Monday, February 11, 2008

Super Delegates

Little is known about the super delegates that we hear so much about. I'm going to try to unravel the mystery for those that are not aware of what they represent, who they are, and why they should get to vote at convention without being selected by the voters. If I make any substantial mistakes, I invite corrections in the comments.

Super delegates are those that hold elected office, such as Senators, members of the U.S. House of representatives, Governors, state party chair persons and others of that ilk. In the infinite wisdom of the parties, it was determined that while citizens could elect delegates to the several conventions, party leaders, senators and such should have a voice. In some cases, perhaps many, the delegation is led by the leading office holders of the parties. The Republicans have 463 delegates that are not pledged to any candidate, at least officially. Some are super delegates, others are elected delegates that chose not to declare their favorites.

The Democrats, however, have 796 super delegates. All of them are unelected, other than the fact that they were elected to their offices. It is feasible, that these insiders could vote against their own state delegates that were chosen by the voters. In the Republican race, it appears that McCain will go into the Republican convention with enough delegates to win hands down. That has been the story for many years in both parties.

Most interesting, however, is the Democrats. If Obama and Hillary get to the convention close, as they appear so far, and without a clear majority, we could see the will of the voters thrown aside by the insiders. I will not attempt to define who has the most insiders in their pockets, but with former President Clinton's wife running, one could assume that the Clinton faction may, and I say may, have the edge. It may boil down to who do you want to avoid pissing off? Clintons, or the relative newcomer, Obama.

For the politically inclined, a brokered convention hasn't happened in my memory since 1960 when the favorite, Senator Estes Kefauver was gunned down in a brokered convention by a junior Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy. Since only us old Farts remember those days, it gets more interesting than your favorite Soap Opera.

In a brokered convention, delegates that are pledged to a particular candidate, are only held to that person for a few ballots, depending on the rules of the State they represent. Most are released after two or three ballots to vote any way they want. That's when the horse trading begins. For starters, lets take the Republicans. A substantial amount of delegates were amassed by Romney, no longer in the race. Those could be thrown to whichever candidate can convince them to switch.

Operatives from the various campaigns will scout the floor, looking for a wavering delegation, hoping that they will switch the right direction. As a child, (I grew up in a very political family) We watched Eisenhower nominated, and the Kennedy/Nixon race unfold, all brokered conventions, since primaries hadn't been in vogue yet. While the Republican convention might not be as interesting, (but then again if Romney were to throw his delegates to Huckabee) that could change.

It's almost a given that neither Clinton or Obama will achieve a majority by the convention. If the professionals, (super delegates) don't swing it all one way, sit back and enjoy politics 101. It's entertainment and a serious civics lesson, all in one. Oh, and did I forget Florida and Michigan? Never in the history of this country, has a State political party been banned from a convention, with the exception of reconstruction years following the Civil War. This is totally unprecedented.

Two things can happen, or maybe three. One, the party caves in and seat the two State's delegates. Two, if they do, since Obama didn't and Clinton did campaign in those states, would the delegate count be fair? Next, one candidate or the other takes it to court. Not Florida again, please ... Last but not least, we could see the courts hold up the convention while special primary elections are held. I can't envision the democratic Party disenfranchising the whole state, especially, since the voters in those states would probably retaliate by voting Republican. Having fun yet? Just wait. It gets better.

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