Hanging Chads at the Democratic Convention?

The superdelegaes could give Hillary the nom.

Watching the Super Tuesday election results gave a strange feeling of deja vu.  Remember "Indecision 2000", and the 2004 election which some networks actually called for Kerry, before realizing the opposite was true?  Similarly, Hillary was first proclaimed to be in the lead; then it appeared that Obama had more delegates by a nose; and today, it seems, Hillary's back on top.  Whatever the current total, the two of them are absolutely neck and neck.

This presents us with an interesting possibility.  In some ways, the primary process is like our national elections, where the president is chosen not directly by the voters, but by electors.  All of America discovered some of the quirks to this system in 2000, where because of the precise distribution of votes, George W. Bush won the electoral vote and the presidency while losing the popular vote. In like fashion, both the Democratic and Republican primaries assign a certain number of delegates to each state, roughly based on their population.

The Democratic convention also includes 796 so-called "superdelegates" out of a total of 4,049.  Nobody elects the superdelegates to go to the convention; they go automatically, because they are existing Democratic high officials - governors, Congressmen, party leaders, former presidents, and so on.  By definition, they are members of the Democratic establishment.

Who controls the Democratic establishment?  Hint: it's not Barack Obama.  Hillary won't garner every last one of the 796 superdelegates, but she will certainly use every weapon in her long-honed arsenal to scoop up as many as she can.  There have been some party stalwarts who have endorsed Obama, such as Ted Kennedy, but they are much the minority - most current Dem pols owe their position to the Clinton years.

This gives her a built-in advantage.  It also presents a very troubling mathematical risk to the Democratic party as a whole.

Suppose Hillary and Obama stay close together both in popular vote and delegate count right through the voting in all the states, and when the last vote has been counted, Obama is ahead by a few dozen delegates.  That means he's won, right?  Wrong!  Thanks to the superdelegates, Barack Obama could win the popular electoral vote fair and square, and still lose at the convention.

Think the ruckus and fury over the hanging chads in Florida was something to see?  That would be nothing compared with the anger and outrage Obama's supporters would feel at having his legitimate victory snatched away by the machinations of Hillary in the smoke-filled convention rooms.  As Vince Lombardi said in another context, "Winning isn't any thing, it's the only thing."

It's possible that we'll go into the election with not one, but two political parties split right down the middle.  That might persuade Mayor Bloomberg to stop acting coy.  Stand by for heavy weather!

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
I agree completely with this. I FULLY believe Hillary will win the Dem. primary ONLY because she will figure out some way to game the system. Obama is too decent to do anything dirty, and it will cost him.
February 8, 2008 12:36 PM
The Economist appears to agree with Scragged.

February 9, 2008 9:12 PM
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