Why superdelegates Don’t Matter (from the perspective of a 2008 Obama Pledged Delegate)

Why superdelegates Don’t Matter (from the perspective of a 2008 Obama Pledged Delegate)

Lately there’s been a whole bunch of hubbub about Bernie not “actually” winning New Hampshire because Hillary’s superdelegates make up for the ground she lost on Election Day. I was a Pledged Delegate from Missouri’s 3rd Congressional District for Barack Obama in 2008. I attended the DNC in Denver and was proud to nominate Barack Obama to be the Democratic candidate for President.

Before I explain why superdelegates don’t matter, a few quick definitions:

Delegates – when all the primaries are over, these people get to vote for their preferred nominee (in this case, Hillary or Bernie) to represent the Democratic Party. Whoever has the majority of delegates at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) will be the party’s candidate in the November General Election.

Pledged Delegate – this person is chosen through a variety of processes that vary by state (in Missouri, I actually ran a campaign to become a delegate through a series of caucuses/mini-elections). The important thing to know about them is that they represent the voters in a proportional manner. Now that New Hampshire has voted, different regions of the state will go through a process of picking the actual delegates to represent Bernie and Hillary according to the percentage of the vote each candidate got. It’s not a perfect one-to-one representation of votes because it’s proportional (I’d much prefer a simple raw vote total to decide the nominee), but the basic thing to know is that these delegates actually do represent the voters. I capitalize Pledged Delegate because these people actually represent the democratic process.

superdelegate- this person is typically a Democratic elected official like a Senator or Congressman or some other party bigwig. Just by virtue of being a bigwig in the Democratic Party, this person gets to cast a vote at the DNC to decide the party’s nominee. This individual’s vote, then, is equivalent in power to a Pledged Delegate, even though the latter represents thousands of real voters. I refuse to capitalize this word because it is an inherently undemocratic concept to say that certain people, by virtue of their status, get to have more say over our voting process.

Now, back to the original issue. Lately, articles (I imagine fueled by plenty of nudging from the Clinton campaign) have been suggesting that because Hillary has more superdelegates who’ve endorsed her, that Bernie didn’t really win New Hampshire and won’t win the nomination.

Here’s why they’re wrong:

  • superdelegates can (and do) change their minds. In 2008, more superdelegates initially endorsed Hillary, but then once the convention rolled around and Obama had won more pledged delegates, many of them actually voted for Obama when it came time to choose the nominee.
  • superdelegates who are elected officials might support Hillary right now because she’s part of the establishment like them, but when push comes to shove, they are elected officials. That is to say, if the people of their states are voting for Bernie and the superdelegates want to get re-elected one day, they probably don’t want to piss off their constituents too much by going against the popular vote.
  • If after all the states have voted and caucused, more voters have chosen Bernie Sanders, I think it is damn well impossible to believe that the party would go against the popular will and choose Hillary. There is no doubt in my mind that this would literally split the party in two and that voters would raise so much hell, no elected official in their right mind would have the chutzpah to do this. They would hurt their own chances of getting elected and frankly it’d hand the White House to the Republicans, neither of which they want.

What does this mean for us?

In short, don’t panic. The reason Hillary’s people are pushing this story now is to demoralize, confuse, and depress Bernie supporters. They’re up to their usual tricks and want to make it seem “inevitable” that she’ll win, even if this went against the voice of the people. The truth is, though, they can’t achieve this. If we turn out to vote and win the elections and caucuses, Bernie will be the nominee.

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Having been a Pledged Delegate, I saw a lot of fun things at the DNC, like Ted Kennedy’s last DNC speech and I even got a picture with Anderson Cooper before he came out (after he saw me give him a sexy wink!). I also saw a hell of a lot of corporate lobbying. I even sipped free mimosas in a historic Denver railcar rented by a Missouri railroad company with Senator Claire McCaskill extolling the virtues of Missouri railroads, a fun if bizarre experience for me (it didn’t work- I don’t really care about Missouri railroads or Claire McCaskill!).

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My point is between my DNC experience, working on the Obama Campaign in Florida in 2008, and serving in the Obama Administration (before I resigned to get out of the corrupt political system!), I’ve seen a lot of crazy, reprehensible, fucked-up things. But I want to reassure you that despite all that, I have a great deal of confidence in the fact that if Bernie Sanders wins the most votes, he’ll be the nominee, superdelegates or not. It won’t be for lack of Hillary and her ilk trying to derail our movement, like she is with this delegate issue. But I know that if we come together and win this fair and square, nobody will be able to stand in our way.

