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Superdelegates
Superdelegates
by Jennifer Vanasco - SGN Contributing Writer A colleague stopped by my office last week.

"I love that Obama and Clinton are head-to-head," he said. "I hope that the fight goes all the way to the convention. Won't that be fun? A convention that matters?"

Well, no.

It wouldn't be fun.

I know it sounds fun. I know that everyone's imagining it's 1920 and there's a floor fight (actually, the last convention that decided a ticket was the Democratic convention of 1952; the Republicans, always quicker to fall into a party line, last had one in 1948).

It sounds like a movie, I guess, with the decision coming down to the last few nail-biting moments of a nationally televised vote.

But there are a couple reasons we want the Democratic primary to end within the next month or so instead of at the convention.

First, McCain is the presumed nominee for the Republicans. (Yes, Huckabee's still nominally in it, but he's effectively running for VP at the moment.) That means that the Republicans can stop tearing each other apart and start wooing independent voters over to the Republican side. Now. In February.

That gives them a head start - a seven-month head start, if our nominee isn't decided until the convention in August, to make the argument that the best leader is a Republican.

Second, and most importantly, we really don't want to leave the Democratic nominating process in the shadowy hands of superdelegates. We really don't.

Actually, the superdelegates themselves aren't shadowy - they're public figures. They're senators, congressional representatives, governors, members of the DNC and former presidents (like Bill Clinton) - and they include Hillary and Barack themselves.

Superdelegates aren't called into action unless the nomination goes to the convention - but already the Clinton team and the Obama team have started wooing them over to their side, in a national game of Red Rover.

Some superdelegates, like Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), aren't playing. Long ago, she committed to voting for whoever won the popular vote in her state (Clinton, in this case).

But mostly, superdelegates are in the game. They will decide whom to vote for based on personal loyalty and old-fashioned horse trading.

The Democrats (not the Republicans) instituted superdelegates in the 1980s to prevent fringe candidates (like, for example, Dennis Kucinich) from whipping up a public frenzy and taking the nomination. In other words, the system is designed to protect the establishment candidate.

And from the list of superdelegates already lined up, it's clear that this strategy works. Clinton has twice as many as Obama so far, including Gay congress members Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin.

The names behind Clinton are, well, names, including Evan Bayh, Jennifer Granholm, Jon Corzine, and Dick Gephardt.

The names behind Obama? Besides the Kennedys and the Illinois delegation, most folks haven't heard of them.

But winning by superdelegate isn't good for anyone, even the winner. It means that the candidate is beholden to up to 796 people (the number of superdelegates) in a way that eclipses lobbyist influence, because it is a direct vote.

Which makes you wonder: what do candidates have to promise to get a superdelegate vote?

It also becomes painfully clear how little power Gays and Lesbians have in this process, since we have only two openly Gay congressional representatives and no Gay governors. If the Democratic nomination comes down to superdelegates, Gays won't be the deciding factor - even though we're 4 to 7 percent of the electorate.

The superdelegate process is also too reminiscent of that business in Florida in 2000. Everything is perfectly legal & yet it makes you feel dirty. It doesn't help that about 20 percent of the vote can potentially be decided by superdelegates - giving each one superdelegate the power of about 153,000 voters.

It is simply not democratic when one superdelegate vote equals 153,000 regular-person votes. One of the strongest ideas of democracy is that one person has one vote, and that one vote is equal to every other vote cast. It only gains power when it is joined with others.

In ordinary times, you may feel like your one vote doesn't matter - but when added to hundreds of thousands of other like votes, your vote helps turn an election. But the superdelegate process subverts that idea. Your vote is worth less, because others' votes are worth more.

So here's to wrapping this up in the next month, and avoiding the "fun" convention fight. Because when the superdelegates pick the candidate, nobody wins.

Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning, syndicated columnist. Email her at jennifer.vanasco@gmail.com. She blogs daily at the Gay political website VisibleVote08.com.

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