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Super Delegates Donkey’s and Elephants

February 20, 2008

Super Delegates Donkey’s and Elephants

By Louis W.  Neiger


The fact that the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination, Hillary and Obama, are running such a close race is causing greater attention to be paid to the role of the Superdelegates in selecting the Democratic nominee.

In an article by Meg Kinnard Associated Press Feb. 15, 2008 Titled “Clyburn: Superdelegates should keep quiet on candidate support” House majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D) SC is quoted as saying that his fellow Democratic Superdelegates have been too quick to endorse presidential candidates and he disagrees with those who base their support on election and caucus results.  Jim Clyburn states “We’re supposed to be unpledged delegates” He continued by saying We’re supposed to be playing the role of being there as a safety valve, if something were to go wrong.”  “They are there to make whatever midcourse correction needs to be made, and that is the role that we’re supposed to play.”

It is amusing to hear the third highest-ranking Democratic Representative in the US congress basically telling average people who vote Democratic that their vote may not count as much as a Superdelegate.  Many of the Superdelegates represent NO one except themselves.  They as Superdelegates will dictate who will be the presidential nominee, possibly overriding the will of the people who vote in the Democratic Party primaries and caucuses.

What, we may be asking is, a Superdelegate in the Democrat party?

A Superdelegate that we read or hear about from the media is an informal term for some of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention.  They can also be called Party Leaders and Elected Official (PLEO) delegates and are mainly used in the Democratic Party.  Superdelegates are seated based solely on their status as current or former elected officeholders and party officials. They are free to support any candidate for the nomination, although many of them have publicly announced endorsements.

To give a little more background, right after the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party made changes in its delegate selection.   The work of the McGovern-Fraser Commission purposed changes 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 changes left some Democrats believing that the role of party leaders and elected officials had been unduly diminished, weakening the Democratic ticket. In response, the Superdelegate rule was instituted after the 1980 election. Its purpose was to accord a greater role to active politicians.

In the 1984 election, the two major contenders for the Presidential nomination were Gary Hart and Walter Mondale. Each won some primaries and caucuses. Hart was only slightly behind Mondale in the number of votes cast, but Mondale won the support of almost all the Superdelegates and became the Democratic Party nominee.

The Superdelegate has not always prevailed. In the Democratic primary of the 2004 election, Dean got an early lead in delegate counts by obtaining the support of many of the Superdelegates even before the first primaries were held. Nevertheless, John Kerry defeated Dean in a succession of primaries and caucuses and won the nomination.

Many of these democratic Superdelegates have been paid money since 2005 to support a candidate.   In an article by Foon Rhee, deputy national editor Boston Globe February 14, 2008 titled ‘Superdelegates get campaign cash’ Rhee reported that about $890,000 has been paid out and Obama’s PAC has paid out $694,000.   For that money 81 Superdelegates had announced support for Obama.  The Clinton PAC paid out $195,000 to Superdelegates.  For that money 13 Superdelegates of the 109 that received money have announced for Clinton.

At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, the 796 Superdelegates will compose approximately one-fifth of the total number of delegates.   With a total of 4,049 delegates convening in August to choose the Democratic presidential nominee, the winner has to be backed by at least 2,025.  Of the 4,049 delegates 3,253 are pledged.  These pledged delegates are those who have to back a candidate based on performances in the primaries or caucuses.  The remaining 796 are Superdelegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  These 796 Superdelegates include Democratic members of the United States Congress, Democratic governors, various additional elected officials, members of the Democratic National Committee, as well as “all 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 who will express their preference if no candidate reaches the magic figure of 2,025.

Convention delegates who are NOT Superdelegates are selected as a result of the Democratic Party primaries and caucuses in each state, voters make their choice among the contenders for the party’s nomination for President.  Delegates supporting each candidate are chosen with the ratio to their candidate’s share of the vote.  In some states, delegate’s chosen are legally required to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged on the first ballot at the convention.  After the completion first ballot they may choose another candidate if a second ballot is required.

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is getting increasingly polarized. The Democrats have traditionally relied on the support of blue-collar workers, Afro-Americans, Latinos (legal & Illegal).  Also far left fringe groups like the US communist party that disbanded around 2004 and is seeking to advance their ideology through the Democratic Party.  Many of the folks that vote in the Democratic Party do not realize other different far left groups making decisions and pushing their agendas with the Democratic Party leadership.

In the Republican Party, members of the party’s national committee automatically become delegates without being pledged to any candidate. In 2008, there will be 168 members of the Republican National Committee from each state and State Republican Chairpersons among the total of 2,380 delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention.  These delegates are the State Republican Chairpersons and National Committeepersons elected at the State conventions by County delegates elected from the different counties.  People active in the Republican Party elected these folks.  In most cases these National Committeepersons and State Chairpersons vote the way the Republican Party primaries and caucuses vote from their respective state.  Current and former elected officials are not delegates unless elected at the State Convention level to represent the state. They can endorse a candidate but have no vote unless voted in as a delegate and seated on the convention floor.

Well folks in conclusion, if you do not think your vote counts, it may not in the Democratic Party because former elected politicians who are Superdelegates that have not been chosen by the people could override yours and hundreds of thousands of other voters as stated by Rep. Clyburn “to make whatever midcourse correction needs to be made.  What can you do?  Get involved with other folks of like mind and change the Democratic Party or… change parties.

Till Next Time….

Lou Neiger has been a regular contributor to The Dutch Fork Chronicle since 2005 and published in several papers as a guest columnist in South Carolina.  Lou has worked in the Insurance Planning field since 1981 and earned his CLU designation from the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.   He and his family live in Newberry



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