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Bernie Sanders’s Superdelegate Hypocrisy

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Bernie Sanders’s Superdelegate Hypocrisy

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders leaves after holding a rally at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington March 25, 2016. REUTERS/David Ryder -

For months, superdelegates, or unelected representatives of the Democratic Party who have votes at the nominating convention, have loomed large as a force in the presidential primary. Hillary Clinton has dominated Bernie Sanders in “committed” superdelegates (though they can always change their vote), and Sanders and his supporters are vocal about the uphill battle they’ve faced as a result of the Democratic establishment’s pro-Clinton bias.

Superdelegates aren’t small-d “democratic.” They aren’t bound to represent the will of their state’s Democrats, and in this primary season especially, many chose a candidate to support before their state’s voters even indicated their own preferences.

Still, superdelegates know that voters see them as undemocratic: in 2008, as it became clear Barack Obama would beat Hillary Clinton, superdelegates supporting Clinton switched their vote to support him in order to keep the party united. There’s no winning a general election if you defy the will of the people.

Which is why it’s especially rich that Bernie Sanders’s campaign has begun recruiting superdelegates to challenge Clinton’s increasingly large lead.

After Sanders’s huge wins in Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii on Saturday, he went on television to make his case.

“A lot of these superdelegates may rethink their position with Hillary Clinton,” he said on CNN. After such large states had supported him in such large numbers, he went on, they should re-evaluate their allegiance.

In an interview for the Washington Post, Sanders advisor Tad Devine told Greg Sargent that “Sanders would call for this [superdelegate] switch if Sanders trailed in the popular vote and was very close behind in the pledged delegate count, too.”

But in November, Devine told the Associated Press that “The best way to win support from superdelegates is to win support from voters.”

Now who’s being undemocratic?

I support Sanders’s campaign for president. But more than that, I support the “revolution” of newly-politically engaged primary and general election voters he claimed would transform American politics into a fairer arena. If such a revolution fails to win the majority of democratically-elected delegates, and even fails to win the majority of the popular vote, how can it be said to be a revolution at all?

There’s a case to be made that Clinton’s early advantage in committed superdelegate support may have discouraged would-be Sanders supporters from voting for him, but that doesn’t seem likely: First, Sanders and Clinton have long been the only two viable Democratic candidates, so why wouldn’t primary voters choose Sanders even if they knew about Clinton’s superdelegate lead? And also, as the “anti-establishment” candidate of the pair, Sanders’s populist support has more often than not been emphasized by Clinton’s superdelegate support, not undermined by it.

The question then is: what are Sanders’s real metrics for political success? If he continues with his current delegate strategy, it seems popular support isn’t one of them.

Photo: Bernie Sanders leaves after holding a rally at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington March 25, 2016. REUTERS/David Ryder 




  1. Tim Mocarski March 28, 2016

    It is hardly hypocritical to expect the super delegates in each state to support the candidate that wins the primary in their respective states. If Clinton wins a primary she should get that state’s super delegate vote. If sanders wins a primary same thing. That’s all Sanders is saying

    1. JPHALL March 28, 2016

      Sounds nice. But that isn’t reality. The super delegates are not elected, they are appointed by the party, most before any elections.

      1. Tim Mocarski March 28, 2016

        Of course it’s not the reality, which is why the system needs to be changed to reflect the will of voters in each individual state. And why more voters should start demanding that super delegates, many of whom are elected officials, follow the majority.

        1. Jan123456 March 28, 2016

          But the whole point of the super-delagates was to prevent what is happening in the GOP this go round.

          1. Mr Corrections March 29, 2016

            That’s correct, but they’re not a very good system for doing that in the public perception. In practice, they’ve never gone against the obvious wishes of the primary voters (and since they’re supporting Clinton, the far more popular candidate, they’re not this time either) – but they APPEAR to be undemocratic.

          2. Anna119 April 3, 2016

            Actually, in 2008, Hillary garnered more primary election votes than Obama did, but the superdelegates awarded the nomination to Obama anyway.

          3. Mr Corrections April 3, 2016

            Dunno where you heard that; he finished with roughly 100 more pledged delegates.

        2. yabbed March 29, 2016

          Super delegates reflect the Democratic Party leadership. Sanders is not a Democrat. The party leadership is not interested in this interloper.

        3. JPHALL March 29, 2016

          But that is not going to happen for many years. That is why the Bernie movement does less well in states that actually vote. The party can control who votes for a candidate in a primary while a caucus lets pretty much anyone who shows up vote.
          Subject: Re: Comment on Bernie Sanders’s Superdelegate Hypocrisy

    2. Matt March 28, 2016

      (author here) Sanders is saying more than that. The Washington Post piece linked here details that *even if* Sanders got the superdelegates from the states he’s won, he’d still be way behind.

