Superdelegates: Why Bernie Faces an Uphill Battle, No Matter the Polls
National polls continue to show Senator Bernie Sanders catching up to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton; Sanders even appears to top Clinton in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. However, the truth of the matter is that Sanders is already operating at a major deficit and that securing the delegate votes necessary to win the presidential nomination will be an uphill battle.
Before we can really delve into this subject, it’s important to understand how the Democratic presidential nominee is selected. A total of 4,764 delegates will cast votes for the nominee at the Democratic National Convention, most of which are obligated to vote in a way that reflects how their state’s Democratic primary voters cast their ballots. However, 713 of these delegates are deemed “superdelegates,” bigwigs in the Democratic Party who are free to cast their delegate vote for whomever they choose.
These 713 superdelegates account for 15 percent of the total vote. Traditionally, these superdelegates largely throw their support behind the candidate that the American voters choose via the primary process as a sign of unity. This time, however, the superdelegates are coming out in favor of one particular candidate: Clinton.
After polling each of the superdelegates, the Associated Press found that 359 are already firmly supporting Clinton, meaning that more than half of the Democratic Party’s superdelegates are clinched for the former Secretary of State. In comparison, Sanders has just 11 superdelegates in his corner, while Governor Martin O’Malley had two superdelegates committed to voting his way.
Crunching the numbers, if Clinton has 359 locked votes out of the 2,383 votes she needs to secure victory, that means she’s already 15 percent of the way to victory. Clinton’s Democratic friends also give her a substantial lead on Sanders before Americans get a chance to cast a single primary ballot.
Again, it’s rare to see this many superdelegates pledging their votes to a candidate, especially for one particular candidate at such a wide margin. The message – for better or worse – is that party insiders have already chosen their preferred candidate and aren’t bothering to wait for input from the voters.
During the last election cycle, writer Dan Abrams pointed out that each superdelegate’s vote is worth the same as approximately 10,000 primary voters’ votes. Bearing that lopsided figure in mind, the Democratic Party doesn’t seem nearly as democratic as its name would suggest.
All of that is further proof of how the two major political parties have a stranglehold on elections. The average citizen probably assumes that the primary votes are what determines which candidates run for president, not realizing that superdelegates exist to potentially tip the scale and allow the party establishment to have the final say on the candidate.
Unlike the case with the Electoral College, states are not winner-takes-all in Democratic primaries. State delegates are awarded to candidates proportionately, so if current poll numbers continue to be close over the upcoming months, the delegates could show up to the convention pretty evenly split. In that scenario, it would be the superdelegates who would decide the nominee – and their decision is already pretty clear.
Can you imagine the pandemonium that would ensue in a situation where Bernie Sanders comes out on top in the primaries but still loses the presidential nomination? Hopefully, the superdelegates would realize that overriding the popular vote would make the party look shady and wind up alienating many of its supporters. Letting the election play out rather than declaring allegiance many months before the convention occurs seems like the better way for superdelegates to handle the situation.
Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson