Super Tuesday

Life, particularly politics, is full of irony. While we are prosletizing democracy around the world, our system for picking candidates to run for the presidency certainly deviates from strict adherence to that standard. The Republicans adopted an electoral-like system, where the winner in each state gets all its delegates. This system has no guaranty that the most popular candidate will receive the nomination. It is easy to imagine someone carrying a few big states, getting generally drubbed but receiving the nomination with the largest number of delegates. The strength of this system though is that the nominee will be strong in the states with the most electoral votes and that of course really is the key factor in getting elected. (Remember Bush lost the popular vote to Gore.)

The Democrats chose proportional allocation of delegates within each state. This is more likely than the Republican model to assure that the most popular candidate will be chosen. The Democrats, however, wildly detour from the democratic standard by giving the party elite the power to appoint the nominee in a reasonably close contest. With forty percent of the delegates being “super delegates,” who are free to vote for anyone they choose, at least theoretically these super delegates could appoint any nominee with 16% of the delegates determined by vote. While such unanimity among the super delegates is unlikely, if a few percentage points separate Obama and Clinton, the winner to a certainty will be determined by the party elite.

The super delegates include Democratic governors, members of Congress, former presidents and congressional leaders and everyone in the Democratic National Committee. This substantial centralization of power within the party is certainly undemocratic and it seems to me that it is potentially very devisive. Going into Super Tuesday, Obama had won more delegates through the primaries than Clinton, but she had more commitments from the super delegates, giving her a very early appreciable lead. If Clinton gets the nomination after losing the primaries, it is hard to imagine that there will not be some backlash within the party. The Democratic Party’s system appears to strongly favor people who are entrenched within the system and disfavor “outsiders,” such as Obama.

If you are a Republican your vote unquestionably counts more than that of your Democratic counterpart, about 67% more than a Democratic vote.

A number of the candidates for nomination dropped out before Super Tuesday. I would guess that one reason is that much of the campaigning in the Super Tuesday states must be done through the media, as there is not enough time for a candidate to go to them all. This gives an enormous advantage to people with money. The only way to counteract that is for a less well financed candidate to get a lot of media attention from the campaign. Before he dropped out Edwards complained that he was not getting enough media attention. Huckabee, who relatively speaking has received a lot of media attention, stayed in. There have been proposals which to varying degrees resolve these problems, but after the national election there seems to be little interest in addressing them.


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