Archive for November, 2008

The Influence of the Super Delegates

As Barack Obama chooses his cabinet, I am watching with cautious optimism. I’m glad that Hillary Clinton will likely be Secretary of State, and I wish I felt more excited about the whole thing. But throughout this election season, I became increasingly disillusioned with the Democratic Party, and I’ve yet to shake that disenchantment, unfortunately.

It started when I decided to get more politically active again, after feeling like I hadn’t done enough to try and prevent the eight-year scourge of the Bush administration. Back in August, through VoteBoth.com, a website promoting a united Obama-Clinton presidential ticket, I found a way to take action through another website called LobbyDelegates.com. I sent an email to each of the 796 Super Delegates, this unknown unpledged group who I’d heard might have the privilege of determining the Democratic candidate in this year’s election. I wrote expressing my wish for the dream ticket. Imagining they would be inundated with emails, I kept mine short and took a strong position, hoping they would notice it among the many, and that it would make an impact.

The replies I got surprised me. They effectively started an evolution in my way of thinking, not only about our electoral process but the two-party system, the candidates themselves, the influence of modern media, and the reactions of the voting public, including the people around me. The experience made me question my own party more than I ever had before, and I started looking into the Third Party candidates. At the same time, thanks to a few reasonable, well-informed, socially liberal Republicans who were willing to talk candidly despite our differences, I also began to see the other side more objectively. I suddenly found in myself a new and bold openness, which felt great, but I found myself alone in this transformed perspective among my peers, who are mostly very much on the liberal Left side of politics.

When I emailed the Super Delegates, I was simply taking a stand as a citizen, one that I thought might make them take action. According to the news at that time, these particular individuals were the only people with any real influence. Eleven Super Delegates actually replied to my email, and their answers were revealing on several different levels.

First, coming from members of the party’s upper echelon, I was surprised that most of the replies contained bad grammar, spelling errors, and a general lack of professionalism and formality. The tone of the responses ranged from kind and thoughtful, even if disagreeing with my position, to dismissive, rude and angry. Those were the most disappointing, but they were also the ones that made me want to know exactly who these people are. What I found was no less surprising. The Super Delegates, who are endowed with the power to choose the candidate in a close primary race regardless of the popular vote, include union bosses, corporate lobbyists, TV personalities and financial consultants. This time they didn’t get to decide, but they might have, and I couldn’t help but question their ties to special interests. It led me to many more questions, which I hope to explore here.

To accompany this first offering, click here for several links about the Super Delegates, my correspondence with them, and brief bios of the respondents.

–Hope Dascher

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