For the second time in less than ten years, a candidate might win an election with fewer votes than his or, ahem, her opponent. I understand how our election process makes this possible. What I don’t understand is why we sit still for it.
I know that the United States is a republic and not a pure democracy. I understand the rules by which the Democratic National Committee (DNC) governs its presidential primaries. I can tell you as much as you want to know about superdelegates and why the DNC has them. Yet, I’m still left with a nagging question.
Why don’t we just count votes?
If Hillary Clinton wins Pennsylvania and there is no presumptive Democratic nominee by June, she could win the nomination even though Barack Obama has more delegates based on the votes of the American people. Twenty percent of the delegates at the convention are “superdelegates.” Superdelegates are Democratic governors, members of Congress, and former elected officials that can vote for whomever they darn well please. Since Obama is the new kid on the block and the Clintons became a force in Democratic politics a few minutes after the last dinosaur died, you get one guess at who has more superdelegates in her pocket.
I don’t understand why voters and the media don’t make more of a stink about this. Why doesn’t it bother people that the DNC gives so few so much power? I might understand if this sort of thing had never happened before and we were all caught off guard. But it has happened before, eight short years ago.
In the 2000 election, more people voted for Al Gore in the general presidential election. However, George W. Bush became president because of the Electoral College system, which allots a certain number of votes to each state in a winner-take-all fashion. The founding fathers established the Electoral College in 1787 because dissemination of information to the population about the candidates was too difficult and they didn’t trust the voters to make the best decision. This antiquated system removed the power from the voters in 2000. As far as I can tell, few seemed to mind. Forget crazy counting in Florida—the guy with the most votes still lost. And the American people just swallowed it.
Though the Electoral College is antiquated, at least it’s constitutional and based on the model of a Republic. Superdelegates, however, represent a kind of oligarchy where the privileged few get to decide what’s best for the rest of us. The people who elected them to public office did not knowingly empower them to decide who gets to run for president. Superdelegates vote according to their own judgment instead of the will of the people.
If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination based on superdelegates alone, she just might lose the general election to John McCain. If the Democratic Party nominates the candidate with the least elected delegates, it should expect nothing less than apathy and dismay from voters. If the self-proclaimed party of the people does not honor the will of the people, then what’s the point of voting for a Democrat? When citizens cannot have a government for the people, by the people, some become cynical and vote for whoever is going to lower their taxes.
The rules of this particular game have been set and we must honor the outcome. I am not trying to start a revolution (though if the Michigan and Florida delegates get seated without a re-vote, you might find me atop a barricade in Denver this summer). After this election, however, the DNC needs to eliminate superdelegates from the nominating process. In the meantime, we can write letters and emails to the superdelegates, urging them to vote according to the will of the people. More than ever, every vote needs to count.
Related Story: Poll: The Influence of Super Delegates