Superdelegates have ignored voter referendum at the state level—they say they “don’t represent people” (which, strange as it sounds, is technically true based on how/why they were established, historically) They’ve said that their job is to “do what they think is right for the country,” regardless of the “will of the voters.” So why does Sanders get so much crap when he suggests they just might do that at the convention?
Per the suggestion of some of my readers, I used video (above) rather than my usual written piece to raise the vexing issue of how the media and some superdelegates are conveniently “fuzzing” or flip-flopping the story when they talk about superdelegates’ roles.
They seem to find it perfectly fine that superdelegates ignore the will of the people in their states—remaining wedded to Clinton even when their states “go Sanders.” Yet suddenly, many seem to consider it an outrage to suggest that superdelegates might cast their actual vote at the convention for Sanders “against the will of the people” (e.g. even if he does not have the most pledged delegates).
They have mocked Sanders for suggesting that superdelegates ought to vote with the people’s choice (whether that’s him or Clinton) in a given state. And yet they turn around and also attack him for suggesting that they might reconsider at the convention, if the race is close and contested, given other key factors regarding electability.
As Sanders said in his May 1 press conference, excerpted below, “the responsibility that superdelegates have is to decide what is best for this country and what is best for the Democratic Party.” And like it or not, that IS how the system works; that is what superdelegates themselves say (or have said, till now!). That is purportedly the intent for which they were established.
And yet the media continue to deride Sanders for pragmatically speculating that—given polling, voter turnout by independents and young voters, issues of controversy, and other factors—superdelegates might do just that.
For example, Boston Globe columnist Michael A. Cohen—in a piece outlandishly titled (wait for it) “Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Know How Politics Works” (really? how does this stuff even get past editors?)—called Sanders “illogical, self-serving, hypocritical” and “intellectually dishonest” for “trying to win the nomination by swaying superdelegates away from Clinton.”
One hardly knows where to begin with such a statement. But let’s put aside, for the moment, all the other sickly backwards aspects of that assertion. Let’s focus on the fact that he is being called such names for simply suggesting that superdelegates perform according to their stated purpose at the convention by choosing the candidate best suited to winning the general election.
The media apparently has no issue with virtually all superdelegates being pledged to Clinton before a vote was ever cast. The media also has no problem with superdelegates remaining promised to Clinton when “the will of the voters” in a state is with Sanders by a large mandate.
Yet the media has been goading Sanders for having the temerity to suggest they exercise this same independence at the convention. Then, suddenly, they would be “rejecting the will of the voters.”
Wait. WHICH IS IT? Do they answer to the voters, or not? Can’t have it both ways.
Many voters feels that superdelegates are not the most democratic concept. Most of the superdelegates gave their “vows” before a vote was cast, a debate was held, or Republican opponent was put forth—in many cases apparently for favors and money. Many of them are lobbyists (how in the world does that work?)
Plus, the way superdelegates have been obtusely included in media’s pledged delegate totals (superdelegates haven’t voted yet, for goodness sake! Even the DNC instructed media not to include them) from day one all the way up till now has constituted its very own form of voter suppression. (By making it look like Sanders was way behind—when he was most of the time quite close—many people were misled to stay home and give up.).
Sanders has vowed to amend this system, whether he is nominated or not. But superdelegates are part of the system we must work within now. Yet suddenly, Sanders is being vilified for simply doing just that. For even suggesting that his own electability be considered at a contested convention—which is the whole point of the system.
Why shouldn‘t a Sanders nomination—for the benefit of the country—be the beneficiary of superdelegate judgment? Why should Sanders not ask them to fulfill the purpose they were established to fulfill—in his favor, if all factors point to that choice being the most sensible and effective? (ANSWER: No reason. Other than the media prefer their anointed one, for their own selfish reasons.)
How is it suddenly “going against his own principles” to suggest that superdelegates weigh all the data and choose him? That’s their job. And he’s had to work within this system in all the other ways, all along—a system which till now has mostly failed him (and which makes his astounding success all the more, well, astounding). Heaven forbid he should actually be served for once by this system?
