There’s a meme going around highlighting the fact that Hillary Clinton actually walked away with more delegates from New Hampshire than Bernie Sanders despite her landslide loss. The reason for this relates to the fact that she already has hundreds of pledged “super delegates,” several of whom hail from NH.
For example, the Daily Caller is reporting the following:
Though Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary in a landslide over Hillary Clinton, he will likely receive fewer delegates than she will.
Sanders won 60 percent of the vote, but thanks to the Democratic Party’s nominating system, he leaves the Granite State with at least 13 delegates while she leaves with at least 15 delegates.
New Hampshire has 24 “pledged” delegates, which are allotted based on the popular vote. Sanders has 13, and Clinton has 9, with 2 currently allotted to neither.
But under Democratic National Committee rules, New Hampshire also has 8 “superdelegates,” party officials who are free to commit to whomever they like, regardless of how their state votes. Their votes count the same as delegates won through the primary.
Technically this is true, but while the super delegates are “pledged,” they aren’t actually awarded until the Democratic convention in July. So while at 15% of total delegates, the super delegates could potentially decide who is the nominee is, would they actually go against the popular vote at the convention?
I read a great article by Shane Ryan at Paste Magazine analyzing this entire process, which does an excellent job of explaining why everyone should stop talking about total delegates and focus on the individual primaries. Here are a few excerpts from the piece:
Oh no, you might be thinking, look at those delegate totals! He’s getting killed! The New Hampshire primary is meaningless! He didn’t even really win! On the Sanders Reddit page this morning, users were asking whether the whole primary process was a Sisyphean task, and if victory was impossible.
Make no mistake: That’s the point of this kind of messaging. To discourage, dismay, and dishearten, in the wake of something that should feel really positive for Sanders supporters. Reality check: The system is bigger than you, and you can’t change it, so go home.
Q: You say Superdelegates don’t matter, but I don’t even know what they are. How does Hillary have 300+ already?
A: Let’s start simple: The Democratic nominee for president is decided based on which candidate wins the most delegates. You will find conflicting information about how many there are in 2016, but according to the AP, the delegate total is 4,763. It takes 2,382 of those to secure the nomination. And of the 4,763, 712 are “Superdelegates”—about 15 percent of the overall total.
Q: Okay, but what’s the difference?
A: The 4,051 “normal” delegates are allocated based on the votes in each state. That’s why we have primaries and caucuses in all of them, eventually—the will of the people decides where each of these delegates goes. In New Hampshire last night, Sanders won 13 delegates to Clinton’s nine, with two left to award when the last precincts report (in all likelihood, based on current percentages, it will finish 15-9 for Sanders). In Iowa, where Clinton won a narrow victory, the current delegate count is 23-21 in her favor. This process will repeat in every state until all 4,051 “normal” delegates have been alloted.
On the Democratic side, these delegates are rewarded proportionally in each state, rather than on the winner-take-all basis most states use in the electoral college. Those delegates are “pledged” to the appropriate candidate, and will not change affiliation at the national convention.
Q: That makes sense, but what are Superdelegates?
A: The remaining 712 delegates are not decided by each state’s popular vote, but rather by individuals who are given a vote by the Democratic party. They are free to choose whoever they want at the national convention, regardless of how the vote went in their home state.
Q: Who gets to be a Superdelegate?
A: Every Democratic member of Congress, House and Senate, is a Superdelegate (240 total). Every Democratic governor is a Superdelegate (20 total). Certain “distinguished party leaders,” 20 in all, are given Superdelegate status. And finally, the Democratic National Committee names an additional 432 Superdelegates—an honor that typically goes to mayors, chairs and vice-chairs of the state party, and other dignitaries.
Q: So they have way more importance than an ordinary voter?
A: Oh yeah. In 2008, each Superdelegate had about as much clout as 10,000 voters. It will be roughly the same in 2016.
Q: Why does Hillary Clinton have so many more Superdelegates this time around?
A: Because Superdelegates are the establishment, and Clinton is the establishment candidate. Period.
A quick look at the chart below, courtesy of Wikipedia, shows how insanely imbalanced the Superdelegate race is at this point in time:
So when you see tweets like McBride’s above, where he cites Clinton’s 431-50 edge, he’s adding these “pledged” Superdelegates. We’ve already seen that his math is wrong—per the New York Times, the actual updated total is 394-42. But when you look at actual popular votes that have taken place, Sanders leads 34-32.
Q: From everything you’ve told me so far, I can’t understand why you’re calling Superdelegate votes “irrelevant.” It seems to me like they have the same voting power as a normal delegate, and this puts Sanders in a tremendous hole from the word “go.”
A: Here’s why it doesn’t matter: Superdelegates have never decided a Democratic nomination. It would be insane, even by the corrupt standards of the Democratic National Committee, if a small group of party elites went against the will of the people to choose the presidential nominee.
This has already been an incredibly tense election, and Sanders voters are already expressing their unwillingness to vote for Clinton in the general election. When you look at the astounding numbers from Iowa and New Hampshire, where more than 80 percent of young voters have chosen Sanders over Clinton, regardless of gender, it’s clear that Clinton already finds herself in a very tenuous position for the general election. It will be tough to motivate young supporters, but any hint that Bernie was screwed by the establishment will result in total abandonment.
Democrats win when turnout is high, and if the DNC decides to go against the will of the people and force Clinton down the electorate’s throat, they’d be committing political suicide.
The important thing to know here is that Superdelegates are merely pledged to a candidate. We know who they support because they’ve stated it publicly, or been asked by journalists. They are not committed, and can change at any time. If Bernie Sanders wins the popular vote, he will be the nominee. End of story.
Q: But it’s not the end of the story, is it? Hasn’t the DNC pulled some shady shit already?
A: Oh yeah. They totally rigged the debate schedule to limit Sanders’ exposure, and now that he’s gaining ground on Clinton, they’re desperate to add more. Sanders probably won the popular vote in Iowa, but the party elite there are refusing to release popular vote totals, even though that’s exactly what they did in 2008. It’s been an embarrassment of Clinton protectionism from the very beginning.
Very interesting. The whole thing makes you wonder if Democratic officials in Iowa are refusing to release the popular vote results due to an establishment agenda to hide what the base actually voted for as we inch closer to the convention with a grassroots in open rebellion.
Time will tell
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