Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Super-Duper, Party-Pooper Delegates

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Super delegates, those elected officials guaranteed seats and a substantial influence at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, are the result of party rule changes that came about in 1982 - a time that the Democratic Party was still reeling from Ronald Reagan's big victory over an incumbent Democrat - and the big wins that the Reagan landslide brought to both the House and the Senate.  Certain party elders felt that Carter had interrupted the natural flow of the universe when he seized the nomination in 1976, and they wanted to put some safeguards in place that would help to minimize the role that actual voters got to play in the process of selecting a presidential candidate.  The Old Guard new best.

Democratic Representative Tony Coehlo who was head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) at the time the rules were changed, reflected on the new super delegate system in 1984 by saying, "Elected officials don't control the convention, but they have a tremendous influence."

Tremendous, indeed.

This year, of course, many in the Democratic Party are expressing disgust with the super delegate system, airing their view that it was established to quell popular support for insurgent candidates and ensure the safety of the staid and tired status quo.  Their disgruntlement with what many see as a rigged convention may at least lead to some modifications in the super delegate system - if the Sanders supporters can maintain their heat and rage as "the Bern" itself slowly flickers out.

Ironically, as the Democratic Party contemplates opening its windows to a bit more actual democracy, the Republican Party seems to be heading in the opposite direction.  The Republicans, having just gone through a primary season dominated by crazies and seeing the craziest of them all preparing to accept the party crown at the convention, would like to place some serious limitations on the power that ordinary voters wield in selecting the candidate.  Super delegates, anyone?

So as the Democrats slowly shift back toward democracy, and the Republicans begin to quietly goosestep toward autocracy, it would seem that God must be back from Her latest visit to the skee ball parlor - and things are getting right with the universe!

Now, if we could just get rid of Debbie Whatshername Schultz!

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

A brief but solid history of the "reform" of delegate selection in the Democratic Party was written by Elaine Karmack, This piece was adapted from her doctoral dissertation in Political Science at the University of California in 1986.

Congressional leaders were upset that the delegate selection process was so rigid. "“We in the House, as the last vestige of Democratic Control at the national level, believe we have a special responsibility to develop new innovative approaches that respond to our Party’s constituencies." (Testimony before the Hunt Commission, November 6, 1981)."

Those constituencies had their voice. It was the feminist camp that coined the term "Super Delegate." Kennedy supporters opposed the changes while Mondale supporters, including Geraldine Ferraro, favored the negotiated changes.

Flexibility to changing circumstances and a desire to let the party leadership lead led to the changes. “We must also give our convention more flexibility to respond to changing circumstances and, in cases where the voters’ mandate is less than clear, to make a reasoned choice. One step in this direction would be to loosen the much-disputed “binding” Rule 11 (H) as it applies to all delegates. An equally important step would be to permit a substantial number of party leader and elected official delegates to be selected without requiring a prior declaration of preference. We would then return a measure of decision-making power and discretion to the organized party and increase the incentive it has to offer elected officials for serious involvement.” (Remarks of Governor Jim Hunt, Institute of Politics, JFK School of Government, December 15, 1981)"