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Superdelegates and Democracy

Brew City Brawler: Isn’t having the super delegates decide — as opposed to the pledged dels or, you know, the popular vote (both of which Obama will win under any realistic analysis) — a bit of a Blanquist position for a champion of the Proletariat?

Well, it looks like some Brawler character who likes quoting NeoCrybabies took issue with my comment on Super Delegates. It seems where I need to start is with some simple education. Brawler like many of his kind, confuse party with government, and democracy with party selection.

In a healthy democracy, which we are not, there are two central democratic strands, the right to vote and the right of political parties. Too often in the American experience we sacrifice one over the other. Political parties are, or ought to be, private, independent organizations who select candidates based upon a shared set of values to participate in the democratic process.

What the Democrats, or Republican for that matter, are doing is selecting a nominee to run for president of the United States. It seems there is a large group of Democrats who confuse the candidate selection process with democracy itself. There are various ways political parties select a nominee including limiting it to dues paying members, mail in ballots, primaries, caucus’, or even conventions. It may be as simple as Ralph Nader declaring he is running again, or the Green Party sending ballots out to dues paying members, or even a Libertarian online selection process.

As has been reported in the media many new voters are coming into the Democratic Party nominating process. What is less reported is Democratic Party registration is at a 16 year low. On a very concrete level this means the decision of who will be the nominee is being made by those who are not Democrats.

The rationale for this inclusiveness could be that it will grow the Party. While a political party in its constitutionally protected, independence certainly has the right to expand its voter base, the opposite is also true. Political parties under the guise of party identity, or even purity, have the right to put limits on who can and will participate in their candidate selection process. The government- even under the guise of greater voter choices – should not select who will or will not be on the ballot.

The Democratic Party has the right to put mechanisms in place that preserve its identity. The Democrats sometime back decided to use Super Delegates as a sort of firewall for this exact reason. If a candidate would be weak in the general election – or several must win states -, or could alter the party’s identity, then the Super Delegates have an obligation of party over candidate.

As I hinted at in an earlier post on the winnability question Obama and Hillary more or less neutralize each other. What the Super Delegates really come down to is a question of party identity. Is the Democratic Party against universal health care? Is the Democratic Party in favor of extending No Child Left Behind? Is the Democratic Party’s idea of education reform, merit pay for teachers? Does the Democratic Party think a 30% cap on interests rates is extreme? Does the Democratic Party believe that a cap on housing interest will spiral us into a long term recession?

These are all positions Obama has taken and ones that I suspect run contrary to many Democrats. So, yes, the Super Delegates do have an obligation to act as a firewall to a candidate who has taken positions contrary to party identity. This of course goes for any political party. Political parties have a right to have their values carried forward into the general election.