Defining The Will of the People
by Todd Beeton, Fri Feb 15, 2008 at 05:33:37 PM EST
In the ongoing debate over what the role of superdelegates should be in the nominating process, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has come in on the "will of the people" side but in the process raises more questions than answers. From SFGate's Politics Blog:
"I think there is a concern when the public speaks and there is a counter-decision made to that," she said, adding quickly, "I don't think that will happen."
She said the governors, lawmakers, DNC members and others picked as super delegates are chosen through a grassroots process and are accountable to the party's voters.
"I do think that they have a respect -- it's not just following the returns, it's also having a respect for what has been said by the people," Pelosi said. "It would be a problem for the party if the verdict would be something different than the public has decided."
One important question her statement begs, and one I didn't raise in my post about the DFA and MoveOn campaigns, is how exactly one defines, as Pelosi puts it, "what has been said by the people." For example, what would Pelosi say was said by the people of Nevada who gave Hillary Clinton a popular vote margin over Barack Obama but gave Obama one more pledged delegate than Clinton thanks to the delegate allocation system in place? One can make a technical case, as the Obama campaign did, that winning one more pledged delegate than Clinton in NV constituted "winning" but if you're talking about making a more theoretical "will of the people" argument, arguing that a pledged delegate win is somehow more reflective of popular sentiment than a popular vote win is an uphill battle to be sure.
Yet the implication of Pelosi's remarks, and that of both the MoveOn and DFA campaigns (although only DFA makes it explicit,) is that the vaunted will of the people should be determined simply by who has more pledged delegates when, as we see once again in Burnt Orange Report's analysis of how Texas may go on March 4th, pledged delegates are often not reflective of the will of the people at all. In fact, in advance of the California primary, Senator Barbara Boxer made it clear that she intended to cast her superdelegate vote for the "winner" of California's primary; since it appeared we could have been in store for another popular vote/delegate split decision here in CA, she subsequently clarified that she intended to vote for the popular vote winner of California, a fairly unambiguous measure of the popular will.
Offering somewhat of a dissenting view from those that argue that superdelegates should represent the will of the people, whether nationally or at the state or district level, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina rejected the concept altogether.
While Clyburn said he'd prefer superdelegates not announce their support until much later in the nominating process, he said he also doesn't agree with superdelegates shifting support from one candidate to another based on how their constituents vote in a primary or caucus. [...]
Clyburn said superdelegates are not in place simply to mirror the popular vote. "I don't think people are really thinking through what they're saying," he said.
What he didn't say was exactly what measure the superdelegates should use when making their decision about whom to support, which this year, Clyburn expects will make all the difference in who wins the nomination.
It takes 2,025 to clinch the nomination - a number Clyburn said Friday he didn't think either candidate will be able to reach before the convention. The August convention in Denver is where the superdelegates will have their say, he said.
"Nobody is going to have 2,000 votes when this is over," Clyburn said. "The superdelegates are there to provide the rest of those votes. That's why we were supposed to be unpledged."
Both campaigns certainly appear to be counting on such an outcome as they are both waging superdelegate persuasion campaigns, but right now, since Obama looks likely to have the pledged delegate lead even after March 4th, Clinton's Texas and Ohio strategy may be more about going for a popular vote lead rather than a pledged delegate lead so that once all states have voted and neither has the required number of delegates, claim it's a draw and hence that superdelegates should be free to support whomever they please. It's hard to imagine how, in the event that this does happen, how anyone could credibly argue that the pledged delegate number is somehow a better gauge of the people's will than the popular vote. Seems to me this is the only way Clinton wins the superdelegate battle and, if superdelegates do ultimately break her way, the nomination.
Update [2008-2-16 0:4:50 by Todd Beeton]:NBC's First Read has the current popular vote totals, which Obama currently leads by several points.
Obama 9,373,334 50%
Clinton 8,674,779 46%
Others 726,095 4%