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Super Delegates--and the Founding Fathers

By Arthur Joel Katz  Posted by Walter Brasch (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   4 comments
          Of late there has been  a good deal  of hoop de do about superdelegates.  Will they vote for Hillary or Barack at the Democratic convention?  And what should be the basis of their choice?  For example, should they reflect the delegate vote of their states or the popular vote or merely vote for the candidate they think is best qualified or the one that suits their own political interest?   Isn’t the whole idea that there are unelected super delegates  anti-democratic?           That depends on whether you think the Founding Fathers (FFs) were undemocratic.  That question  is not a slam dunk.  We have such a tendency to venerate the Founding Fathers and such faith in the wisdom of our constitution that we forget  that  the FFs were not gifted with perfect wisdom, nor is the constitution as masterpiece of draftsmanship.  That the country has survived as long as it has, despite the constitution’s imperfections, is somehow of a miracle.           Before angry citizens   torches on my house, let it be said that the constitution was then, and certainly is now, a lot  better founding document than anything else around.  But I hate to break it to you:   Washington was not a saint, nor  was Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and Ben Franklin.  (Of  that crowd, I prefer Franklin, but I digress.) And, unfortunately, the draftsmen of the constitution had to make a number of compromises to get the darn thing passed.  Some of those compromises were clearly undemocratic.           In the first place, the FFs  did not exactly believe in equal rights.  A larger number of them were slaveholders who had no moral compunction on that issue  or, for that matter, with sleeping with their slaves.  On the other hand, those slaveholders were certainly interested in protecting their voting rights.  The result was that in determining the weight of each state’s vote in the Electoral College,  the constitution provided that each slave was counted as three fifths of a person. Technically,   that provision it is still in the constitution although the 13th Amendment outlawed slavery.           Next,  most of the FFs did  not really trust the citizens to vote.   In almost every state, at the time of the adoption, all voters had to be property holders.  Moreover, property or not, the elitist  FFs thought that only  they themselves could be trusted to determine who should be president.  Here is Alexander Hamilton writing in The Federalist Papers:  “It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adopted to the station, and  acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper  to govern their choice.  A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to posses the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.”            Finally, each state  legislature was allowed to choose how their members of the Electoral College were to be chosen.  Some chose to have no elections at all!           Yes, some of this has been changed by constitutional amendment and by custom, but  the same  notion that the FFs  has  been applied by political parties to voting for their nominees.   The idea of the Democrats in creating superdelegates was to allow them to bring their “wisdom” to the process of selecting a candidate just as the FFs thought “the men  most capable” should determine who was elected president.           The parallel between the distrust of the FFs for the mass of the people and the party leaders for the selection of delegates by popular vote in each station is striking. Both processes seem undemocratic indeed.  Yet that still doesn’t answer the question, what  should be the basis of each superdelegate’s vote?           The problem is whether the superdelegates should determine their vote by simply looking at the number  of delegates selected by caucus of primary vote in each state or whether they should look at the popular vote for each nominee in each state  and  make their selection on that basis.  The two are not the same.  In the main, delegates to the conventions are chosen in separate caucuses or primaries in each congressional district.  So it is perfectly possible, say,  in one district Obama may receive a huge majority but the total vote in the state may give Clinton a majority.            If I were a superdelegate, I would vote in support of the candidate who received the most number of popular votes statewide.    By doing otherwise, we might avoid another election like that in 2000 when George W. Bush was elected president despite the fact that Gore won the nationwide popular vote by almost 700,000.           Okay, if you don’t like that idea, we can follow the direction of the FFs and let the superdelegates vote for whomever they darn well please on the basis of their “wisdom.”             [The author is a retired lawyer, who spent several decades as an executive producer with Universal and Paramopunt film studios.]
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Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism emeritus. His current books are Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution , America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of (more...)

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