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Jennifer Nix

Jennifer Nix

Posted: February 21, 2008 03:42 PM

Putting an End to this Superdelegate Silliness


With Barack Obama's ten-state winning streak, and growing pledged delegate lead over Hillary Clinton, we are likely seeing the last gasp of the Clinton campaign in the run-up to the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4th.

If Senator Clinton doesn't win big in Texas and Ohio, the only real question left in this race pertains to the so-called superdelegates.

Will Clinton be able to hold on to the majority of her current superdelegate support, and then try to orchestrate some kind of "superdelegate coup" that would thwart the will of rank-and-file voters--in whatever way you wish to define that term (be it by Congressional district, state or national vote and delegate totals)?

That scenario seems less and less probable by the hour, with her superdelegate supporters slipping away, like so many water-torture drip...drip...drips.

What this whole situation calls for however, is a good hard look at the superdelegate process. At best, during the primary and caucus season, these superdelegates have been a superfluous distraction, confusing all concerned. At worst, the murky superdelegate system is an undemocratic way for Party power-brokers to maneuver behind the scenes--to scoop up PAC money and favors--and to possibly rig our nomination process.

Sorry, superdelegates. It's time that this bad idea meets with its demise. We don't need Super-Democrats coming in to make decisions for us. The people are perfectly capable of electing their own nominee for president.

While there's been much public hand-wringing and uproar about this superdelegate issue in recent weeks, there is only one grassroots project that has people all over the country engaging in a collaborative effort to introduce some sunlight into the shadowy superdelegate system. And, my, how our superdelegate friends have run for cover and made much ado about how they would never thwart the will of the people.

The Superdelegate Transparency Project began two weeks ago, and currently represents a partnership between my blog, LiteraryOutpost, OpenLeft, DemConWatch, HuffingtonPost and Congresspedia (which is a project of the Center for Media and Democracy and the Sunlight Foundation). Combined, these partners have brought nearly 300 volunteers to STP, folks that are concerned about what effect the superdelegates might have on our Democratic nomination.

These volunteers are putting in time to track down vote totals, district-by-district, along with pledged delegates. Then they are tracking down, interviewing and publishing stories about the superdelegates, recording how they are currently pledged, whether they've switched, and eventually what their vote will be.

A few blasé voices here and there have said we don't need to worry about the superdelegates this time around. But the point is: We should never have to worry about them again.

The Superdelegate Transparency Project, when completed, will provide evidence to make that argument forcefully. No longer will we have to speak in hypotheticals about what superdelegates probably did or didn't do. This time, we'll have a first-ever, complete set of data that tracks the nitty-gritty of superdelegate behavior--district by district.

As the New York Times said, "[STP] is the kind of tool that the back room bosses from 1984 could never have imagined -- and today's political bosses are probably horrified to see.

Rank-and-file Democrats will be able to make the case that early endorsements and pledges from superdelegates--those that are collected before the primaries and caucuses even begin--are only an unfair advantage for whomever the Establishment has chosen as the annointed and "inevitable" one. But guess what? It's not their call.

The Blasé Band can say what they like about how we didn't have to worry. But they miss the most important points. The Superdelegate Transparency Project moved people from concern, straight into action--and transparency is playing its very important role in keeping the superdelegates honest. Sorry, we didn't want to sit around on our couches, talking about throwing pies. We wanted to make sure this never happens again.

Next, we can use the STP data to bring all Democrats around to a necessary realization.

Superdelegates? We don't need no superdelegates!

We need a Democratic nomination process that is democratic.

[Note:If you have some time today, come join STP's Barn-Raising effort. We're trying to get the last bits of data updated, so we can begin releasing our findings to the media next week. ]