Just when you thought the Electoral College was the worst thing that can happen in a democracy, ironically it is the Democratic Party that provides a system that’s even worse.
The race for the Democratic presidential nomination race got more intense last week when Senator Barrack Obama narrowly passed Senator Hillary Clinton for the first time in his campaign when it comes to delegates. Supporters for both candidates might have a legitimate reason to worry as it seems their votes might not have the final say in deciding who will represent the party in the presidential election this fall.
We are currently in what is known as “primary season” in which presidential hopefuls are looking to win their party’s nomination for President. This is traditionally decided by the number of delegates each candidate is able to win. These delegates are decided during state primaries or caucuses and when a candidate wins one of these, as Sen. Obama did three times last week in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C, he is actually winning the number of delegates that state has.
The winning candidate must garner a total of 2,025 delegates in order to become the party’s nominee.
If only it were that simple. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats must also win over a third constituency in their respective campaigns: the super-delegates. You may be wondering exactly who or what these important players are, and just as importantly, how they will affect the outcome of the race.
In short, super-delegates include all former Democratic Presidents and Vice Presidents, as well as any Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives among others who will be chosen based primarily on their prominence within the party.
According to the Los Angeles Times, there are 746 of these delegates, which accounts for almost 40 percent of the total number of the delegates needed to win.
Many have criticized the Democratic Party for the use of this system since it basically takes the ultimate power of deciding who will challenge the Republican front-runner away form the voters. Rationale behind it is that the Democratic Party is a political institution and that the leaders of the party should have more of a say in the nominating process than the average Joe. In other words, every vote counts, but some more than others.
But isn’t this nearly the same explanation given for the Electoral College? What is the point of going out and casting a ballot if ultimately the popular vote will count for a little more than a novelty at the end?
One of Senator Obama’s major themes for this election is encouraging his supporters to “Stand for Change.” That change should also include the way we elect our officials. As Americans, we constantly pride ourselves in the ability to hold an election that doesn’t result in violence and hostile takeovers. Nevertheless, only when our elected officials are able to take office for no other reason than the fact that the majority of the population choose them over their opponents can we truly call ourselves a democracy.