But this is just that thing the media does—they make stuff up, anything they can, to paint Sanders negatively and exalt Clinton for no substantive reason. (Suddenly she is sanctimoniously claiming some sot of imaginary high ground in stating that the “will of the voters” must be upheld at the convention. That’s a serious “WTF” that the lapdog media refuse to call her on. She knows damn well that’s not the way superdelegates work.)
(Not only that, we’ll see if she IS even ahead by the time July rolls around. “The will of the voters” may very well be arguably Sanders anyway.)
As writer Seth Abramson put it:
Bernie Sanders saying that he plans to go to the Party’s summer convention and argue that he’s best positioned to win the general election is the veritable dictionary definition of “playing by the rules.” Meanwhile, Clinton and her camp suddenly discovering some unstated principle about the connection between super-delegates and the popular vote, or super-delegates and the pledged-delegate count, is pretty rich.
Update 5/20: The Daily News‘ Shaun King also is hitting this nail on the head resoundingly and beautifully in a more recent piece:
…an even bigger lie has been told to the public about superdelegates.
The popular trope among Hillary supporters now is that she earned them because she won certain states or is ahead in the popular vote. That’s a complete farce.
There were 359 superdelegates who pledged their vote to Hillary Clinton before even a single vote had been cast. That represents 68% of the superdelegates who have pledged to support her.
They didn’t pledge their support to her because she was ahead in the popular vote or because she won Texas and Georgia. They pledged their support to her nearly a year ago. They believed then that she was such a strong candidate that it was a safe bet for them to throw their vote to her.
It’s likely that they never imagined that Bernie Sanders would win 21 primaries and caucuses with 9 still remaining. Nobody could’ve predicted that.
It’s likely that they never imagined that Donald Trump would not only become the Republican nominee, but that he would actually resonate with millions of Americans.
So, even as Bernie began to win state after state after state, superdelegates who had already pledged their public loyalty to Clinton no longer supported the actual will of the voters in their own states.
Right now, in spite of the shocking success of Bernie’s campaign, 93% of superdelegates who have made their votes clear are backing Clinton. Again, the hype about them supporting Clinton because of the popular vote is a lie.
If 93% of them were supporting Bernie right now in additon to those already in his camp, Bernie would have 2,019 delegates and Hillary would have 1,807.
To say that the presence and intentions of these superdelegates hasn’t made a difference is simply disingenuous. They are included in almost every public tally and makes it seem as if Hillary Clinton simply can’t be beat.
It was a mistake for the superdelegates to pledge their support to her before anyone ever voted. It was a mistake to make a former Co-Chair of her campaign the Chair of the DNC. And it would be a mistake for the superdelegates, who don’t actually get to make their intentions official until July, to blindly stick with Clinton when the polls show the trouble that’s ahead.
More and more people are getting wise to what’s going on, and we need to keep educating everyone about this. Because if superdelegates decide to “hide behind the voters” in choosing to run the demonstrably weaker candidate again Trump, there is an already well-organized revolution of clearheaded, passionate progressives ready to rise up.
– Robyn Landis
NOTE: There are some related links, quotes, and references below. Please check them out.
For links to my other/written stories with The Bern Report, see: http://thebernreport.com/author/rlandis/
Howard Dean tweeted:
“Super delegates don’t ‘represent people’ I’m not elected by anyone. I’ll do what I think is right for the country”
Shaun King’s amazing piece:
Thorough, powerful, resounding critical thinking from Seth Abramson, for Common Dreams,
on EVERYTHING that’s wrong with how the superdelegates have been and are being handled.
He makes my point and then some.
Super-delegates have absolutely nothing to do with the popular vote or the delegate count. And Clinton knows it.
