February 27, 2008
may the best votes win!
Regardless of who "wins" the Democratic primary elections next week, neither candidate will win enough delegates to win the nomination. All that will happen is that both will win more delegates in proportion to the vote. If the races are close, this means there will be no major net change, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's delegate stalemate will remain with neither a clear winner.
Unfortunately, the endless debates, countless vote counts, and exciting predictions make the process seem a lot more democratic than it really is.
However, Americans are now waking up to the ugly secret that in the Democratic Party, some votes (those of the superdelegates) count more than other votes. A lot more:
Clinton, former president Bill Clinton (a superdelegate himself) and their allies have been working aggressively for months to court the superdelegates, drawing on old loyalties to open a huge advantage for the senator from New York in total delegates amassed.More here from Sean Gonsalves of the Cape Cod Times:
What if Clinton and Obama are neck-and-neck on the delegate count going into the convention and the superdelegates aren't just a deciding factor but the deciding factor? What if the Clinton super delegate "firewall" trend continues and these super delegates end up crowning Hillary king, even though Obama gets more votes?That was written on February 11, and right now, I'd say the "what if" is looking more and more like a political certainty.
What has become increasingly obvious (even to political outsiders) is that because the votes in the remaining primaries will not be enough to put either candidate over the magic number, this race will be decided by a few hundred people -- known collectively as "the superdelegates."
I'd say the smoke-filled rooms are back! But I can't say that, because today's Democratic Party activists are about as tolerant of smoking as Iranian mullahs are of gay disco dancing. Maybe no-smoking-sign-filled rooms.
This is shaping up to be an all-out war, waged delegate by delegate.
They could have saved them the trouble by not bothering with the primaries, and just let the party insiders decide who gets it. I can't think of a better way to create a permanent rupture than allowing a class of young, starry-eyed idealists not only to vote for the candidate of their dreams (a man they consider the literal embodiment of "hope") , but then actually see him win democratically, and in a crowning blow, finally see hope destroyed in the most undemocratic manner imaginable.
To fuel the animosity this shattering of hope will cause, there will doubtless be lots of individual horror stories about idealistic delegates who found themselvse forced to switch sides.
The more I read about superdelegates, the more I shudder at the thought of being one.
Exactly who are these people? Some 800 strong, they are by no means experienced players of political hardball, yet Hillary Clinton has hired the hardest of the hardballers (Harold Ickes) to do precisely that. The hardball game has barely started, but already, there are numerous stories of what is euphemistically being called "aggressive lobbying."
As the LA Times relates, many of the superdelegates were not prepared for what seems to be their fate:
Some superdelegates are wondering themselves about the power they may exert.Millin, BTW, is described as an ophthalmologist who "fits people for glasses and performs cataract operations." A couple of other examples:
Debbie Marquez owns a restaurant whose specialty is chicken enchiladas in creamy jalapeno sauce. Christopher Stampolis is looking for a job now that the industrial recycling company where he worked for the last decade closed.Hey, spreading a little cash around might work wonders. And between now and August, there should be plenty of cash to spread.
Forgive my cynicism, but I'm wondering out loud whether any of these 800 people might have skeletons in their, um, closets.
You don't think Ickes and his ilk might hire
That would be very undemocratic, but Im not the first to wonder out loud, as did this anonymous commenter at Ben Smith's blog:
Does anyone remember Harold Ickes? He is baaaaaaaaaaack! He is the absolute and definitive dirtmeister. He was the person floating that rumor that Lewinski was a poor, disturbed, unsettled stalker. Just another stupid woman who idolized BC. Until that poor, disturbed, stupid, unsettled stalker turned up with that, gag!, blue dress.While there are already reports of dirt digging ("Hillary Clinton campaign using detectives to investigate the private lives of the Super Delegates"), Allah dismisses the idea as impractical:
How would this work, though? She's not going to blackmail 600-700 people, let alone powerful party insiders, and if she gets wiped out on March 4 in Texas and Ohio that's about how many of them are going to break Obama's way. Unless she's counting on a down-to-the-wire race where a handful can be flipped, this is crap. Rose-scented crap, but crap.Thomas Elias looks at these relatively obscure people, and asks some questions:
There's no known moral dirt on any of these people. But none was elected by anyone as a convention delegate. Many got their seats on the DNC as rewards for longtime party activism and fund-raising, with no one seriously expecting they would have anything much to do with choosing a president.While it doesn't much matter what I want, I think it might be helpful to take a little pressure off these people by coming up with some sort of rule that their votes should reflect the majority. But it may be too late for that.
With the Democrats' "dirty delegate secret" now out of the bag, it should be interesting to watch what happens.
What happens if cash and "aggressive lobbying" don't work? At what point does "aggressive lobbying" cross a line and become something akin to extortion?
I think the guys who learned the hardball game decades ago would do well to remember that overpressured, aggressively lobbied, and disgruntled superdelegates can do things like start whistle-blowing blogs (something impossible in the old days).
I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know this. When I predicted that Hillary would not go gently into the good night, I think I might have been understating the case.
UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, especially for the quote, and a warm welcome to all.
Comments always appreciated -- agree or disagree.
posted by Eric on 02.27.08 at 09:18 AM
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