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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Super Delegates: How Elitist?

Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the ‘superdelegates,’ who will cast more than 19 percent of the votes for President at the Democratic National Convention this summer, is that nearly all of them have been elected to something at some point. The general categories include: 28 Democratic governors; Every Democratic member of congress; 23 Democratic Party ‘elders’ (former Presidents, vice presidents, speakers of the House etc.); 411 DNC members elected by Party activists in the 50 states. After that the case for having superdelgates in the next convention gets very weak.
In his Sunday L.A. Times article “Who Are These Superdelegates?,” Peter Nichols quotes Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the watchdog group Public Citizen:

This is a device to try to reduce the influence of one-person, one-vote…It’s anti-democratic. It’s specifically designed for the purpose of having the insiders . . . have some sort of final decision over who the nominee is going to be, regardless of what the voters want.

And Chris Bowers, who has launched a ‘Superdelgates Transparency Project,‘ has this to say about the danger of the superdelegate system in his Sunday Open Left post:

The Democratic Party is a living institution that changes through time, and it must change to adapt to the changing nature of its membership. This is a progressive era of mass engagement in politics, and for superdelegates to defy the popular will would deal a generational body blow to huge sections of its new activist corps, not to mention give it a black eye nationally for years, and would also simply violate progressive principles of democracy.

The demographic profile of the superdelegates is not impressive. In Josephine Hearne’s Politico article “White men hold superdelegate power balance,” for example, the author notes:

The exact percentage of white males varies slightly depending on whether the penalized Michigan and Florida delegation superdelegates are counted, but the overall percentage is at least 46 percent. Overall, men of all races represent 64 percent of the party’s superdelegates…The percentage of white male superdelegates is disproportionate to the share of white males who make up the overall Democratic electorate. According to a January 2008 national poll by Zogby International, 28 percent of Democratic voters are white men. Women account for 55 percent of Democratic voters.
…Among the superdelegates, including Michigan’s and Florida’s, there are 28 governors (21 white men), 49 senators (33 white men) and 228 representatives (137 white men). Members of the Democratic National Committee are also superdelegates, and among this group, there is more diversity.

One group. 2008 Democratic Convention Watch, keeps a running tally of the superdelgates who are committed and uncommitted. For their list of names of some 439+/- superdelegates who have endorsed a presidential candidate, click here. For their list of the 356+/- superdelegates who have not endorsed a candidate, click here. As of this writing 76 have yet to be chosen by their state conventions.
As Ed’s post below pointed out, the Clinton-Obama latest snapshot breakdown estimates vary somewhat, with a range of 210-242 for Clinton to 142-163 for Obama.

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