The Super Delegate System of the Democratic Primary was designed solely to protect the Democratic Party establishment
Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary by a landslide victory and made history by winning the most votes ever in a N.H. primary. Yet, because of the Democratic party’s use of the “super delegates” system, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ended up with the same number of delegates (15-15). With two super delegates still undecided in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton could still win more delegates from N.H. even though she lost the popular vote by a 20% margin.
Delegates are elected by voters to represent a candidate at the Democratic National Convention, where the Democratic nominee will be elected and formally announced. Most of these delegates will be chosen by the people, but the Democratic National Committee sets apart approximately 712 delegates (super delegates) to vote whichever way they want, regardless of the popular vote.
The problem with the super delegate system is it’s elitist nature and willingness to undermine the popular vote. In a recent interview with CNN, DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz explained that the super delegate system exists to protect the party leaders from voting against the Democratic establishment. As Vox explains, the super delegate system was created to give the party leadership more control after a revolt led by Senator Ted Kennedy threatened to undermine the incumbent candidacy of President Jimmy Carter
Much has been said about the role that the super delegates can play in tipping the primary race towards Hillary Clinton. Already, 362 super delegates have given Hilary Clinton an advantage in the primary race. Sanders supporters have started to lobby and petition super delegates to vote according to the results of the popular vote, and not their personal interests.
There is the possibility that if Bernie Sanders were to win more primaries and caucuses, many undecided and pro-Clinton super delegates might defect to Sanders. The same situation happened in the election of 2008, when the victory of Obama among the popular vote had become clear and evident.
Many super delegates are elected officials who stand to lose if they vote against the choice of their constituents. And then you have the factor of the growing mistrust of the progressive base towards the DNC. If the Democratic party nominates a candidate against the choice of the people, “all hell breaking lose” would be a euphemism for a revolt of progressives against the DNC.
But even elected officials in states that favor Sanders, like Vermont Sen. Patrick Lehay, have said that they will support Hillary Clinton. And the biggest concern is that super delegates might vote against the popular will should Bernie Sanders win in a narrow primary race.
There is something elitist and undemocratic about having people with such power decide who the candidate of the Democratic party should be. The Democratic party is the supposed party of progress and the little guy. But it’s undemocratic use of the super delegate system threatens to undermine the values that the Democratic party stands for. Especially when you consider that the grassroots of the Democratic party is turning much more progressive and antagonistic to many of the business interests that some of these super delegates have favored in the past and still work for.
As Lee Fang of The Intercept pointed out in recent tweets, many of the super delegates supporting Clinton are “establishment” politicians who in the past have worked and lobbied for corporate interests. One of them, Jill Alper, even worked with a lobby that worked to undermine the Affordable Care Act. In other words, the same kinds of connections that would pit these super delegates against the interests of Democratic voters in favor of their corporate connections.
I am a Bernie Sanders supporter, but I will vote for Hillary Clinton if she ends up being the Democratic candidate. While I have strong reasons to believe that Clinton’s talk on money in politics is lip service, you can’t say that she is as bad as voting Republican. Either ways, a lot of these issues that Bernie Sanders supporters are voting on cannot take place without a political revolution of the people, not the “messianism” of a leader.
But in the scenario of the super delegates undermining a Sanders victory, even under a narrow margin, I cannot condemn, neither condone, those who would write in Sanders or defect for a third party progressive candidate like Jill Stein. Clinton and #VoteBlue supporters may reasonably cry about people throwing away their vote as immature, and foolish, but they should send that same message to Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her ilk.
The Democratic National Committee has already tilted the race against Bernie Sanders. Other than the super delegate system, much has been said about the lousy debate schedule, not to mention the end of the ban on federal lobbyist contributions towards the DNC. A shame when the American public is heavily in favor of campaign finance reform and the 2016 election has become toxic for anybody with the support of lobbyists.
If the Democratic party wants to hold on to it’s increasingly progressive base, the DNC must do away with the super delegates system, and other rigged factors which threatens to undermine the chances of outsider candidates and the voice of voters.
Doing so would not only give the DNC nominee more validity before Democratic voters, but also in the general elections. In the scenario of a Clinton nomination against the popular vote, I can see Trump or Cruz making the case before the general electorate that Clinton and the Democratic party are corrupt.
Besides, don’t you think it’s ironic the GOP has a more “democratic” primary process?