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« Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 476 -- Primary Turnout Means Nothing. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 478 -- Voting With Their Feet. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 477 -- Superdelegates.

Caucuses and Superdelegates-

First off, let me say that political parties ought to be able to pick their nominees however they so choose. After all, people eventually do get to vote freely and fairly in the general election. However, when a political party uses undemocratic means to select a candidate, it is troublesome and the public has a right to react negatively.

I don't like caucuses. They aren't free and fair elections, because they don't use secret ballots. Caucuses are not small-d "democratic." Primaries are.

That being said, it's interesting that Democrats have so many more caucuses than Republicans, all around the country. In Texas next month, for example, Republicans use a normal primary, while Democrats use a strange and complicated primary/caucus hybrid system.

More than caucuses, the concept of unelected superdelegates is a throwback to smoke filled back room politics. Superdelegates are not small-d "democratic," either. Again, it is ironic that Democrats have so many more unelected superdelegates than Republicans. And the Democrats' superdelegates could actually determine their nominee this time around.

A couple of charts on the subject- first the Democrats:


And the Republicans:


Superdelegates As A Proportion of Total Delegates:
Democrats- 20%
Republicans- 6%

For Democrats, the number of unelected superdelegates is roughly equal to all of the delegates in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, California, and Illinois, combined. For Republicans, the number of superdelegates is well below the number from California alone.

So Democrats have more caucuses and they use more unelected superdelegates. More than that, they disenfranchised Florida and Michigan voters this year by voiding the results of free and fair elections in those states, and they have lodged voting irregularity complaints against one another in Nevada and New Hampshire.

It would seem that Democrats are not very good at this whole democracy thing. We should remember this year's sordid series of circumstances the next time Democrats pull one of their typical election tricks or cry wolf about Republican ones. It seems the Republican nomination process this year has been far more small-d "democratic" than the parallel process of the Democrats.

And they wonder why so many people drop the "-ic" and refer to them as the "Democrat Party." It's precisely these sorts of things.

Now, if this thing remains tight heading into the convention, with no clear winner, and the unelected superdelegates actually determine the nominee, there ought to be national outrage and backlash against whomever emerges from that mess.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Primary Turnout Gap.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 February 2008 08:12 AM


Couldn't disagree with you more.

Pure democracy is not desirable. It is no more than mob rule. It's why there are so many undemocratic elements built into our political system.

The current system is broken. The way things are, I would prefer that the parties select superdelegates exclusively--knowledgeable and experienced people all--and let them decide, in their smoke-filled rooms, who's best for us. We'd have a better chance of getting two qualified, experienced, moral, decent candidates.

Well, maybe not from the Democrats. But at least there'd be less pandering and money wasted on this disappointing dance.

This isn't the only way to fix this awful system, but it's one way.

Posted by: Nathan Hale at February 8, 2008 12:38 AM

I agree with Will Franklin that secret ballot primaries seem more fair than caucuses. A primary with the poles open all day long would appear to draw a more representative voter than caucuses held only at a specific time for 2 or 3 hours.

As for Hale's comment that "the parties select superdelegates exclusively--knowledgeable and experienced people all--and let them decide, in their smoke-filled rooms",it seems to me the only people who would be happy with this would be the supporters of the chosen candidate. Also this system would probably just move the fight to how the superdelegates are selected. Rather than knowledgeble and expereinced people, these super delegates are likely to be simply long term politians or long term politcal activists. (The same type of bonehead party leaders who thought was a good move to zero out Michigan and Florida voters.)

Posted by: ChrisR at February 8, 2008 11:57 AM

I think that it was fine for the national party organizations to ignore the results from states that thumbed their noses at the parties' express desires.

However, the main problem is that we've moved away from the ideal of democratic self-government--which was what our system was based on--and towards the ideal of democratic equality--which is a leftist and Communist ideal.

What I suggested above is not my preferred way to fix the system. I'd rather go for a system whose name escapes me at the moment, but it's named for one of the states.

Anyway, the first set of primaries are held in the smallest states and the various US territories, including DC. This allows candidates without name recognition or big warchests to build a following, if their message resonates. The stakes would be low, so a maximum number of candidates could be included.

The next set of primaries would be among the smaller of the mid-sized states. This is where you start to see both attrition and momentum, depending on how candidates are received.

Next are the larger of the mid-sized states. More money would be required, but those candidates who had done well (enough) in the early primaries would have built enough of a following to raise the required money. On the other hand, those whose campaigns had gone nowhere would drop out by this stage.

Last are the primaries of the biggest states. This is where the men are separated from the boys. Nominees might not be decided, but the top few would be. In all likelihood, there would be two to five strong candidates who could go all the way to the convention.

This system would be very American: at once undemocratic, in that it gives smaller states a say out of proportion to their population (just like the Senate), and supremely democratic, in that every state would have its say, unlike the current system in which post-Super Tuesday caucuses are irrelevant for the majority of candidates.

Posted by: Nathan Hale at February 10, 2008 03:19 AM

I must admit, Mr. Hale, that I find your reasoning appealing.

Posted by: Chris at February 12, 2008 12:24 PM