Super delegates: do they protect voters or the establishment?
It takes 2,382 delegates to win the Democratic nomination for the President of the United States. Despite nearly tying with Hillary Clinton in Iowa and winning New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders has a total count of 44 delegates. Hillary Clinton has a total count of 394 delegates. Why the huge difference when only Iowa and New Hampshire primaries have passed?
The answer: super delegates.
Super delegates are an annoyingly essential part of the Democratic primaries. They are party representatives who have the the power to vote on a candidate even if that candidate did not earn the most votes in that super delegate’s home state.
“Super delegates have a role to play in our political process,” UH political science graduate Gabriela Briones said. “Whether that role is to prevent party extremism or maintain the status quo, that’s up for debate.”
Although super delegates are supposed to protect party voters, the delegates are controversial because some believe they really protect the preferences of party establishment. The debate over the purpose is still a touchy subject.
Interestingly enough, the GOP has changed its rules on super delegates since 2012. Now super delegates only make up seven percent of the total number of Republican delegates. So why would the Democratic Party have a system in which some delegates totally disregard the voices of the people?
“Think of the Framers’ fear of the tyranny of the majority,” political science lecturer Michelle Belco said. “(Super delegates) are able to choose within the party’s slate of candidates but not necessarily for the state’s preference. Is it democracy at work?”
Belco highlights a debate that has been raging since the dawn of the nation. Although the electoral college usually represents the will of the popular vote, sometimes it does not. Should we not instead focus our outrage on a system explicitly outlined in the Constitution of the United States? No, we should not.
The United States is a democratic republic, not a direct democracy. While many people disagree with the concept of the electoral college, it is actually a sound way to protect the minority opinion of the country.
If people really want to believe their vote matters in presidential elections, then they should participate more in their local elections. Generally, electors are appointed by the state’s party conventions. So if a citizen wants electors to truly go by their beliefs, then they should vote on state representatives that best represent his or her beliefs.
As for the Democratic Party, when it comes to super delegates, the party should have a vote on whether they continue with that process. If enough party voters and/or representatives are taken aback by this process, they should be able to voice that opinion to determine the future of the party.
Opinion columnist Samuel Pichowsky is a political science sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]