election of a nominee they don’t like. You may recall George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. A socialist, George Orwell wrote this as a critique of Communism, which he despised. In there is a famous quote about some of the animals being “more equal than others”. That’s basically what we have here.

One will immediately see the contradiction between definitions 4 and 5 above and this policy of the Democratic Party. It is an abrogation of both definitions. It potentially takes away power from the “common people” of the party because they can’t be trusted and puts final control in the hands of the “ruling class”, the oligarchy of the party, if you will.

This is very consistent with implied leftist dogma that elites should be in control because they know what’s best for everyone. Democracy is a means to power, but they take care to control against the passions of the hoi polloi that could deny them their ultimate goal. I hasten to add that controlling the passions of the mob is also a very small r republican idea. It is the basis of a republican form of government. But Democrats don’t like republicanism. They believe in the popular vote, they believe in unbridled democracy albeit with constitutional protections of minority rights. They try to usurp federalism at every turn with legislation that attempts to reduce the power of the individual states.

They were very upset in 2000 when Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote. Their take was the will of the people had been superseded by an anachronistic elitist system. This super-delegate scheme is basically a scaled down version of the same idea, except worse, these people aren’t even elected. According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer “all 398 members of the Democratic National Committee are super-delegates. So, too, is every Democrat in the House and Senate, as well as every Democratic governor.”

They may have avoided this train wreck if they had adopted a winner-take-all approach to each state primary, but I guess they didn't want any of the delegates to FEEL BAD about not getting ANY votes so they put in place a system of proportional vote allocation. In the end the Republicans, who used a winner-take-all approach, ended up with a more democratic scheme than the Democrats.

This whole situation is somewhat metaphorical for what one should expect from the Democrats if and when they attain complete control of the federal government; a complicated mess.

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