Quaqmire! The Democrats and their Super Delegates

This gets more and more interesting by the day. Super Delegates – the Democratic Party’s manner of controlling the primary process while giving lip-service to “democracy” and the “power of the vote” – is about to get a significant test.

And it is shaping up to be a new form of the same old power politics:

Seeing a good possibility that the Democratic presidential nomination will not be settled in the primaries and caucuses, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are lavishing attention on a group that might hold the balance of power: elected officials and party leaders who could decide the outcome at the convention in August.

Now, when you read the words, ‘lavishing attention’ applied to a political group what’s the unspoken implication? Deal making. As in: “What do you want for your pledge?” Yes, the oldest game in the book (and right up there with the oldest profession in the book as well). Trading favors for votes.

“We have all been bombarded with e-mails from everybody and their mamas,” said Donna Brazile, a senior member of the Democratic National Committee. “Like, ‘Auntie Donna, you’re a superdelegate!’ My niece called me today to lobby me. I didn’t know what to say.”

Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and Mrs. Clinton, of New York, are setting aside hours each week to call superdelegates, and their campaigns have set up boiler rooms to pursue likely targets.

The Clinton campaign has established a system, overseen by one of the party’s most seasoned behind-the-scenes operators, Harold Ickes, to have superdelegates contacted by carefully chosen friends and local supporters, as well as by big-name figures like Madeleine K. Albright, a former secretary of state. For particularly tough sells, the campaign has former President Bill Clinton or Chelsea Clinton make the call.

After all the primaries, all the votes, the energized base and the “democratic process” doing its job, it may all come down to 796 people who, as Dale and I have pointed out, have no requirement to vote as the people of their own state have voted, but are free to pursue any course they choose and pledge themselves to whomever they want.

The superdelegates include all Democratic governors and members of Congress, as well as officials and other prominent members of the party. In interviews, some said they were grappling with how to use their power if it comes into play, especially if their judgment does not match the will of a majority of voters.

Should they ratify the decision by regular delegates and vote for the candidate who is ahead in June, no matter how small the lead? Are they obligated to follow the vote of their constituents in primaries or caucuses? Or should they simply follow their conscience and vote for whoever they think is the best nominee?

Tough questions with answers which could lead to a huge split in the Democratic party if the result of the SD vote goes against the public perception of who the ‘real winner’ of the primaries was.

I keep this on the front burner because in my estimation, it is one of the more interesting stories of this election. With Obama taking 4 contests yesterday, I’m pretty sure I know what the present perception is – and I think I know who it is the establishment Democrats prefer as their candidate. I don’t think they match, and that is why this is the story to watch. And if you don’t think it won’t be played to the hilt, you’re wrong:

“My strong belief is that if we end up with the most states and the most pledged delegates from the most voters in the country, that it would be problematic for the political insiders to overturn the judgment of the voters,” Mr. Obama said.

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First published at QandO.

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