In interviews with OffTheBus this past week, California superdelegates undercut media-generated dramatic narratives about how the Democratic nomination will unfold in August. They discounted, for example, the Spielbergian "doomsday scenario" painted by Time magazine, where back room "wheelers and dealers" would revel in the power they "wrestled from the rabble." They shook their heads, basically, at the way CNN, way back before Super Tuesday, was warning that members of the "super class of super Democrats" had been given "the power of tens of thousands of average citizens."
The situation the superdelegates themselves described is a lot less Spielberg than it is C-Span. For them, it's all about the slow and largely predictable functioning of party machinery. For the superdelegates in California, at least, the two plot lines that drive the media version of the story of the nomination basically don't exist. First, the chance of an actual brokered convention is seen as slim to none. Second, the alleged tension between the citizens and the delegates seems either a misreading or just plain exaggeration.
Of course many of the superdelegates have already pledged and done so as early as last summer. Even among the unpledged, however, there is consensus that most everyone has made up their mind. "I think by now [we've all] decided, [even] if we don't want to say," says superdelegate Norma Torres. She's not worried about last-minute dealmaking. "We have a long way to go before the convention."
Superdelegate Gary Shay echoes the point: "Most [of us] will have made up our mind [by then]" .... Deciding at the convention, he deadpans, "would be a rather unusual situation."
Bob Mullholland dismisses the story out of hand: "Right now it's all speculation. I would rather talk about the voters' interests."
Important for the California superdelegates was to make it plain that the largest part of their responsibility was to represent their constituencies. Steve Ybarra, for instance, is the former head of the party's Latino caucus. "There's really only one factor for me," he says. "Which of the candidates are more committed to Latino voters, which one will take up our concerns for the fall election? That's it." The idea of matching the popular vote for him is clearly beside the point.
"The popular vote is a made-up thing," he says. The question, from his perspective is "Why should 100,000 people in Iowa decide the nominee?" They've done their voting, is how he thinks about it. Those votes decide the pledged delegates. The superdelegate system, however, is about advancing your cause. There's no secret about any of that, as far as Ybarra is concerned. He'll talk to anyone about it openly and has to several newspapers in California already. But the message gets clouded.
For superdelegate Crystal Strait, for example, the citizen votes still being cast do matter, but only because, as president of the Young Democrats of America, her constituency is youth voters nationwide. "Clinton won the youth vote in California," she says, which is a factor she has to consider as a California superdelegate. But she also has to weigh "the results of the remaining primaries as well" to honestly do what's in the best interest of all young American voters.
No Speilberg. No swelling music. No Harrison Ford as a superdelegate with a conscience. No wheeler dealers. Just ask them and they'll tell you.