Posted by: Brian | February 7, 2008

The ’08 Democratic Presidential Nominee Won’t Be Decided By The Voters

To the delight of the Republican Party, with the direction the 08 Democratic Presidential Primary is heading, it is now almost a certainty that the Democratic Party’s nominee will be selected by someone other than the voters. That someone, that undemocratic someone will either be the DNC’s Superdelegates or their Credentials Committee.

The first possibility, the Superdelegates (or “unpledged delegate” to use the official term), is sure to become the political buzzword of month. There’s a quick rundown of what a superdelegate is, via Wikipedia:

“The 2008 Democratic National Convention, where the Democratic presidential ticket is formally agreed upon, has 796[2] superdelegates, although the number is not final until March 1, 2008. Superdelegates to the Democratic Convention include all 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.’[3] A list of superdelegates can be found here.”

(continued after the fold)

Additionally, for reference purposes I’ve included the current delegate numbers on the side graphic from 2008 Democratic Convention Watch (great site, full of info and definitely worth checking out.)

Now, 796 is roughly a fifth of all the delegate votes at the Convention. That means, with the likelihood that we will not have an undisputed front runner going into the convention in August, these 796 superdelegates will be the ones to decide who gets the nomination and not delegates legally bound by the votes of a primary or caucus (aka “pledged delegates”).

And what will be the result if this happens? Well, from Roger Simon’s excellent article yesterday on the subject “Dems head for messy nomination process“:

“It is easy to imagine that Barack Obama could get to Denver with more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton, but that she could get the nomination based on the votes of the superdelegates.

‘And that,’ a senior Obama aide told me Tuesday night, ‘would create havoc.’

Pledged delegates are those won in primaries and cacucuses. Superdelegates are party big-shots. “

That’s right, “havoc” – but wait, it gets worse.

796 is assuming that delegates from Florida and Michigan are not counted. But have no illusions – there is still a good chance that they still might get a seat at the convention. The Clinton camp has already made it public that they are going to fight for them. From yesterday’s Huffington Post:

“The Associated Press reported on Jan. 27 that Clinton had already vowed to try to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates: ‘I will try to persuade my delegates to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida,’ Clinton said at a campaign stop in Tennessee before flying to Sarasota.”

And via MyDD, Howard Dean, when given the opportunity to definitively say no to including MI and FL delegates yesterday, leads me to the second group who could be giving me my party’s nominee:

“Yesterday on MSNBC, Chris Matthews tried to get Howard Dean to say whether the Florida and Michigan delegates would be seated. As you’d expect, Dean punted, instead leaving it at ‘it will be decided by the credentials committee late in the process’ and stressing that he does not want this to go all the way to the convention.”

The Democratic National Convention’s Credentials Committee, by deciding whether or not to allow Florida and Michigan’s delegates to be counted, could very likely pick our party’s nominee this summer should the primary play out that Senator Barack Obama in the delegate lead prior to their decision. From Marc Ambinder’s report yesterday, “What Will Happen To Florida And Michigan?“:

“The DNC’s credentials committee meets this summer, probably in July, and it is not clear which candidate’s representatives will be in control: the committee’s seats are allocated through a formula linked to the candidate’s performances in the states. If the committee winds up being controlled by Hillary Clinton – if, that is, she has a delegate lead in July, the Florida and Michigan delegations will be credentialed.

But if Barack Obama controls the credentials committee, and his committee is given the opportunity to deny Hillary Clinton delegates from Michigan and Florida that could put her over the top – that’s his prerogative.”

Wow. So now its more important to control a committee than to have the most pledged delegates?

The point of all this is that since the primary is so close, one of these two groups composed of the Democratic leadership — the superdelegates or the credentials committee — will be the body that decides who will become the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential nominee. And not the voters. Prior to today, I believed that the largest flaw in our electoral system was the leapfrogging of states for earlier primary dates. But now it is clear that I was wrong. The Democratic Party can’t get much more undemocratic than not letting the people decide.

To be fair to my Democratic leadership, there is some movement to put a band-aid on this broken bone. Dean quoted via The Page:

“The idea that we can afford to have a big fight at the convention and then win the race in the next eight weeks, I think, is not a good scenario. So, after the primaries are over, the last primary is June 8th in Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico I think, there may be another state with there – and after that if we don’t have a nominee, I think we will have a nominee sometime in the middle of March or April. But if we don’t, then we’re going to have to get the candidates together and make some kind of an arrangement. Because I don’t think we can afford to have a brokered convention, that would not be good news for either party.”

Will this fix anything? Probably not. See, the fix now floating around is to have Michigan and Florida have a “redo” so to speak. The DNC would pretend that the first election didn’t really happen and then have another that would be in the form of a caucus. From the Macomb Daily:

“Democratic National Committee officials have discussed the prospect of having Michigan and Florida conduct Democratic caucuses in the coming weeks that would nullify those states’ January primary results and award delegates to the national convention based on a second election.”

A second election in the form of a caucus would most likely be a big Obama win for two reasons. One, he lost in both states the last time and if the vote on record is counted Clinton wins; two, Obama has already done well in caucuses and would probably do so again. (On a side note, if two primaries with large turnouts are overruled by “redo” caucuses with small turnouts this will also be another example of how our system is broken.)

The most likely outcome will be that some form of fix will be proclaimed by the Democratic Leadership loud enough for the media to pick it up and long enough for the public to forget that system isn’t really fixed. After all, this is about perceptions and we Democrats don’t want to be perceived as divided going into the national election. Is this undemocratic? Yes. But hey, that’s just how the sausage, er – I mean Democratic nominee is made. It’s not personal, strictly politics.



  1. […] sported a Fred Thompson sticker on his car (next to one for Mark Warner), is not enthusiastic about where the fight for his party’s nomination is headed: The point of all this is that since the primary is so close, one of these two groups composed of […]

  2. My fellow on Orkut shared this link with me and I’m not dissapointed that I came here.

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