By Doctor Comrade
According to Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the national media has been told to stop using superdelegates when reporting the delegate totals for the Democratic Party nomination. The reasoning seems clear: superdelegates are not pledged delegates (they are not won during state primaries or caucuses), superdelegates can endorse any candidate until the convention but they can change their endorsement at any time, and the vote totals are misleading (Hillary Clinton currently has a 461-25 superdelegate lead over Bernie Sanders).
At first look, this pronouncement from Wasserman Schultz seems to help Sanders. Sanders, who is an independent running for the Democratic nomination, has been flummoxed by superdelegates since the beginning of the race. Superdelegates are members of the Democratic Party, including all Democrats in the House and Senate, all sitting governors that are Democrats, and party leaders. It should be no surprise that they overwhelming support Clinton, the only Democrat in the race and a clear member of the Democratic Establishment. Wasserman Schultz even conceded, “Unpledged delegates [superdelegates] exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists," a disgustingly un-democratic sentiment summarized as: we want to make sure the people don't elect nominees we don't like.
Reporting the superdelegate endorsements has made it appear as though Clinton is the presumptive nominee. Her current lead, with superdelegates, is 1,223-574. But without superdelegates, her lead shrinks to 748-542. Obviously, the superdelegates make it appear as though her lead is insurmountable. Wasserman Schultz has decided this is actually a bad thing for Clinton.
Wasserman Schultz's loyalties are clearly with Clinton: she was one of Clinton's national campaign co-chairs during the 2008 campaign. During the 2016 season, she has been repeatedly charged with favoritism towards Clinton. For example, she scheduled debates to limit Sanders's national exposure and the DNC shut off Sanders's access to party voter files. It seems strange, then, that she would institute a policy that might ostensibly help Sanders by making the race for the nomination look more competitive.
Hillary Clinton has been the presumptive nominee since 2012. Since her defeat by progressive insurgent Barack Obama in 2008, she has been preparing for another run at the presidency. She has positioned herself as the rightful heir, not only by padding her resume but also through her constant insinuation that her time has come.
This has become one of her biggest weaknesses. In combination with the seeming inevitability of Clinton's nomination, the media's blackout of Sanders, and the superdelegate totals, the Democratic Party looks immensely un-democratic. By portraying the race as a foregone conclusion, they have alienated millions of young people and progressives. Young people hate Hillary Clinton, and they especially hate being condescended to by feminists claiming to speak for all women, like Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem. These increasingly ludicrous criticisms of Sanders's supporters and rebellious progressives imply that the Democratic Party has no place for dissent, radicals, or independents. And that's precisely the problem.
By ordering the media to neglect superdelegates (for now), Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC have started a campaign to dispel the un-democratic stench of the Democratic Establishment. By making the race look competitive, they gain three advantages:
1. Re-energize Clinton supporters - there is a widespread fear that Sanders's supporters are more energetic and are just plain fighting harder. And that's a huge problem for Clinton: her supporters assume her win is a foregone conclusion, and so they may decide not to caucus or expend the energy necessary for her to win close contests. By making the race look as tight as it is, this may get Clinton supporters to the polls.
2. Capture Sanders's supporters after Clinton wins - Clinton is still probably going to win. The next step will be convincing Sanders's supporters to back Hillary in the general election. The prospects are not good. Bernie has helped boost turnout for the Democratic Party, but only by running an anti-Democratic Party campaign. Many of his supporters generally reject the politics-as-usual establishment, and they definitely reject people like Hillary Clinton. Therefore, the DNC has to make the nomination fight look fair or risk undermining a significant base of support. Clearly, at least 35-40% of Democrats don't want Hillary Clinton to be the party's nominee. Those people have to be brought back into the party after the convention, and they have to be energized to vote for Hillary in November. According to FiveThirtyEight, 79% of Democrats would be satisfied with Clinton as the nominee. She needs to close that gap, not just to beat Trump/Cruz, but to get people to vote in November.
3. Top of the Ticket - Clinton will suffer in terms of legitimacy the more the DNC attacks Sanders. From the beginning of the race, he was ignored, then denigrated, then sabotaged. Clinton and her DNC friends are alienating key demographics like urban whites, educated people, independents, and anyone under 40 years old. Clinton knows that Obama's 2008 coalition included scores of young people and progressives, who are not only hostile to her message but may decide to stay home if she is the presidential nominee. Not only could this endanger her electoral chances, but it will also hurt Democrats in Senate, House, and state office races. An unconvincing candidate at the top of the ticket will decrease the likelihood of retaking the Senate and House (which is already nearly impossible). Clinton does not want another eight years of GOP obstructionism. However, if she wins the nomination race fairly and legitimately, without interference from the DNC and other party leaders, she may be able to court many Sanders supporters. Her win has to look legitimate and fair or risk many voters choosing not to participate in November.
I was skeptical of Wasserman Schultz as soon as I heard her announcement. Now it seems clear that she is still working to ensure Clinton's nomination. The Democratic Party has to appear in stark contrast to the Republican Party: they have to look democratic, they have to demonstrate broad bases of support, and they have to unite against their biggest fears, a Trump or Cruz presidency. Therefore, Clinton can't merely win, she has to win legitimately and then re-unite the party after the convention.
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