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Hullabaloo


Monday, June 20, 2016

 

Super-delicate situation

by Tom Sullivan


Video by Full Frontal.

Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus are vehemently opposed to abolishing so-called superdelegates from the presidential nominating process. Setting the stage for a possible confrontation, the CBC sent a letter to both the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns, Politico reports:

"The Democratic Members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently voted unanimously to oppose any suggestion or idea to eliminate the category of Unpledged Delegate to the Democratic National Convention (aka Super Delegates) and the creation of uniform open primaries in all states," says the letter, which was obtained by POLITICO. "The Democratic Party benefits from the current system of unpledged delegates to the National Convention by virtue of rules that allow members of the House and Senate to be seated as a delegate without the burdensome necessity of competing against constituents for the honor of representing the state during the nominating process."
The letter from Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina provides some personal history on how the present nominating process developed since 1972. He makes three key points for consideration before the party makes changes regarding unpledged delegates. (Superdelegates, Clyburn notes, is a pejorative term found nowhere in the rules):
Let me be clear, our delegate selection process is not rigged. It is transparent to the public and open for participation for all who wish to declare themselves Democrats. There are three questions, however, that we should all ask ourselves as we approach the 2016 Convention and consider whether or not to allow the continuation of unpledged delegates:
Number (1), Do we want to force party leaders and elected officials to compete against their constituents and party activists for delegate slots to our national conventions?

Number (2), Do we wish to force our elected officials to jeopardize their candidacies by declaring their presidential preferences in the middle of their campaigns?

Number (3), Should we expect party leaders and elected officials to give unbridled support to presidential nominees they had no role in selecting?
For newcomers to the process this stuff is pretty weedy. However, one comment from the Politico column gets at why the CBC will fight to retain unpledged delegates (emphasis mine):
"The superdelegate system is not perfect but it has worked for us quite well over the years and frankly the superdelegates have never needed to cast any superdelegate votes to alter what the voters did during the primary elections," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. "Never. That's not the case this year either. The concern many of us have, of course, is that our numbers would shrink in terms of having influence over and involvement with what happens at the convention."
The Hispanic Congressional Caucus stands with the CBC, Cleaver says.

I have not walked in the shoes of a black voter, especially one from the South. But I have seen enough to know that black Democrats view procedural matters like this through very different eyes. One anecdote may illustrate that.

So speaking of weedy, annual precinct meetings here occur either at the polling place where the precinct normally votes or at an alternate publicly accessible location nearby. But getting access to community centers, libraries, etc. for the meetings on a set day and hour once a year is problematic, putting many party meetings in conflict with community groups' scheduled monthly meetings. It's a chronic problem. So at a state convention a couple cycles ago, a (white) delegate proposed modifying state party rules to allow meetings to be held in people's houses. Seemed innocent enough.

Black delegates erupted in protest (mostly older women). How many of their friends would feel welcome attending their annual meetings at a strange house in a strange (possibly white) neighborhood? No way, they argued. Such a change would suppress participation among their community. They insisted — no, demanded — the existing rules be kept in place. Only neutral, public locations for the meetings. The proposed change failed.

It was a real eye-opener (and not the last). Their lived experience gave them a very different perspective on what appeared at first to an older, white male to be an innocuous request. I got schooled.

For what it's worth.