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Monday, February 25, 2008

Superdelegates Redux

Geraldine Ferraro's op-ed about superdelegacy in the New York Times today is misguided in many ways.  David Ponet and I have a rival op-ed in the Legal Times today on the subject; you can download the pretty PDF version from this link: Download ponet_leib_22508.pdf.  Rob Rogers blogged about some of our differences here.  We have quite different views about what superdelegates must do as a matter of political morality.  Although we agree with Ferraro that "super-duper" delegates without any real political responsibilities to actual geographically-circumscribed constituents may endorse whomever they think is best for the party, we tend to think that that decision cannot be made without some effort to tether their endorsements to the views of Democratic party members at the time of the convention.  Moreover, we think that pre-committing as a superdelegate is actually a problem -- and should not be applauded.  We also have a strong disagreement about what sitting office-holders must do; we don't think they are as free as Clinton and Ferraro maintain to disregard their constituents.  Indeed, we argue that office-holding superdelegates have a responsibility to the Republicans and independents in their districts as well.  But we veer from the Obama camp in arguing that superdelegates (whether of the office-holding or super-duper variety) cannot be thought of as simple agents for the rank-and-file; their job is to do more than follow the election returns, a strategy that has several problems that we expose in our column.

No suprise that the New York Times ran a Clinton-friendly interpretation of the role of superdelegates -- and on a day when they are attempting to be alarmist (on the front page) about Obama getting assasinated.  Doesn't the paper of record have any shame?

Posted by Ethan Leib on February 25, 2008 at 02:17 PM in Article Spotlight | Permalink


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You disagree. We knew that was the radical claim. But I stand by it. The Democratic Party -- as a core part of the political system -- doesn't appoint the superdelegate in their individual capacity (as it does for the super-duper delegates). Rather, the Party selects these members in their official capacity. They are designated as superdelegates only because they are political representatives. And in their official capacity qua representative, they have role responsibilities they can't shirk just because that is what the Party wants.

But reasonable people could differ.

Posted by: ethan leib | Feb 27, 2008 10:04:09 PM

I'm not sure I follow (or maybe, respectfully, I just disagree with) one part of the argument. I'm referring to the contention that superdelegates who are elected officials have a duty, in casting their superdelegate votes, to consider the views of all of the people of their district (or whatever geographic entity they represent) without regard to party.
I fully agree that in acting in their capacity as government officials, they have to represent everyone in their district (and maybe beyond), even the ones who don't vote for them. A Democratic governor has to look out for his/her Republican citizens too. But, qua superdelegate, I don't see it. If an elected official happens to be trustee of a trust, do they have to manage it in the interests of all their constituents? Surely not; in that role they are responsible not to their constituents at all but to the trust and its beneficiaries. An extreme example, perhaps, but I think the same point about role separation applies.

Posted by: Aaron Bruhl | Feb 27, 2008 8:21:14 PM

Does the paper of record have any shame? When it comes to running cheap hit pieces on Republicans, no. But as for bias towards Hillary, they run plenty of pro-Obama op-eds too. They published Caroline Kennedy's endorsement, the point of which was that Obama reminds her of her (overrated and unaccomplished) father, they publish Frank Rich's pro-Obama columns, Maureen Dowd's rabidly anti-Hillary columns, and the list goes on. I think they've been pretty balanced on the Democratic side, especially compared to cable news.

Posted by: Asher | Feb 25, 2008 10:27:12 PM

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