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David Sirota

David Sirota

Posted: February 7, 2008 01:23 PM

A Short-Term Solution to the Potential Superdelegate Problem


There's a lot of legitimate concern out there about so-called superdelegates deciding who receives the Democratic presidential nomination. Superdelegates, as a refresher, are delegates (mostly elected officials) who are free floaters -- they can decide who to support for the nomination without any regard to the outcomes of primaries or caucuses. Your state voted for Obama? Sorry, your state's superdelegates are fully allowed to cast their nominating votes for Clinton. Same thing the other way around -- it's just straight up undemocratic.

As I discuss more fully in my upcoming book, The Uprising, superdelegate system was created to make sure the party establishment -- not rank-and-file voters -- gets control over the nomination. And if such superdelegates make up the margin of victory for the nominee this year, then it means the establishment will have control over who the nominee is -- not us the voters.

So how do we prevent the Democratic nomination from becoming a smoky backroom deal? The Chairman of the Maine Democratic Party provides a model.

Here's a press release that just came over the transom:

Party Chairman John Knutson Announces his Choice for President


AUGUSTA- This Sunday, Democrats all over Maine will participate in the Maine Democratic Party Caucus and choose who they want to nominate as this year's Democratic presidential candidate. The results of the caucus will determine how Maine's 24 Delegates to the Democratic National Convention are allocated. Above and beyond the state delegates, who are allocated through the caucus and State Convention, Maine also has 10 unpledged delegates, called "Super-Delegates," who are able to support any candidate they choose.

These "Super-Delegates" are made up of elected officials like our Governor and two Congressmen, as well as party leaders like John Knutson, who is Chair of the Maine Democratic Party.

On Thursday, Knutson announced that he will support the candidate who wins the majority of the vote in Maine. "For all intents and purposes, Maine now has 25 delegates up for grabs since I will be embracing the candidate who wins Maine's caucuses," said Knutson. As a Super-Delegate, Knutson will represent this winning candidate at the Democratic National Convention.

Knutson continued, "I see this as a way to further empower Democrats across the state of Maine and make the results of our caucus more influential. It is clear that this Presidential campaign will come down to a race for delegates, and I believe that by pledging to support the winner of Maine's caucuses, I will help to increase Maine's importance in the nomination process."


This is a smart and moral move by Knutson -- and one we should start encouraging everywhere. We're not going to be able to reform the superdelegate system before this year's convention, so the best we can hope for is pressure on existing superdelegates to simply represent how their states voted. This is a short-term solution and in no way would substitute for longer-term reform of the nominating process. But within the confines of this specific election, this solution is critically important.

Find out who the superdelegates are in your state, and then start putting pressure on them to do what Knutson did. We've got to get ahead of this thing before the horse-trading and backroom dealing starts.