My Renewed Faith in the Democratic Party
A few years ago (2016) right after Hillary Clinton won the democratic primaries, I was at a cocktail party where the host was Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York. She was there supporting several democratic candidates running for office in New York but opened up a question and answer session where we could presumably ask whatever we wanted.
I raised my hand and said that I although I am a registered Independent, I generally supported the Democratic party but took great offense to the 719 superdelegates in the Democratic Party who are not part of the proportional representation system (Note: In the Democratic Party, there are delegates – also called pledged delegates – and superdelegates. Pledged delegates are elected while superdelegates are designated or assigned. Under a proportional representation system in the Democratic Party, the pledged delegates (4,055) are awarded proportionately to the candidates based on the primary election results where the “one person, one vote” rules. Superdelegates (719 that cast 715 votes because several are half-votes) are not part of the proportional representation system. They include 438 elected members of the Democratic Party, 20 “distinguished” members of the party including past presidents, congressmen/women (193), senators (47), and governors (21). These superdelegates are not pledged and can support any candidate they want, even if another candidate in their district won the primary (under the one person, one vote rule).
I said that the system was unfair and that the existence of superdelegates reminded me of the book, “Animal Farm,” the timeless satire that made what appeared to be a democracy a joke with the theme “some animals are more equal than others.”
Congresswoman Maloney answered by giving me a history of the superdelegates who were created in 1982, which was interesting but didn’t address my concern. So, I proceeded to restate my concern asking why the Democratic Party needed 715 votes to be independent of what the people want? While I was asking this question, several men across the room were trying to hush me by putting their finger over their mouth but I wasn’t having it. I knew the reason the superdelegates existed was because the high-ranking democrats wanted to maintain some control over the nominating process. Just in case the people don’t vote to nominate a candidate to their liking, the superdelegates could come in and potentially swing the results to nominate a democratic presidential candidate who did not receive the majority of votes in the primaries.
The congresswoman went on to explain that superdelegates are needed to give grass-roots activists an opportunity claiming that party leaders could win primaries based on name recognition. I pointed out the opposite also holds true. The superdelegates keep the party leaders in power and can potentially block a grass-roots activist from obtaining the nomination the voters support. The problem is that superdelegates have more power than delegates (because they are not bound by the voters) and that in and of itself is undemocratic.
And, finally Congresswoman Maloney told me she was proud that Hillary Clinton won the democratic party nomination because Bernie Sanders was a socialist. I completely disagreed (it didn’t matter what he was, the process of choosing a candidate was unfair because almost all of the superdelegates put their support behind Hillary Clinton prior to the primaries in their voting districts).
The superdelegates are the antithesis of the democratic process that we hold close to our hearts in this country. With the exception of the democratic party leaders in 2016 and Hillary Clinton, the majority of people believe that the principle of “one person, one vote” is sacred to maintaining a democracy. Let the people speak. Respect the “one person, one vote” rule in which our votes are equal. All delegates should be elected, not awarded and every delegate should reflect the sentiments of whose who elected them.
So, finally, two years later, the Democratic Party made history yesterday by taking away the power of the superdelegates. My hat goes off to DNC Chairman Jorge Perez, Senator Bernie Sanders and all of the people who fought to make the democratic party more democratic. It’s long overdue.
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I agree this change is huge and necessary. I think it will also help get the best people elected at all levels (federal, state, and even local) instead of the party leaders picks. I hope the Democratic Party keeps changing. I think the next step is to get fresh leadership in congress (be it majority or minority). I applaud you for persisting with the question at the party.