Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Democratic party idiosyncrasies

I've never heard so much fussing about the Democratic party's use of so-called "superdelegates" before. Clearly the close primary contests between Obama and Clinton has raised the profile of this unique aspect of how this party chooses the Presidential candidates.

I'm actually torn on whether I think that the party's use of superdelegates is a good thing or a bad thing. I hear all of the grumbling that "the will of the people" should determine the candidates. Yet Geraldine Ferraro, Democratic party mucky-muck and onetime Vice Presidential candidate, wrote an interesting piece in yesterday's Times that put some context around why this system was created.

I tend to agree that there should be thought and action leaders within the political system. "The Will of the People" is often the will of only a very few people, even in primaries with "high" turnouts of, say, 25%. Those people are often the ones who are rabid supporters of a particular candidate. The superdelegate system allows the leaders in the Democratic party - who should have the best insight into how to prevail as a party in the general election - to have a prominent voice in the selection of the candidate the party puts forth. Is this an undemocratic process? Possibly. But I think that there are bigger issues with the Democrat's primary process.

The issue of larger concern to me is the discrepancies between how the states conduct their primary contests (including both primary elections and caucuses). In some states, Republicans and independents can vote along with the registered Democrats. The caucuses in states like Iowa or Colorado put a much larger time burden on the voter, as compared to the five minutes or so it took me to vote in the Connecticut primary, dramatically limiting who can and will choose to participate. Some states use a "winner take all" policy for delegates; others allocate in proportion to votes; and Nevada seems to give more weight to certain districts, allowing Clinton to win the state but Obama to take more delegates.

All of these archaic systems together obfuscate the entire process. There is no clear winner; there is no clear "will of the people". As a Democrat, I am thrilled to have two very impressive candidates in a close race, but I want to see the party united at the end of the day. I fear that whatever the outcome, supporters of the losing candidate will point fingers in the flaws in the system, distracting everyone from the wildly important general election. Thoughts, anyone?

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