Friday, February 15, 2008

Florida, Michigan, Superdelegates

I'm someone following the election pretty closely, and still not all the intricacies of the nominating process are clear to me. I'll discuss "superdelegates" first, and then Florida and Michigan.
Superdelegates were introduced by the Democratic Party starting in 1984. The Party had been shaken first by the resounding defeat of the anti-war candidate George McGovern in 1972 and then by the self-nomination of the outsider Carter in 1976. Superdelegates are elected officials, government employees, Party officials, and other Democratic bigwigs, appointed delegates by the Party. They make up 20% of the delegates at the convention, unpledged to any candidate. Thus they can throw their weight behind whoever they choose, thus an insurgent can be stopped. This same thinking on the Republican side was responsible for the virtual appointment of George W. Bush in 2000, to forestall the emergence of more radical candidates such as Huckabee. On the GOP side one wonders what the real lesson is, considering that the only radical outsider to gain the Republican nomination since WWII was Ronald Reagan. On the Democratic side, even though I am still supporting Senator Clinton for the nomination, I'm on the side of the Obama campaign on this issue. I don't like superdelegates, I am a believer in grassroots democracy and I think the nominee ought to be the one who carried majorities in most precincts.
The situation with Florida and Michigan is a huge mess and I wonder who is really responsible for this. The DNC decided to punish Florida and Michigan for moving up their primaries by refusing to seat their delegations at the convention. (The problems with the primary process I have discussed in other posts.) But this decision is disastrous on the face of it. Florida and Michigan are, both of them, absolute must-win states for the Democrats. 1.3 million+ voters participated in the Democratic primary in Florida. It is out of the question that Florida and Michigan would not participate in the nomination. Obama's best option: move to hold the Florida and Michigan primaries again. Advantage in money and momentum.

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