Do Super-Delegates Violate Our Constitutional Rights?

Harold Monteau

"Super delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don't have to be in a position where they are running against grass-roots activists” Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (CNN)

What are Super Delegates, and why do their votes count so much more than yours or mine? Basically, they are the Democratic Establishment Elite. Reflecting the makeup of Congress, about half of the Super delegates are white men, even though they make up only 28 percent of the Democratic primary electorate. They are called PLEOs (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) in the parlance of the DNC. They are the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of each State Democratic Party, Democratic Members of Congress and other party leaders, past and present. While they number a little over 712 of the approximately 4200 or so Delegates, their “weighted” votes can equal approximately 10,105 votes equal approximately 30-40% of the votes at the Nominating Convention and do not have to reflect the vote of the Rank and File Democrats (You, I and anyone else who votes in the State Democratic Primary) in the state from which they come. They can also influence the Primaries by endorsing a candidate even before the Primary Elections take place. Their “endorsement” of one particular candidate can demonstrate to the Caucuses and Voted Primaries who the Rank and File should support, and who the State Delegates should support, if they want to be in sync with the DNC which controls a lot of money and power in the Democratic Nominating System and in the State Democratic Parties. Retribution after going against the DNC and the Establishment Elite can be swift as demonstrated recently when the DNC Co-chair Tulsi Gabbard broke ranks, resigned from her position as Co-Chair, and endorsed Bernie Sanders. She was quickly ostracized and voted of the Island, so to speak.

Aren’t our State Delegates, who are supposed to represent the Vote of the Rank and File, who outnumber the Super delegates at the Convention, supposed to vote in accordance with how we voted in the state primary? Actually, only a few states require that the “normal” Delegate’s, chosen at the state level to represent the Rank and File Democrats at the Nominating Convention, vote reflect the vote of the Rank and File in their respective States. Most of the approximately 3300 State Delegates do not have to vote in accordance with the Rank and File of their State. Only their “good conscience in representing the vote of the people” is supposed to guide their Convention Vote. Yet another rule that allows the DNC Elite to cajole and coerce Delegates into line and, in some cases even, “extort” the Delegate’s vote for some promised future assistance, or some future retribution for failure to go along to get along.

Well then, what would cause our State Party Delegate to not vote how the Rank and File voted in their state? Many, if not all, of the Delegates chosen at the State Level are either Local Democratic Party Officials or they are “Rising Stars” with political aspirations to higher office in their state or at the national level. They will not “buck the system” if they know what’s good for them. They know they need the support and money controlled by the DNC and their local Democratic Party Officials. They also know that if they go against the Democratic Party Elite (the PLEOs), they will probably never advance much farther than a state elected office. The DNC also holds the purse strings for any “get out the vote” effort in the home state of Delegates who need that money to recruit and register new voters or those that let their registration slip. The DNC has withheld money for “get out the vote” during the present primaries out of what some say is fear that the new voters would not vote for the DNC Elite’s chosen candidate.

Why would the DNC put together a system that basically can “nullify” or “cancel out” the vote of the Rank and File? The best answer is “because we let them”. The DNC Super Delegate System was put in place by a vote at the Convention in 1982 after a couple Democrat Presidential Candidates, favored by a vote of the Rank and File and State Delegates, were trounced in the General Election (think George McGovern). The DNC actually created a Commission and kept records of the proceedings. Essentially, the DNC Elite wanted to be able to substitute their “Democratic Establishment Experience” and judgment, as to the “electability” of a Candidate, in place of the popular vote of the people. Just as now, back then the DNC had a problem with the voters between the ages of 18-35 who the DNC Elite felt were too “inexperienced” (young) to be trusted with nominating the Democratic Party’s Presidential Candidate. Ironically, the first candidate the DNC Super Delegate Rules applied to was Walter Mondale and he was soundly beaten too. One could say that the Elite’s judgment turned out not to be so good either. Jesse Jackson, but also Gary Hart, were the first to experience the power of the Super Delegates’ vote. You might remember the Elite’s other Candidate who got trounced (Dukakis) in the election that brought us the “Bush Dynasty”.

Isn’t the DNC Super Delegate System Undemocratic or even Unconstitutional?

If one were to think so, they may be right. It is ironic that the party that is named the Democratic Party may not be as Democratic as they claim.

One writer suggests that “If the definition of democracy is that form of government in which the sovereign power is exercised by the people (one man, one vote) in a body, then it is fair to say that Super delegates circumvent democracy by granting their heavily weighted endorsements and is nothing more than rigging an election?”.

The DNC claims that the PLEO (Super delegate) System is “Constitutional” because it is just an “internal party rule”. This is rather disingenuous when the rule has so much effect “externally” on the Voting Rights of Millions of the Democratic Rank and File Voters and the Delegates we send from the states. It can literally allow the DNC to “nullify” the popular vote and the vote of “our” Delegates. In fact, that is its avowed purpose according to the DNC history; to override the Peoples Vote and substitute the DNC Elite Establishment’s judgment for the judgment of the People. If that does not violate my Constitutional Rights, and yours, then I don’t know what does.

Harold Monteau, is a Chippewa Cree Attorney writing from New Mexico and was a Presidential Appointee/Senate Confirmed Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission in the William J. Clinton Administration.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page




WSullivan's picture
All elections should be decided by the popular vote alone - one person, one vote. Delegates, superdelegates and the electoral college are anachronisms. It should not be possible to lose an election after winning the popular vote. The same applies to political endorsements by organizations, such as unions. Endorsements should be decided by the members. There is no longer any technological constraint against gauging the popular sentiment on any issue. Similarly, we should have the ability to decide national issues by popular referendum, such as proposition voting in California. Power to the people.