Dash of Pepper

Swimming in muddy waters
The Gazette Staff
Lately, some Democrat friends have asked what a "super delegate" is. I am probably the last person to ask about the rules and procedures of the Democratic Party. In fact it was only last week that I went online and read in detail the rules governing the Republican's national organization - the Republican National Committee. The GOP does not, apparently, have a super delegate structure.
I could not find a link to similar information on the site of the DNC (the Democratic National Committee) although I imagine it exists somewhere.
I did manage, for what it may be worth, to dig out some information on how the super delegate system came into being.
It apparently had its genesis with Senator George McGovern. You may recall he lost the 1972 presidential election to incumbent Richard Nixon in what, at the time, was a landslide.
Here's the history: At the 1968 Democrat national convention, a motion was passed to establish a commission to reform the Democrat Party nomination process.
In 1969, McGovern was named chairman of the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection - which came to be called the McGovern Commission. He was chosen due to the influence on the staff of former supporters of Eugene McCarthy and the Kennedys.
The commission significantly reduced the role of party officials and insiders in the nominating process. It also mandated quotas for proportional Black, women and youth delegate representation.
The fundamental principal of the McGovern Commission was that Democrat primaries should determine the winner of the Democrat nomination and this has lasted through every subsequent nomination process.
Changes made by the McGovern Commission to the convention rules marginalized the influence of established Democrat figures. One result of this is that during the 1972, many of these people refused to support McGovern, and some switched their support to incumbent Republican Richard Nixon through a campaign that was called "Democrats for Nixon." The McGovern/Shriver tickets suffered a 60 percent to 38 percent defeat, giving Nixon the second largest landslide (at the time) in American history. The Electoral College totals were 520 to 17. McGovern's two electoral victories came in Massachusetts and Washington D.C. He even failed to win his home state of South Dakota.
My overall impression of all this is that McGovern greatly disliked the "smoke-filled back rooms" we all heard about, where things were decided by a handful of insiders. He was on the Left wing of his party, and I suspect he, and others, felt the far left got left out of the convention wheeling and dealing.
I'm still uncertain about how and when the actual Super delegate structure came in. One source says that it was created following the McGovern debacle as insurance that if an extreme faction took over the primary process, it could be nullified or moderated at the convention. In other words, if a close popular vote presented a nominee that was not seen as very electable, the super delegate process would come into play - or - if you wish, the back room boys were back and party power figures could make their opinions felt.
But this is further complicated by the fact that they are free to support whatever candidate they wish.
Who are they? Some are prominent figures within the Democrat Party structure at the national level and at the state levels. Each state has a set number. Some others are various elected representatives from congress and the states. I don't know the total national number but Texas has 37 super delegates.
Is all of this perfectly clear? No?
I didn't think so.
Last Updated on Friday, 12 June 2009 15:21