In some circles a lot is being made of the deal on Superdelegates that was made in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention. Let’s give it a closer look.
The deal isn’t really much of a deal. It is more like an agreement to investigate the matter. The idea of Superdelegates came out earlier Democratic Conventions where all the delegates were elected for each quadrennial gathering. Like most things it was a compromise. Those who wanted a more open process got a situation where an average Joe or Jane had a better shot at being selected as a delegate. The “professionals” got a system where they automatically had a check of sorts against an insurrection while letting the politicians play politics. If the Republicans had Superdelegates they may have been able to stop Trump.
If you want to be a delegate to a national convention the process starts at your precinct meetings or in caucus states your caucus meeting. You get elected to be a representative at your local county convention. (That is not very difficult.) At the County Convention you get elected to be a delegate to your Congressional District Convention, (still relatively easy). At that convention you get elected to State Convention. (This will take a little work, but is generally achievable.) Now comes the difficult part, at the State Convention you get selected to be a delegate to the National Convention. At this stage there are always more people who want to serve than slots to be filled. Also the national campaigns start to get involved at this level and without their backing your chances diminish. The national campaigns want to promote the candidacies of people they feel will support them at the big show.
Pre-Superdelegates another factor came into play at the State Convention – name recognition. What chance did John Q. Citizen stand against say a former President or the current State Party Chair? The solution for the past several decades has been to make those guys and gals automatic delegates. What the political pros got in exchange was that the Superdelegates went to the National Convention unbound to any candidate.
The Bernie forces extracted a concession that a 21 member committee which would convene “No later than 60 days” after the 2016 election. The co-chairs are a person from the Bernie and Hillary camps. The committee is charged with submitting a plan to the entire Democratic National Committee (DNC), which is the only body with the power to change the rules, by no later than January 1, 2018.
First, let’s look at the timing. Nothing changes for this election. The committee probably won’t hold more than a single meeting in the first 60 days. We are dealing with time off after an exhausting election, the lame duck session of Congress, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, New Year’s and most likely the preparations for the inauguration of a Democratic president. It is difficult for me to envision the committee getting off to a flying start.
Now let’s look at the motivation. Personally Hillary Clinton really doesn’t care. If she loses in 2016 her political career is over. If she wins and has a good first term no Democrat in their right mind will challenge her in 2020. If she has a bad first term and still decides to run the general election, not the primary, will be her big worry. I will be very surprised if Bernie Sanders ever runs for the presidency again! Therefore personally he doesn’t care. However I think it has always been more about principle than personal for him.
Now let’s look at any already agreed upon guideline. Sitting Democratic Governors, Senators and House members will still be Superdelegates and unbound going into the Convention. Other Superdelegates may or may not continue to exist, but they will be bound by the primary voters’ wishes. Assuming Democrats occupy about half of those elected positions we are still dealing with about 275 to 300 Superdelegates regardless of what happens with the other slots. The wisdom in this guideline is that the elected officials are unbound and theoretically at least can horsetrade to get the best possible deal for their constituents.
There are two other factors being discussed by this committee: the openness of primaries and the elimination of caucuses. In the interest of brevity that will have to be the topic for another day.
Here is the true bottom line gleaned from my experiences in organized Democratic politics. Especially considering the time delay, there is a very good chance the committee will report back to the body in late 2017 and the report will simply be rejected and sent back to committee. In the long run there is a very good chance this is a deal that will never change anything.
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