Clinton approached hundreds and hundreds of super-delegates in 2015, before any American had voted or any candidate taken a popular-vote or pledged-delegate lead, and asked for their endorsement on the basis of super-delegates being tasked with supporting the Party’s strongest candidate; Sanders has accepted that view of super-delegates’ role; Clinton, now leading by a large margin among super-delegates and pledged delegates alike, has suddenly changed her view to the “principled” position that super-delegates must support whoever wins the popular vote and the pledged-delegate count; the media has treated Clinton’s about-face as honorable and Sanders’ consistent position as a betrayal of his core principles.
More excellence from Seth Abramson on superdelegates and how this could go down:
Super-delegates exist for only one purpose: to overturn, if necessary, the popular-vote and delegate-count results. Super-delegates would be meaningless if their only purpose were to validate the primary and caucus results, which is why that consideration had absolutely nothing to do with their creation. When super-delegates were created in 1984, it was in fact to avoid a repeat of what had almost happened in 1980: a candidate with no shot at winning the general election almost becoming the popular-vote and pledged-delegate winner. It may seem counter-intuitive to some now, but the Democratic Party in 1984 wanted a mechanism available to vote down the Party’s prospective nominee — the popular-vote and pledged-delegate winner — if that person couldn’t be elected in the November general election.
So when Howard Dean, former presidential candidate and Democratic National Committee Chair, said several months ago that he would cast his super-delegate vote without regard for the popular vote or pledged-delegate race, he was only stating what has been true about super-delegates for 32 years now.
The Sanders camp is betting that the Democratic Party cares more about winning in November than gamely running a terrible dynasty candidate against a beatable Republican foe.
“Back in 2008, she held out to the very bitter end when Obama was the clear winner. She only acquiesced and backed Obama after a closed-door negotiation where she was promised a promotion, and a path to succeed him.”
Renowned pollster J. Ann Selzer said Bernie Sanders “makes a very fair point” when he says he would do better in a general election against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton.
EXCERPTS FROM SEN. SANDERS MAY 1 PRESS CONFERENCE IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Discussing contested convention, superdelegate responsibilities,
SANDERS: Let me be very clear. It is virtually impossible for Secretary Clinton to reach the majority of convention delegates by June 14 – that is the last day that a primary will be held – with pledged delegates alone. In other words, once more, it is virtually impossible for Secretary Clinton to reach the majority of convention delegates by June 14 with pledged delegates alone. She will need superdelegates to take her over the top at the convention in Philadelphia. In other words, the convention will be a contested contest.
Currently, Secretary Clinton has 1,645 pledged delegates, 55% of the total. We have 1,318 pledged delegates, 45% of the total. There are ten states remaining where we’re going to be vigorously competing…
[ed. note—he’s since won the first two of those—Indiana and West Virginia.]
Of the 719 superdelegates, many of those delegates committed themselves to Secretary Clinton even before we got into this campaign. In other words, way back then she was the anointed candidate and they said, “We’re with Hillary Clinton.” While she has 520 superdelegates, we have all of 39 superdelegates. In other words, while we have won 45% of the pledged delegates in real campaigns where the people have spoken, we’ve won 45%, we have won only 7% of the superdelegates.
Let me just give you an example of what I mean by that. In the state of Washington, we won that caucus with almost 73% of the vote there, 73% of the vote. In anybody’s definition, that is a massive landslide. At this point, Secretary Clinton has 10 superdelegates from the Washington; we have zero. I would ask the superdelegates from the state of Washington to respect the wishes of the people in their state and the votes they have cast.
In Minnesota, we won the caucus there with 61% of the vote. Hillary Clinton has 11 superdelegates; we have 3. In Colorado, we won that state with 59% of the vote, a pretty strong margin. Secretary Clinton has ten superdelegates; we have zero. In New Hampshire, we won that state with more than 60% of the vote. Secretary Clinton has six superdelegates; we have zero. That pattern continues in other states where we have won landslide victories.
