Monday, December 3, 2007

20% of Democrats’ Delegates are Just Super

I will admit to not being partisan: I don’t belong to either political party, and I don’t vote in the primaries. So while it interests me, I’m not strongly invested in it one way or the other. I’ll vote in the general election, and I’ll vote for who I consider the best candidate, and that depends on who the two parties propose (or third-party; I have voted third-party in the past).

But I find this Yahoo story strange. Basically, it says that there are about 800 ‘Superdelegates’ to the Democratic convention made up of insiders, sitting congressmen, and other highly-ranked party members. According to the story:
They will attend the convention next summer with about 3,200 other delegates who have been pledged to various presidential candidates based on the outcomes of primaries and party caucuses in their states.
So 20% of the total delegates will be these ‘insiders’? Does this evoke the image of a smoke-filled room to anybody else?

Lest you dismiss this concern, consider this: in order for the insiders’ opinion not to matter at all, a candidate would have to have 65% of the state delegates, and then they’d only win by 160 votes (2080-1920). So a candidate, if they sewed up about 80% of the superdelegates, could win the nomination with just 43% of the state electors. And you could imagine that a candidate who was massively corrupt could easily sew up 80% of the independent voters. In fact, it’s probably a better campaign strategy than trying to win Iowa.

Isn’t this the party that had a royal conniption in 2000 over the disputed election? Aren’t they essentially ensuring that at some point in their own primary, they’ll have exactly the same problem, only worse, with rumors of bribery and corruption?

The Republicans have it much better off, but not perfect: 100 out of 2516 are Superdelegates, meaning that they’ve only got 4% of the delegates free to do what they want. So you’d have to win 48% of the state delegates to skate by on these guys.

I know in practice, the convention is really just a rubber-stamp of the popular vote. But the very existence of Superdelegates threatens the entire point of the exercise. We can debate about whether 20% or 4% is better or worse, but for me the answer is very simple.

The correct number of ‘Superdelegates’ is zero.