Friday, February 08, 2008

Ongoing Bickering May Doom Democrats

As a Canadian (and an American) and a Liberal who recently went through the Liberal leadership race, the concept of superdelegates is not so shocking to me. The Liberal party also has superdelegates, although they don't call them that: they're just people who get to be delegates because they're MPs or senior party officials.

In these days when people regularly confuse democracy with direct democracy, it is not surprising I suppose that they would be scandalized by the idea of party and elected officials having a say alongside voters in choosing a candidate. But there are some advantages to it for everyone: these are professionals with long experience and insider information. They shouldn't be the main deciders, but it helps to have them in the mix.

But now the existence of superdelegates is being called anti-democratic, the flouting of the people's will, and un-transparent. It is being described as a power grab by the party establishment.

At this point I have to concede that there will be a legitimacy issue if either Obama or Hillary wins when people are questioning the superdelegates or the omission of Michigan and Florida delegates. There are solutions. Tom Hayden suggests that the DNC should pay for new primaries in Michigan and Florida. Dan Martin predicts that superdelegates will choose to vote according to the votes of their constituencies (as Maine Dem party chair John Knutson has done). Another solution to both problems is that one of the two candidates should concede; this would be especially beneficial if they formed a joint ticket.

It's a quandary, to be sure. The Democrats have a big advantage in the election, but John McCain is the de facto Republican nominee and so is free to start his campaign for president now. Meanwhile the Democratic candidates are still fighting each other, and the race continues to get dirtier, at least on the Obama side.


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