If you were to turn on your TV right now, I would bet you would hear the word “superdelegates” within eight seconds.
Regardless of how often they are discussed, most people don’t know what they are, nor do they recognize the irony of their existence.
After the elections in 1980, the Democratic Party introduced the concept of superdelegates. Unlike most delegates who are pledged to a certain candidate based on the results of primaries and caucuses, superdelegates have no such commitment and are able to cast their vote for whomever they please.
This concept was created in order to ensure that a strong Democratic candidate would gain the party’s nomination.
Superdelegates are made up of members of the Democratic National Committee. They are governors, congressmen and other various party leaders. Ultimately, they have a large role in the party’s nominating process.
The Denver Post reported that 14 out of the 70 Colorado delegates are of the super variety. While some have already informally committed to either Clinton or Obama, others such as Sen. Ken Salazar and Gov. Bill Ritter have yet to pick a side.
It should be noted that superdelegates who have already pledged to a particular candidate can still change their mind before the party’s national convention in Denver later this year.
So why are these superdelegates so important right now?
In the midst of such a close race between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the party’s nomination, a shift in superdelegates could decide the winner, regardless of the exact number of votes each candidate has garnered. With 797 superdelegates making up 20 percent of the total, that swing can be powerful.
Perhaps now you see the irony of the situation.
Ever since 2000, the loons on the far left have been incessantly rambling about how President Bush stole the election from Al Gore, since Gore won the popular vote while Bush won the all important Electoral College.
After the votes were counted, President Bush had roughly 500,000 fewer actual votes than Gore, yet he had 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266.
2008 could look very similar, yet contained within the Democratic Party. If more superdelegates side with Hillary than Obama (who has more delegates at this point), Clinton could win the nomination even though most people voted for Obama.
But let’s look at this even closer. According to an analysis by The Politico, an online political magazine, nearly half of these superdelegates are white men. This representation is disproportionate to the demographics of Democratic voters, since a January 2008 Zogby poll found only 28 percent were white men.
Currently, far more of the 797 superdelegates have sided with Clinton, meaning a group of old white men could prevent the African-American candidate with more votes from winning. Irony abounds.
If this does indeed happen, it will be interesting to see how the voters react. Will they protest in the same fashion as 2000 and demand the popular vote be realized? Will San Francisco implode?
And they want to blame everything on a vast right-wing conspiracy.
Nick Hemenway is a senior mechanical engineering major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.