Pledge Mesh(why a brokered Democratic convention won’t)

Although it was acceptable at one time, most people know today that if a software system requires you to read 100’s of pages of documentation, something is wrong. Similarly with the rules for the election system and likewise, when the rules says a pledge isn’t binding, something is wrong.Obviously the superdelegates situation is inherently funky:

In a clear attempt to protect the party establishment, this undemocratic infrastructure was created following George McGovern’s landslide defeat in 1972. It was designed to prevent a nominee who was “out of sync with the rest of the party,” Northeastern University political scientist William Mayer told MSNBC. Democratic National Committee member Elaine Kamarck called it a “sort of safety valve.”

In 1988, Reverend Jesse Jackson challenged the notion that these appointed delegates be permitted to vote for the candidate of their choosing rather than the winner of the state’s caucus or primary. He was right to do so. Twenty years later, when the word “change” is being bandied about, isn’t it time for the Democratic Party to give real meaning to the word? Strengthen our democracy by reforming the super-delegate system so that the people, not the party establishment, choose their candidate.

CommonDreams.org: Tyranny of Super-Delegates

Still, most folk figure it’s manageable or at least part of the system that isn’t gonna get changed in one election cycle. However, listening to Howard Dean emphatically say that a brokered convention would be bad for everyone was a real eye opener – I mean why is it so bad? After watching the pundits all over shudder when someone(usually a field reporter) mentioned that “pledged” delegates aren’t bound to vote for a particular candidate, I decided to see for myself. While CNN’s mashup of video and web media is biased and manipulative at times, at least they’re leveraging a little bit of the potential – most of the others seem stuck a decade ago. In any case, they provide a nice summary of the relevant rules:

A pledged delegate is elected or chosen on the state and local level with the understanding that they will support a particular candidate at the convention.

However, pledged delegates are not actually bound to vote for the candidate. Consequently, candidates are allowed on a state-by-state basis to review lists of delegates who have pledged their support and can delete anyone whose support they consider unreliable.

CNN’s Delegate Explainer

Wikipedia also has a short and comprehensible explanation:

Pledged delegates reflect the preferences of the voters, but are not actually legally bound to vote for the candidate they are pledged for. However, since candidates may remove delegates who they feel may be disloyal, pledged delegates generally vote for the candidate they represent.

Neither of these explain just how or when delegates get deleted though so I continued on to the horse’s mouth. It appears to be potentially very messy. According to the Delegate Selection Rules and Regulations Of The Rules and Bylaws Committee documents found on the official Democratic Convention site,

C. Delegate or alternate candidates removed by a presidential candidate from the list of bona fide supporters at one level may file to run at another level pledged to that candidate, another candidate, or uncommitted.

Moreover, delegates who aren’t deleted still aren’t bound to vote for a particular candidate! Nor do there appear to be any anti-tampering rules that would prevent a candidate from attempting to sway delegates supposedly “pledged” to the opposing candidate. I said “appear” because I read those two documents(60 pages)really quickly and maybe there are other governing documents not listed(not a good sign) but that leads back to the opening premise – if the rules are that complicated, something’s wrong. One thing is crystal clear to me though – Howard Dean’s name is on the cover of both documents and he’s saying “let’s not go there”. Can you imagine a delegate-by-delegate fight on the convention floor? There needs to be a national initiative to get all of this clearly articulated and online. Some of the mega-millions being raised ought to be mandated to making sure the people can get unambiguous information about the candidates and the processes.

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1 Comment »

  1. julie said

    What happened to the one person, one vote idea? Each vote counts. These delegates, super and otherwise, supposedly voting for what “their” people want actually seems very shady to me. I don’t need a delegate to speak for me, my vote should speak for me. If a few Washington insiders can turn the nomination, this is not a system for the people by the people, this is a the very system most American’s want rid of, a system for the politian by the politian.

    Then we move to the presidential race and it’s no longer called the delegate but the electorial college? So, as much as I try to believe in democracy in America, there is little about this system that solidifies that belief. It’s not straight forward, one person, one vote..it’s “Go ahead and feel like your vote counts and we’ll let you know if does, after “WE” see if it works best for “US”. Ugh!

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