Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Undemocratic Party Process

The delicious irony of the Democratic Party is that while their rhetoric is filled with claims of bringing the will of the people into the political process, like all statist control organizations, they have carefully structured themselves to dismiss the will of the voters if it gets inconvenient for the leadership. Since the left know themselves best, I’ll let good progressive Ari Berman of The Nation explain.

Not So Superdelegates: If the race goes down to the wire, an elite contingent of superdelegates--unpledged party operatives and elected officials not chosen by primary voters--could play a decisive role, even though most voters don't know they exist. How could the Democratic Party be so, well, undemocratic?

Rewind to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which showcased the undue influence of the party's old guard. Big-city bosses like Chicago Mayor Richard Daley handed the nomination to Hubert Humphrey, despite Humphrey's support for a deeply unpopular war and the fact that he hadn't won a single primary. As Rick Perlstein recounts in his forthcoming book, Nixonland, Eugene McCarthy won 79 percent of the vote in the Pennsylvania primary but got less than 20 percent of the state's delegates at the convention. The rest were picked by the party machine. The will of the voters was ignored at the convention, and protesters on the streets outside it were met with clubs and tear gas.

Despite the backroom double-dealing, supporters of McCarthy and Robert Kennedy were able to pass a rule at the convention mandating a study of how the party picked its nominee. … The new rules helped catapult two dark horses to the nomination, McGovern himself in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1976.

By 1980 the party establishment had seen enough. It struck back with a commission of its own, led by North Carolina Governor James Hunt. It returned power to elected officials and party regulars--the superdelegates, who will make up about 20 percent of the 4,049 delegates at the Democratic convention. They include all Democratic members of Congress and every governor, but roughly half of them are Democratic National Committee officials elected by state parties, who range from top party operatives to local city council members. Key interests in the party, like labor groups, can also name superdelegates. According to political scientist Rhodes Cook, superdelegates were created as a "firewall to blunt any party outsider that built up a head of steam in the primaries."

The fear of Obama supporters is that their candidate is exactly the type of neophyte party crasher the established elders designed this system to stop. The Clinton mafia is widespread and well financed. There is every reason to believe they are already strong arming the unelected 20% of convention delegates to support their third term.