Do Super Delegates Wear Capes and How Do You Count in Huckamath?

BlogHer Original Post

Super delegates, pledged delegates, automatic delegates, miracle delegates... 2008 is the year of delegate madness in both the Democratic and Republican races for their party's nomination.

Relatively few voters participate in the nomination process and much fewer still are involved in the the business of the party. Also, in recent election history, nominees have been chosen relatively swiftly and thus the specifics of party rules are generally not apparent to anyone outside of party officials. However, the very close race between Senators Clinton and Obama and the Quixotic quest of Governor Huckabee have thrust arcane party rules to the forefront of election '08.

Let's start with the Republican side. On the campaign trail today, Mike Huckabee is explaining how 'Huckamath" works. His logic is, if he can win Texas he can deny Senator McCain the ability of arriving at the convention with enough delegates to claim the nomination outright, the nominee will then be made at the convention and by virtue of his superior conservative record, he will be chosen as the Republican nominee. Huckabee points to the fact that delegate count totals vary by media outlet as an indication that McCain's delegate superiority is not as sure as it might seem.

Earlier, Huckabee said "I didn't major in math, I majored in miracles." BlogHers are a tad skeptical of Huckabee's Course in Miracles:

Jill Zimmon of Writes Like She Talks says:

When it comes to who I want to be the president and how I’d want them to govern, miracles as a general proposition for how to get things done just doesn’t cut it.

Kim Winter of From Where I Stand offers:

Well, Mike, I didn't major in math either, but when I was in college learning how to teach children math (Thanks Dr. Williams) we learned how to use manipulatives to help children understand. So here's an activity that might help with the math issue: put 825 M&M's on a plate (for McCain) and 240 M&M's on a plate (for Huckabee) and see who has more M&M's. I know a group of toddlers who would understand if Mike is interested in extra help.

The delegate situation on the Democratic side is far more complicated.

Let's begin with a bit of a civics lesson. Many voters are upset by various aspects of the nominating process and role of delegates that have come to the forefront this season. Political parties are private parties. You have no constitutionally guaranteed voting rights with regard to political parties. They get to decide the rules and enforce the rules and Democrats are not democrats. So those of you voters who participate in the party's business no further than voting and who are upset with caucuses vs. primaries, non-seated delegations, late primaries that generally don't count or the other party messing you up by moving up your primary date - your main recourse is to get involved with the party and change the rules and to vote the other party out (I'm looking at you Florida).

On to the current controversy and confusion.

As Mike Huckabee points out, who has how many delegates depends on which media outlet you are checking so it's difficult to get even basic information precisely. The New York Times explains how they are calculating Democratic delegates.

Pledged delegates are those delegates elected to vote for a particular candidate at the convention. Pledged delegates however are not bound to vote for whom they are pledged. Thus there were some trial balloons floated about the idea of pursuing pledged delegates should the nomination decision make it to the convention. However, pledged delegates will likely all vote for the nominee should he or she be chosen prior to the convention. Otherwise they votes will be pursued just like those of super delegates.

The super delegate system came into being after the nominations of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter. They were perceived as more liberal and outsiders not in the mainstream of the Democratic party and so a system of party elders was enacted in order to provide wisdom and guidance to ensure candidates perceived as more viable would gain the nomination. For instance, ensuring the nomination of Walter Mondale rather than Gary Hart in 1984.

Super delegates were created specifically to apply their wisdom in order to choose a nominee that the party perceives as most viable in the general election. However this year, many voters and party officials want super delegates to vote for whomever has the most votes . Many super delegates who initially supported Hillary Clinton when she was the clear front runner are being pressured to switch their support to Barack Obama as he now leads in votes and as some of those super delegates represent districts which voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

What do you think? Should super delegates ratify the popular vote, should they vote along with their districts or should they vote their consciouses?

Resources and further reading:

Delegate tracker, super delegate names and endorsements and updated information at 2008 Democratic Convention Watch

Why Superdelegates Should Be Welcomed, Not Feared from the Brookings Institute

From the New York Times:

Not surprisingly, Democratic primary voters had an opinion on the appropriate role of the 795 superdelegates who could determine the party’s nominee. More than half said that these party leaders should vote for the candidate who received the most votes in the primaries and caucuses.

Geraldine A. Ferraro on her role in creating the super delegate process and thoughts on their role in this election.

Black Ohioans Backing Clinton Feel the Pressure to Switch
Ohio congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones on why she's sticking with Hillary
Jill Miller Zimon on staying loyal
Ebony Mom on freedom of choice for super delegates

Bob Herbert on some of the difficult decisions super delegates might face after Tuesday

Elaine Kamarck of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government on the history of super delegates

Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation on "The Tyranny of Super-Delegates"

And Pamela Gentry of in "The Super Delegate Debate Continues" writes:

And the question of whether super delegates will make the call, Conyers said, “no one is going to stand for that.” We can’t go back to the days of smoke-filled rooms, where a few party heavyweights would decide who the nominee would be. That won’t work in 2008.”

BlogHer CE Maria Niles blogs politics at PopConsumer


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