Op-Ed

Be wary of the superdelegates

Superdelegates to the Democratic Convention could help Hillary Clinton prevent a victory by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Superdelegates to the Democratic Convention could help Hillary Clinton prevent a victory by Sen. Bernie Sanders. TNS

Isn’t democracy a pip? For months, across all those amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties, Republicans and Democrats — Americans all — have been schlepping to the polls or caucuses to cast their vote to determine whom they would like to eventually become (let’s cue Yankee Doodle Dandy) the president of these great United States.

It’s just a thing of Liberty Bell beauty, is what it is. Until it isn’t.

What we are beginning to sense as the field of Republican and Democratic primary candidates enters the home stretch to clinch the presidential nominations is that free and fair elections are a wonderful thing — unless a scary candidate, or two, emerges.

You know you can take this Constitution fiddle-faddle only so far. It never hurts to hedge your bets, just in case the body politic decides to go all peasants with pitchforks on the Potomac.

And that is why both the Republicans and Democrats created the system of superdelegates, which is really nothing more than a euphemism for “smoke-filled room.”

On the face of it, it would appear the Democratic presidential nomination race is relatively close. A total of 2,383 delegates are needed to secure the nomination. And with 2,042 earned delegates still to be carved up in the remaining nominating contests, it would seem former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — with a comfortable if not commanding 1,243 delegates over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ total of 980 delegates — is reasonably poised to carry the day.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has accumulated 736 delegates of the 1,237 needed to win the Republican nomination. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz trails way behind with 463 delegates. With 943 earned delegates still in play among the remaining primary states, it is conceivable Trump could either lock up the nomination or come within a gnat’s eyelash of becoming the GOP presidential nominee by the time the party assembles for its convention in Cleveland this summer.

But you never know. Suppose an avowed “democratic socialist” gets hot and starts winning primaries? And what to do if a Republican candidate with all the elegance and command of the issues of the Deliverance banjo boy actually ascends to become the GOP’s titular leader? If you are part of the so-called Republican and/or Democratic “establishment,” there isn’t enough gin in the world.

So it was, in an act of selfless civic compassion, that both parties created the superdelegate system in order to serve as a corrective should ill-informed Republican or Democratic peons opt to vote the wrong way. Unelected superdelegates are made up of party royalty, including governors, senators, members of Congress, deep-pocketed contributors, celebrities and other assorted swans of superiority. There are about 700 Democratic superdelegates, most of whom support Clinton, and around 170 Republican superdelegate potentates.

In a closely fought nominating battle, the super fixers can most certainly influence the outcome of the process. And yes, a thousand times yes, the notion of a small group of big-shots conniving (accent on “con”) to cook the books on the nominating system has to bring a wistful tear of joy to the ghost of the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Tradition.

Imagine a presidential candidate traveling the land for the past year, attending debates, pretending to care about Iowans and actually winning numerous contests to either lead the party’s nominating process or inching ever closer to being a legitimate contender, only to have Republican and Democratic henchmen conclude all those millions of votes are very nice, but the superdelegates will decide what’s best.

There is some validity to the argument that historically superdelegates have held little, if any, sway over the ultimate outcome of picking a nominee. But that was then. This is now, when the pursuit of the presidency has been turned into a divisive fraternity hazing ritual meets “Game of Groans.”

And thus, out of fear perhaps that Bernie Sanders might show up on the Democratic convention floor in a Mao jacket or the Republican Party will be dragooned by Citizen Bane, it is altogether likely the superdelegates will attempt to assert their will.

The good old-fashioned “smoke-filled room” ripe with stogies and bourbon and guys named Muldoon plotting to steal elections (what fun!) has now fallen victim to political operatives with an inordinate preoccupation with health who do their dirty work in kale-filled Internet cafes.

Of course the object of the superdelegate exercise to stiff either Sanders and Trump is the fear their nomination would lead to a crushing loss in November. This democracy stuff can be so inconvenient.

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