      1. Independent1 March 28, 2016

        And what many Bernie supporters fail to acknowledge is that many of Bernie’s wins have been in caucus states where the primaries are attended by a small fraction of the voters – so just because he won the primary doesn’t necessarily mean that win actually represents how a much larger block of Democrat voters would have voted had they participated in the primary.

      2. Mr Corrections March 29, 2016

        In fact, Tad “Karl Rove” Devine went even further, and floated the idea of convincing pledged delegates (the non-supers) to change their votes, contrary to the wishes of the voters.

  2. Foryourconsideration March 28, 2016

    Democratic primary voters — PROTECT YOUR VOTE. While voting should
    be straightforward, it’s not. When you register to vote, declare a party
    affiliation or you can be left out of the primary. Even after you’ve
    registered to vote, party affiliations can arbitrarily change in the
    system, making you ineligible to vote on primary election day. Check
    your party affiliation often (takes two seconds online) and document it
    so you are prepared to give proof (when you arrive early) at your
    polling place. Don’t let anyone steal your vote. Check your status now
    at: https://www.headcount.org/verify-voter-registration/

  3. Mr Corrections March 29, 2016

    Super delegates should go, and so should caucuses. Let the voters decide.

    Of course, Sanders would have already bowed out under that system.

  4. S1AMER March 29, 2016

    This latest superdelegate gambit from the Sanders campaign reeks of desperation (and is pathetic in its hypocrisy, but that’s another matter).

    1. A_Real_Einstein March 30, 2016

      So if Bernie wins the voted delegates battle should the Superdelegates switch to Bernie to reflect the will of the people?

  5. Michelle Hackler March 29, 2016

    Bernie Sanders is sounding more and more like a crabby old man, who thinks he is owed the right to be the Democratic candidate for President. He disparages Hillary Clinton and belittles her efforts in progressive causes where his efforts as a progressive are small compared to Hillary and he has given little or nothing to the Democratic Party, yet he expects the super delegates from whom he has done little to support him. I am tired of his preaching and his harsh lecturing. If he alienates the Democratic Party and becomes President he will accomplish little as President. Bernie Sanders is not the Betty Crocker of the progressive movement and his seal of approval on issues means nothing. Most of his programs if labelled as socialistic will go nowhere as many of us other progressives who have favored democratic socialist ideals in the past have seen. The world of 19th and 20th Century world of capitalism and socialism don’t exist anymore. Most multinational corporations today are public stock companies and not private proprietorships. Wealthy people milk them for wealth but the ownership is public and if as in the United States is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, governments ownership is meaningless in our capitalist free market system. Socialism is government ownership of the means of creating capital and that system is also a failure in our multinational corporation economy because no other country wants its economy to be largely influenced by national state owned corporations.

    Socialism is an economic system and nation states offering social services to its residents and citizens is not necessarily socialistic even though the right likes to brand it as such and the left is willing to accept this branding. Government regulation is not necessarily socialistic either because socialism implies government ownership in the name of the people and doesn’t imply a governmental system such as a republic or democracy, or dictatorship of any kind. Socialism is an economic system and like the capitalism of Adam Smith doesn’t exist any more and wouldn’t work in the 21st Century world economy. Neither the state run economies or the sole proprietorships ever cared about serving the needs of the world market place. They only cared about amassing wealth for a select few individuals. These select individuals still milk the worlds wealth but own little of means of creating this wealth, they only control the flow of wealth into their own pockets either through a state dominated economic system or a free market economy.

    Vote for Hillary who will deal with the world as it is. Bernie wants to create his own world which he will fail at as have all of those who have tried before. Some crisis will come along like it has for Presidents in the past and he will spend his whole Presidency dealing with that crisis and his promises will go in to the dust bin of history. Ask President Obama if he expected his 8 years as Presidency to be dominated by economic failure and terrorism and he would have said no. He had other dreams and goals for our country which had to be laid aside for him to deal with the real world. As did President Bush in his 8 years before President Obama.

    Bernie Sanders is too rigid to deal. Vote for Hillary.

  6. yabbed March 29, 2016

    He isn’t a Democrat. He has no business trying to ride the Democratic Party coattails. The man is revealed more and more clearly everyday as a fraud and a hypocrite.

  7. dtgraham March 29, 2016

    Of course the National — don’t vote for Bernie Sanders — Memo blames him. This is the same website that refused to mention what happened in the 3 primary states last Saturday, as though the vote never happened. No results given and nothing at all on it, because there was no way to spin it.

    Hillary and Bernie shared 15 delegates a piece coming out of New Hampshire despite the lopsided result in his favour. It was the super delegates. That’s fair? In either Idaho or Utah (can’t remember now), Hillary took 9 of the 17 super delegates from that state despite being beaten by 60 percentage points. That’s fair?

    Is it any wonder that he’s going after the super delegates? Only this website would ignore the reasons why. Only this one.


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