If I win a state with 70% of the votes, you know what? I think I’m entitled to those superdelegates. I think the superdelegates should reflect what the people in the state want. That’s true for Hilary Clinton as well. I can’t tell you one thing for me and another thing for Hillary Clinton. If Hillary Clinton wins Mississippi by whatever she won it by, some huge number, yes, the superdelegates there should vote for her.
We disagree on a number of other issues, but where Secretary Clinton and I strongly agree and where every delegate to the Democratic convention strongly agrees is that it would be a disaster for this country if Donald Trump or some other right-wing Republican were to become president of the United States. Therefore, in my view, it is incumbent upon every superdelegate to take an objective look at which candidate stands the better chance of defeating Donald Trump and other Republican candidates. In that regard, I think the evidence is extremely clear that I would be the stronger candidate to defeat Trump or any other Republican. This is not just on the subjective opinion of Bernie Sanders. I’m not here just to tell you this is what I think or this is what I believe. I think this is really what the objective evidence tells us.
This is based on virtually every national and state poll done in the last several months. I know that polls go up and down, but when you have poll, after poll, after poll nationally saying that Sanders can defeat Trump by a, in some cases, much greater margin than Clinton can, I think it is worth paying attention to that. In a Morning Consult survey, we beat Trump by 16 points; she beats him by 7. These are very recent polls. In an IBD poll, we beat Trump by 12; she beats him by 7. In a USA Today poll, we beat Trump by 15; she beats him by 11. In a George Washington University poll, we beat him by 10; she beat him by 3. Fox News has us beating Trump by 14; she beats him by 7.
It is not just national polls. Everybody knows that in a general election in the United States, you win the electoral vote taking place in 50 states in this country. If you look at virtually every battleground state, in Arizona, in Michigan, in Missouri, in New Hampshire, in North Carolina, and in many other states which are up for grabs – may be won by the Democratic candidate, may be won by the Republican candidate – in every one of those states, we defeat Trump by larger margins than she does.
Further, equally important, what recent elections tell us is that when the voter turnout is high, when people come out in large numbers, Democrats and progressives win. People are excited. They come out. Young people come out. Working-class people come out. People who don’t always vote come out. Democrats win. On the other hand, Republicans win elections when the voter turnout is low. That is exactly what we saw in the last national election in 2014 when 63% of the American people didn’t vote.
There is little doubt in my mind that the energy and the excitement in this campaign is with the work we have done. I believe that energy and that excitement among working-class people, among middle-class people, among young people will translate to a very large voter turnout in November, which not only will mean victory for the White House; it will mean victory for Senate races, U.S. House races, and governors’ races throughout this country. This is an issue that I hope the superdelegates will pay keen attention to.
I understand that some of them prefer Secretary Clinton, fair enough. Some people prefer me, fair enough. At the end of the day, every person in Philadelphia who goes to that convention understands that we must have the strongest candidate to defeat Trump or another Republican. I think the objective evidence is that I am that candidate.
I think the real struggle will be in the hearts and the minds of superdelegates who came onboard the Clinton campaign a long time ago. They are going to have to go into their hearts and they are going to have to ask themselves do they want the second-strongest candidate to run against Trump, or do they want the strongest candidate. I’m not making any prediction, nothing guaranteed here, but I think some of those superdelegates who announced for Clinton even before I got into the race will say, “You know what? Bernie has the better chance of defeating Trump, and that is what is most important.”
Then he is asked:
Mary Alice: If you do not secure the majority of pledged delegates, do you still believe that superdelegates should switch and back you, in essence rejecting the opinion of the voters?
Bernie Sanders: It’s a funny thing. Right now, you have state after state where we have won landslide victories, and there are superdelegates who are saying, “We don’t have to listen to the people. We’ll vote for Hillary Clinton.” I think at the end of the day what superdelegates are going to have to consider…the responsibility that superdelegates have is to decide what is best for this country and what is best for the Democratic Party. If those superdelegates conclude that Bernie Sanders is the best candidate, the strongest candidate to defeat Trump and anybody else, yes, I would very much welcome their support.