Florida and Michigan Superdelegates Should Not Be Reinstated

While I have been advocating new Democratic primaries in Florida and Michigan in this blog and was one of the first people to propose financing them with money raised through donations, I am against the reinstatement of the superdelegates from these states.

I have consistently supported two principles in several blog posts about the possibility of new primaries in these states:

  1. The DNC delegate selection rules must be respected to avoid chaos in the scheduling of primaries in future elections.
  2. Operating within those rules, Florida and Michigan should hold new primaries or caucuses so that the voices of voters in these states can be heard.

The second principle does not require that the superdelegates should be reinstated.  It is the pledged delegates who represent the voices of the voters based on actual elections.  The superdelegates primarily represent themselves rather than the voters of their states.  It is entirely possible to respect the second principle by holding new primaries in Florida and Michigan and only seating the pledged delegates selected by the voters.  In fact, there are good reasons to not seat the superdelegates if new primaries are held.

The Florida and Michigan Democratic Parties both knew the DNC delegate selection rules ( published in August, 2006) long before these states scheduled their rule-breaking primaries that took place in January.  While an argument can be made that it was the Republican-dominated Florida legislature that set Florida’s January 29 primary date, the Florida Democratic Party could have decided to run its own voting contest on a later date and could have refused to participate on the date picked by the Florida legislature.  The DNC even recommended that Florida have a separate caucus on a later date (that would adhere to the DNC rules) before stripping Florida of its delegates in August, 2007.  So, the Florida Democratic Party had plenty of time to schedule a primary or caucus on a different date.  Unfortunately, Florida’s state party chairwoman, Karen Thurman, complained at the time (in a Washington Post article) that the Florida Democratic Party did not have the money to run its own caucus; she and the rest of the leadership of the Florida Democrats should have been a little creative and searched for ways to raise the required funds as is now being proposed by people like James Carville, Senator Bill Nelson, Governor Corzine, and Governor Rendell.

Similarly, Michigan was stripped of its delegates in November, 2007 after setting its January 15 primary date.  But Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer arrogantly told MSNBC at the time that he did not think the delegates would be lost for good and said he expected the Democratic presidential nominee would insist that the state’s delegates be seated.  He knew the rules and knew the penalty, but didn’t believe the penalty would stick.

I believe that the superdelegates from Florida and Michigan should not be reinstated for the following reasons:

  1. Florida and Michigan violated the DNC delegate selection rules and deserve some sort of penalty.  While it is desirable to hold new primaries or caucuses in these states so that their voters can participate in the nomination process, these states should not get off scot free.  By not reinstating the superdelegates of these states, the DNC would penalize the people who had the greatest ability to avoid the illegal January primary dates.  This would send a clear message to state-level party leaders in all states that any future attempts to hold early voting contests would ultimately penalize those party leaders directly.
  2. Senator Clinton has been the primary advocate of either reinstating the Florida and Michigan delegates or holding new contests in these states.  She has clearly been motivated by Senator Obama’s lead in the delegates race.  She needs the delegates from these states to be reinstated much more than Obama does.  The voters and superdelegates of these states might therefore be somewhat biased in favor of Clinton because of her advocacy to count their delegates.  There is nothing that can be done about voter bias while respecting principle 2 above; Obama will just have to live with that bias and strive to turn out as many voters as possible.  But it is possible to avoid bias amongst the superdelegates by simply not reinstating them.  (Please note my comment below where I point out that I would want to avoid bias in favor of either candidate and would make the same argument if it was Obama who needed the delegates more than Clinton.)

So, while I continue to advocate new primaries in Florida and Michigan, I oppose the reinstatement of the superdelegates from these states.

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4 Responses to “Florida and Michigan Superdelegates Should Not Be Reinstated”

  1. 1dumblonde Says:

    If Obama needed the delegates would you feel differently? If not, why point #2 at the end here? It doesn’t make logical sense that just because she needs them, she should not have them. Michigan and particularly Florida carry large electoral college votes. Remember the electoral college, because that is how presidents get elected. To ignore them is to ignore the realities of the general election.

  2. rberlind Says:

    I understand why you thought by last point was motivated to help Obama and appreciate your comment. My point was that we should avoid bias (where possible) if new contests are held. You might not believe me, but I actually would have said the same thing about bias if Obama had needed the delegates more than Clinton. I would want to avoid bias in favor of either candidate. While I admit that I am an Obama supporter, I believe strongly in making these decisions based on principles and not on which candidate benefits. Of course, that does not mean that I was not subconsciously biased to write the entire article due to my support for Obama. However, if I really wanted to advocate a position with respect to Florida and Michigan that would be most helpful to Obama, I would either advocate that none of their delegates be reinstated or that the states hold caucuses rather than primaries in which Obama would do better. But in prior posts, I have advocated new primaries over caucuses since they allow more voters to participate.

  3. rberlind Says:

    Dylan Loewe wrote a post on The Huffington Post also advocating that the superdelegates from these states not be reinstated. See
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dylan-loewe/no-seats-for-you_b_91109.html

  4. rberlind Says:

    Mark Meyers wrote a similar post on The Huffington Post:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-myers/the-silent-superiority-w_b_92426.html

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