Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Is the Race for the Democratic Nominee Out of the People's Hands?

With the large number of so-called Super Delegates, it may very well be. Here's John Aravosis over at AmericaBlog:
Obama has the most delegates by virtue of your votes, our citizens. But Hillary has the lead in total delegates, 783-709. How is that possible? Because of a bunch of Democratic party officials got together and decided that they prefer Hillary, so they gave her the lead in spite of the fact that you, the voters, gave Obama the lead.
For a bit more of an explanation of the history of Super Delegates, check out this bit from Matt Bai's piece on generational incursions into back-room politics from this last Sunday's NYTimes Magazine:
These are the roughly 800 Democratic Party insiders — elected officials, state chairmen, national committee members — who will make up about a fifth of the total delegate count at the convention and who can vote for any candidate they want, regardless of what the voters in primaries and caucuses have said. Superdelegates were invented by the Democrats after the 1980 election in the expectation that in any future close nomination race, they would line up behind the establishment candidate and head off the possibility of a ruinous floor fight at the convention.

I recently got a short history lesson about this from Gary Hart, who pointed out what he called “eerie parallels” between his near-upset of Walter Mondale in 1984 and Obama’s campaign against Clinton. Not least among them was that Clinton had actually gone back and unearthed Mondale’s signature line: “Where’s the beef?” (It came from a Wendy’s commercial that was all the rage at the time, but it’s doubtful that anyone under 30 had any idea what she was talking about.) Hart reminded me that by beating Mondale in the California primary, just weeks before the convention, he denied the former vice president the delegates he needed for the nomination. Had it not been for the existence of the superdelegates, who lined up behind Mondale, Hart could actually have swiped the nomination.


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