The biggest problem with superdelegates in this election cycle hasn’t actually been the fact that many of them chose Hillary. It’s the fact that they did it before a single vote was cast. In fact, in many instances they backed Clinton even before Bernie Sanders or anyone else had announced their candidacy. Of course this is extremely unfair and undemocratic—but aside from that, it is also a form of voter suppression, one that has been used almost nonstop by the Clinton campaign and network media.
Sanders himself has said the superdelegates have too much power. In a recent interview with Rachel Maddow of MSNBC Bernie stated a fact that may have slipped through the cracks. Said Sanders, “Something that is not widely known is that over 400 of her superdelegates came on board before I was even in the race.” He continues, “It is absurd that you have 400 establishment Democrats supporting Hillary Clinton’s campaign before anyone else was in the race. That stacks the deck in a very, very unfair way for anyone other that the establishment candidate”…..they have much too much power.”
Since early on in Bernie’s campaign, there has been almost an across-the-board media blackout on his campaign. Even as has drawn massive crowds to his events, very little was spoken by the press. The Clinton campaign and even DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz wouldn’t even mention him by name for several months. Only when he became a threat to what has been perceived as a coronation did they start talking about him.
But when they did start talking about him, almost the first line of attack was the superdelegate issue. As his campaign began to build steam in August of 2015 and after a string of massive rallies on the West Coast, the mainstream media put out a list of superdelegates who were already backing Clinton, thereby giving her a massive advantage before a single vote was cast or a single debate was held. The intent there seems fairly clear: demoralize the voter base by pounding into their heads the idea that their vote does not count so why bother. Of all the things the media has done in this campaign, this is probably the most appalling.
“This is really about how you put the numbers together.”
– Hillary Clinton
There really is no accurate way of knowing just what effect that has had on this campaign, but I would suspect it played a huge role. One likely scenario is this: Bernie Sanders fought to get his message out to many areas of the country. In fact, unlike Clinton, he has run a 50-state campaign. Without the media coverage that others have had, however, he has struggled to reach certain demographics. When he finally did make some headway and they began viewing him as a viable candidate, that door got slammed in their faces. When they heard the mainstream media narrative that Clinton already “had it in the bag” because of superdelegates (untrue!), many probably thought, “Why even bother?” That is voter suppression.
Aside from the blatant voter suppression by TV networks that have a financial interest in a Clinton win, there is also the question of who the superdelegates are. Yes, we know about the elite political class, some of whom feel they have earned the right to have a bigger voice than the rest of the voters—but another issue that barely gets noticed is that some of the superdelegates are actually lobbyists from Big Oil, Big Pharma and Wall Street. Clinton and her team have been planning this presidential run for a long time and likely worked to get these “special” superdelegates in place. She’s extremely connected to many of the lobbyists that are doubling as superdelegates, dating back to her days as Secretary of State and at The Clinton Foundation.
After the state primaries started, network media began fraudulently including superdelegates in all of their delegate count coverage, falsely inflating Clinton’s lead. The superdelegates will not vote until July, so any premature inclusion of them in delegate counts leads one to believe there is something bigger working against us behind the scenes. While many of them have finally broken the counts down and separated pledged and unpledged delegates, the damage was done months ago, in the states that have already voted—through demoralization that translates to voter suppression.
One of the false narratives that floated around the Internet was that Sanders’ campaign didn’t really know about superdelegates, perhaps naive to the process. The media likes to paint his team as a rag-tag bunch of misfits that stumbled into this thing blindly. When it comes to superdelegates though, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The campaign’s Senior Adviser, Tad Devine, was one of the original architects of the superdelegate system and likely played a role in Obama’s quest to get the political elite to switch sides. In the below he discusses how, even back in 2008, the superdelegate system was being exploited and not used the way it was intended.
But it’s not just Bernie Sanders, his campaign manager, his senior adviser Devine or his millions of supporters who think the system is unfair. Unfair is one thing—as many of us have seen across this planet of ours, life is not always fair. But superdelegates are undemocratic. Even the superdelegates themselves are beginning to speak out against the very system they are a part of.
“Every Democrat I have talked to finds the unpledged delegate system offensive,” Oregon superdelegate Larry Taylor said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t think my vote … should invalidate the vote of thousands of voters,” Taylor said.
Peter DeFazio, a superdelegate also from Oregon, chimes in as well: “I find the role of superdelegates undemocratic and they should not be a part of the nominating system,” DeFazio said. “Instead, I would prefer to let the voters determine the results of presidential primary.”
Superdelegate Lupita Maurer recently came out for Sanders and says this about the system: “It’s outdated,” she said. “We should just get rid of the delegate system completely.”
No matter how the superdelegates decide to vote,—whether as an extension of the will of the people, their original and legal mandate to ensure that the strongest candidate is put forth, or for some other reason—there’s little doubt this system has been grossly abused by a powerful political machine.