In solidarity,

Matt Adler

Pledged Delegate for Barack Obama, DNC 2008

Barack Obama Campaign Deputy Regional Field Director, Broward County, FL 2008

Barack Obama Presidential Appointee, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

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9 thoughts on “Why superdelegates Don’t Matter (from the perspective of a 2008 Obama Pledged Delegate)

  1. What is the penalty for not voting with the public?

    If you are so certain in your belief, how do you explain that 60% of the vote was for Bernie yet he lost in the delegate vote?

    And finally,

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    1. Hi John-

      The penalty for not voting with the public is that the Democratic Party would split in two and they’d lose the general election (and probably many other elections- this would definitely filter down to the state and local parties). They’re corrupt, but they want to save their own asses more than Hillary’s. Bernie is not losing the delegate vote- no delegates vote until the convention. These are predicted delegate counts. Most importantly, he’s winning the pledged delegate count, which like I argue in this piece, is the only one that actually matters when push comes to shove. Thanks for reading my piece and for sharing your views! -Matt

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  2. Hi Matt,

    Your argument is specious. It admits that the category of superdelegate is undemocratic. But it minimizes this blatant fact by claiming they would not dare to vote for the candidate the DNC prefers REGARDLESS of the popular vote in the primaries. You’re saying it’s all right to have superdelegates because they wouldn’t dare do their job. That’s bullshit. We need to raise holy hell NOW…not after the nomination. No antidemocratic factor must be permitted…PERIOD. — Jerry

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    1. I think you’re misreading my argument. Just like you, I 100% disagree with the existence of superdelegates and agree that they’re anti-democratic. My point is that Hillary’s campaign is raising the spectre of these delegates overturning the popular will precisely to distract and demoralize Bernie supporters (who are now spending their time and energy on this instead of campaigning to win votes). Furthermore, I’m arguing that her fearmongering is bullshit because the superdelegates won’t overturn the popular vote. They won’t do this out of charity nor love for the democratic process (they’re mostly slimeballs), but rather because they want to get re-elected. It’s in their own self-interest, as crude as that sounds. Thanks for sharing your feedback! #FeelTheBern

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  3. Thanks so much for encouraging Us Bernie supporters! The articles lately about the super delegates have been very disheartening to say the least. I’m at Bernie and August here in Atlanta Georgia, & I can’t imagine having anyone else is our president! Thank you!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences & pics from 2008!
    The whole superdelegate fiasco is scaring a lot of people, true enough.
    I despise the concept of superdelegates & think it should be abolished, but they don’t really intimidate me.

    Just in case anyone reads my comment, here’s something interesting from 2008. It is titled the exact opposite of this blog, but actually furthers your point.
    It’s from CNN & actually called “Superdelegates: Why They Matter”, but if you read it, you’ll see that CNN was essentially saying the same thing as this blog.

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/02/11/delegates.explainer/

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  5. Thanks for sharing your experiences in 2008!
    The whole superdelegate fiasco is scaring a lot of people, true enough.
    I despise the concept of superdelegates & think it should be abolished, but they don’t really intimidate me.

    Just in case anyone reads my comment, here’s something interesting from 2008 that is titled the exact opposite of the blog, but actually furthers your point.
    It’s from CNN & actually called “Superdelegates: Why They Matter”, but if you read it, you’ll see that CNN was essentially saying the same thing as this blog.

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/02/11/delegates.explainer/

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  6. Bernie Sanders openly admits he used the Democratic Party. He chose to run as a Democrat, even though he is an Independent, because he could use the party to get the attention he needed to get his message out. That’s all well and good, but I am a little surprised that he and/or his campaign would turn around and criticize the rules he knew existed before he decided to use the party. How are people surprised that the party would support one of their own over an outsider? I am sure the superdelegates will have enough respect for their voters that they will switch allegiances if the voting goes overwhelmingly for Sanders. They were created for special circumstances (for instance, as Trump has revealed himself, I am sure some Republicans are now wishing they had superdelegates to save them from themselves…). I was an undecided voter until the night before I voted. I chose Hillary Clinton after much deliberation and careful thought. I am offended that Sanders supporters see Hillary’s lead as only the result of corrupt machinations. Maybe, just maybe, some people support Clinton because they believe she is a stronger candidate and not because they’re shills for the Democratic Party. I have no ill will against Sanders and will support him if he wins. But I am offended by the cries of “no fair” and corruption when the rules are the rules that they were when Sanders decided where to play the game. Voting in the Democratic Party is a choice. Does it need changing? Perhaps. But the time to complain and reform is not once the game is underway. People need to educate themselves before they make decisions.

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