Superdelegates Are Insurance For The Party
Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic primary by more than 22 percentage points and by doing so, earned 15 delegates to Clinton’s 9. Yet, despite losing the second biggest rout in state history, Hillary walked away with the same number of delegates.
That’s because she had the support of six New Hampshire unpledged delegates — better known as superdelegates — consisting of prominent elected officials and members of the Democratic National Committee with the same power as the delegates chosen by voters.
The 712 superdelegates are only less than a third of the 2,382 total delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. Superdelegates are not technically bound to vote for anyone. Why does the Democratic Party have them? Brittany Schulman helps to explain.
One major defense of the superdelegate system is protection against more “radical” candidates that capture popular imagination but would be disastrous for the party. Even though it is clear that most fringe candidates do not accrue much of the popular vote in the primary process, the superdelegate system is in place on the off chance that this does occur.
The superdelegates of the party could prevent a radical candidate from winning the nomination. The party advocates for the ability to protect itself in the event that the leading Democratic candidate is perceived to be incapable of winning the popular vote.
For example, if only the most active—and liberal—members of the Democratic Party voted in the primary one year, they might choose a very liberal candidate. However, if the superdelegates—tried-and-true party stalwarts—felt that this person was too radical to win the popular vote, they would have the ability to elect someone else.
There’s a case to be made that the candidate who wins the popular vote within the party deserves the nomination. However, the elimination of superdelegates could bring about an opportunity for Operation Chaos.
A significant number of states, including Alabama, Georgia, and Michigan have open primaries, and even more states feature partially open contests. In these instances, individuals who do not identify as Democrats can cross party lines and vote for Republican (or third party) interests in the confines of Democratic primary. Superdelegates are the most effective tool the Democratic Party has to prevent these malevolent interlopers from tipping the party’s nomination.
Superdelegates are a safety valve for the party in the event of a scandal. The first primaries and caucuses are held months before the actual Democratic National Convention. During this period of time, a scandal could break and damage the leading candidate’s standing in the general election.
While this has yet to happen, the history of scandalous politicians is hard to ignore. President Bill Clinton was able to ward off the Gennifer Flowers scandal that broke during the 1992 primary season. But, had Clinton been unable to successfully execute a damage control campaign, superdelegates could have altered their decision to ensure the Democrats were nominating a viable general election candidate.
Remember, the Democratic Party is a private organization whose members have the right to choose its representative for President of the United States of America.