Superdelegates use power for good, not evil
By: Edward Espinoza
February 25, 2008 04:19 PM EST
There is a lot of talk about us Democratic “superdelegates” and the notion that we will secretly convene to decide the party’s nominee, and in fact, the fate of the world. We’ve been branded as backroom deal makers, “Washington insiders” and moneyed elites. Stephen Colbert questioned whether we have “supermutant powers,” such as the ability to fly.
This heightened attention on Democratic National Committee members — driven by the closeness of the nomination fight between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama — illustrates a perception that fails to approximate reality. Our roles are more akin to that of caretakers, addressing the more mundane needs of conducting party business, rather than that of all-powerful determinants of the Democratic nominee for president.
For the record: I will participate in the nomination process and will fully support the eventual nominee. But it is not my desire to be the sole decider in this process, nor do I think that I will be. Let’s start with a few facts to dispel some popular misconceptions:No presidential candidate currently holds a majority of the 796 superdelegates.
Fewer than 10 percent of the superdelegates are appointed. There are elected officials in the group, but the majority of supers are Democratic activists elected by state Democratic parties.
Most superdelegates are average people with everyday jobs, such as teachers, salespeople, IT professionals and retirees.
We attend DNC meetings twice a year, paying our own hotel and airfare costs (further demonstrating that we do not posses the superhuman ability of flight).
My life is the antithesis of a Washington insider: I earn less than six figures, I went to a state university, I rent. I was elected by the California Democratic Party to represent the voters of my state. I started as a political activist, later serving as president of the California Young Democrats and eventually moving on to work in political campaigns.
But we are now a popular topic on cable TV, in coffee shops and on blogs. Even we DNC members regularly talk about our role and how we should be involved.
Admittedly, life is more interesting these days: We have personal phone calls from former President Bill Clinton, former senators calling on behalf of Barack Obama and sit-downs with the candidates. It is flattering and quite a contrast to the normal routine work of writing campaign plans and party resolutions, conducting constituency outreach and working on the Democratic presidential nominating calendar (I was an active advocate in a two-year effort to move Nevada up in the process).
But while these phone calls and meetings are nice, they are not what ultimately will sway us. We are keenly aware of the responsibility we carry, and we take this role seriously. We listen to voters and are mindful that both majority and dissenting views deserve a voice in the Democratic Party.
We are not unified behind any campaign, and it is highly unlikely that we will fall in lock step behind any one candidate to make a difference in the race.
It is more likely that, if the race remains close, we could cast our votes for a candidate who may otherwise have a narrow delegate lead, in order to create a more decisive nomination. Such a move won’t change the outcome of the race, but it can serve to unify the party and change the momentum and perception of the nominee coming out of the convention.
Or we could be the players on the floor of a brokered convention, helping the states steer through convention rules while avoiding the kind of intramural fights that can rip a party apart, similar to those at the 1968 convention.
No one can say exactly how our roles will play out, but I am firmly convinced that our role will not, and should not, be one that ultimately picks our nominee.
Only a candidate with the support of a unified party can carry Democrats to victory in the fall. And as a superdelegate, I prefer that our role remains part of a cumulative process in which the eventual nominee garners strength from all aspects of the party.
That is to say, in the larger scheme of things, our place is to build unity, discourage any major bloodletting and help the nomination process in a role that is fair, inclusive and, above all, transparent.
Wait — is transparency considered a super mutant power?
Edward Espinoza, a public relations and political strategist from Los Angeles, most recently served as a field director for presidential candidate Bill Richardson. He is currently an uncommitted superdelegate serving in his fourth year on the DNC.