The Moral Imperative For Super Delegates: The Will Of the People
It is my expectation that at the end of this process, Barack Obama will have had more voters go to primaries and caucuses expressing support for him than Hillary Clinton. In short, I believe Barack Obama will win the popular vote and thus his likely nomination will reflect the will of the people.
I imagine the above paragraph will be viewed as a strange opening graf to defend Hillary Clinton’s right, indeed, duty, to fight to see that all the votes are counted. But there it is. I believe the Democratic nominee should be the choice of the People (as defined by the Democratic Party, the electorate eligible to vote for our Democratic nominee in the nominating contests). As Jeralyn’s post below conclusively demonstrates, there is virtually no moral imperative in terms of the Will of The People attached to the pledged delegate count. Not only is it fundamentally flawed and undemocratic, the pledged delegate count has no rules based mandate either. So when Barack Obama trumpets his so called winning of a majority of the pledged delegates (excluding Florida and Michigan), it is an entirely trumped up metric, as Jeff Toobin of CNN pointed out. As for the popular vote, even opponents of Hillary Clinton, as Greg Sargent points out, like Hendrik Hertzberg are forced to concede the moral weight of the popular vote:
[T]he popular vote, however juridically meaningless, carries immense moral and political weight with Democrats, for whom the 2000 travesty is a station of the cross and vote-counting a kind of sacrament. The superdelegates understand this. That’s why it has been clear all along that if one of the candidates is able to claim an indisputable majority of actual flesh-and-blood Democrats it will be difficult to deny him—or her—the nomination.
I agree with Hertzberg on that. But of course, Hillary can not be allowed to escape unscathed, even when she has a point. Thus Hertzberg, sadly, feels compelled to treat a fight to COUNT the votes as an evil act:
In an eerie echo of the “Brooks Brothers riot” depicted in the HBO movie, when shouting Bush operatives and Republican congressional staffers who had been dispatched to Florida managed to shut down the Miami-Dade County recount, CNN reported on Thursday that Clinton supporters “are planning to swarm the capital in a little over a week to pressure Democratic Party leaders as they gather to decide the fate of the Florida and Michigan delegations.” In 2000, the candidate most willing to deploy principles and trash them, according to the tactical needs of the moment, was awarded the prize. In 2008, maybe not.
Hertzberg equates a protest to COUNT the vote with a Republican operation to STOP THE COUNT of votes. But this is the landscape we occupy now. Up is down. Paul Krugman is evil and deranged. Andrew Sullivan is wise and progressive. Counting votes is bad. Not counting them is good.
Of course, Hertzberg’s article is an attempt to deflate a point that he knows is powerful - count the votes. The value of the popular vote. And in order to do this, he seems intent on delegitimizing Clinton’s perfectly honorable efforts to have the votes counted. And by delegitimizing the popular vote total in this contest, Hertzberg is implicitly arguing that the moral imperative for super delegates is to follow the pledged delegate leader, even though it is, in Hertzberg’s words, “juridically meaningless.” And we also know it is morally meaningless as well because the pledged delegate selection process is fundamentally flawed and undemocratic. It does not provide the imprimatur of the Will of the People.
Indeed, these glaring flaws have been, sadly, studiously avoided by the Media and major blogging figures. None have examined the pledged delegate system and how it is Obama came to hold a lead under that system. A look at the system leads to the inexorable conclusion that it is utterly undemocratic and flawed.
Both in ways intentional and unintentional, votes are diluted and over represented. And in many cases in contradictory ways. In Nevada and Iowa, rural voters are given extra weight, in Texas, urban voters given extra weight.
And just by awarding delegates by Congressional district, the DNC has chosen to dilute votes - 2-2 districts versus 3-2 districts is the most obvious example. A candidate can win 61% of the vote in a 2-2 district and get a split of the delegates while another candidate could get 50.1% of the vote in a 3-2 district and get a 3-2 split of the vote.
Consider also the absurdity of Texas’ dual primary and caucus system which proved just how disenfranchising the pledged delegate selection system is. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 100,000 votes. Then a second contest was organized, from a smaller subset of the larger electorate which voted in the primary, to participate in a caucus. Obama won the undemocratic, voter excluding contest. Clinton won the democratic, voter inclusive one. Obama lost Texas according to the will of the People but got the most delegates. Thus, the DNC sanctioned voter dilution. There is not other word for it. If this system were submitted to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, it would be laughed at and thrown out on its ear. And yet this is not worthy of even a mention from Hendrick Hertzberg, or indeed, anyone at all in the Media.
Leaving all that aside, the question is what should the Super Delegates do if there is not clear expression of the Will of The People? In my view, vote their conscience. Consider whatever legitimate factors they deem relevant. Including, electability in November.
And it goes to this final point. while it is my belief that the Super Delegates will now go for Barack Obama no matter what, in fact Obama has NOT clinched the nomination. By any rules based metric. He has not achieved 2026 delegates nor 2210.
But Hillary Clinton is treated as delusional, evil even, for staying in the race and making her case. To me that is the ultimate grotesqueness of all of this. That someone who is playing by the rules and fighting for her supporters and views is treated as a scourge. All because they want the votes counted.
Yes there was an earlier episode when something like this occurred. In 2000. And the person who suffered this type of abuse was named Al Gore. History repeats itself.
By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only.
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