I've been reading a lot for the past couple months, but much more lately about Bernie Sanders supporters complaining about superdelegates and how unfair and undemocratic it is.
I have mixed feelings about the Democratic Party's superdelegate rule, though overall I think I like it as a good "balance-of-power" mixture. Honestly, as much as "leave it to the people" is the mantra for supporting that primary voting be the sole way to determine the party nominee, I have problems with that, as well, and it's not evenly "democratic." For starters, I think that beginning the primary season with Iowa and New Hampshire gives heavy weighting to two small states that aren't especially representative of the party. And Super Tuesday has, I think, unfairly given big advantages to the best-financed campaigns and stretches campaigns very thin. And further, some states award delegates by "winner-take-all," which is contrary to the one-man/one-vote concept of democracy. So, yes, superdelegates are less purely-democratic than primaries, but I'm not convinced the imbalance is that much more problematic than the alternative.
Perspective is also important, and it helps keep a variety of other factors in mind.
For one, the superdelegate rule has been in operation in the Democratic Party for 48 years. It's not something that sneaks up on the primaries unexpected. And all candidates know going in that it's the rule, so you adjust your campaigns accordingly.
While the superdelegate process does favor establishment candidates more, at least at the beginning (which ultimately was the point of it), it's important to remember that, unlike primary delegates, superdelegates are not locked in to any single candidate, and can change their support at any time. So, the less-established candidate has the opportunity to get superdelegates to change. If a less-established candidate does especially well during the primaries, that can help him or her make their case to get superdelegate support.
Also, while there are valid arguments against having superdelegates, the time to debate them and consider change is during the mid-term, not once the primary season is in full-operation, or even right before they start. Set your rules early on so that all candidates know how the contest is going to be played.
For all the understandable complaints about the superdelegate rule by Bernie Sanders for it providing more votes currently to Hillary Clinton, it's good for Sanders-supporters of President Obama to keep history in mind and remember that in 2008 Barack Obama was helped to the nomination by winning superdelegates with a margin of 2-to-1. Over Hillary Clinton. So, superdelegates aren't inherently a bad thing when you're able to get them to work in your favor, which Mr. Sanders -- an early critic -- has said he now will try to do, to get those same superdelegates, as well.
It's also good to keep in mind that the Republican Party does not have superdelegates, and they have wound up with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as their options to lead the party.
And for that matter, as much as it's pointed out that relying in part on superdelegates is not one-man/ one-vote democratic -- neither is how we elect the President of the United States. Not only is the presidency decided by winner-take-all electoral votes in each state, but the actual determination is not by the voters but by "electors" in the Electoral College.
The point here is that while the superdelegate rule may be flawed, and might not be one-man/one-vote democratic, and arguably should be changed -- it may also not be as problematic as it is perceived and offers value in the process. Whether the value is more than than the issues is worth being discussed. But discussed when nothing is imminently at stake.
And in the end, the result might be that the rule is a very reasonable thing. Perhaps with tweaks to it, as has happened over the years, or not.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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