Delegates, superdelegates, and the illusion of choice

freeChoice2After the First in the Nation New Hampshire Primary in early February, many people learned the term superdelegates, even though it’s not a new term or idea. The Democratic Party’s superdelegate rules have been in place since 1984. Superdelegates, unlike the pledged delegates, are not bound by the results of the various primaries and caucuses, and are free to support the Democratic Party Presidential candidate of their choice. CBS News reports, “A superdelegate falls into one of three categories: a major elected official, including senators and members of the House of Representatives; a notable member of the party, such as a current or former president or vice president; and some members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).”

University of Georgia political science professor Josh Putnam said, the concept of superdelegates came about because some in the Democratic Party felt “a need for there to be a voice for the establishment within the party… to nudge along a nominee who would be well equipped to win during the general election — to avoid nominees like George McGovern and Jimmy Carter.”

This of course is different than the procedures used by the Republican Party, which does not have superdelegates but still uses a system of taxpayer funded primaries and caucused to determine delegates to their national convention. And like the DNC the GOP has rules in place to, as Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, “make sure that there isn’t competition between [party leaders, elected officials and grassroots activists].”

However there are methods for choosing a presidential candidate that do not involve delegates pledges at taxpayer funded primaries and caucuses, superdelegates, or taxpayer funded conventions that serve only to further the agenda of the party establishment.

The Libertarian Party holds a privately funded convention whereby pretty much any party member can serve as a delegate. There are rules establishing the maximum number of delegates and a committee is tasked with ensuring the delegates have been selected or appointed by a recognized state affiliate. Once a delegate is credentialed, he or she is free to vote for the candidate of their choice. If no one receives a majority on the first ballot, the election goes to a runoff, and again delegates are free to vote for the candidate of their choice, this continues until a winner is selected. There are no pledged delegates, no superdelegates and, much to the chagrin of some, no rules created to ensure there isn’t competition between party leaders and grassroots activists.

Political parties after all belong to the people who are active members of the party, and should not be funded by taxpayer nor should party nominees be chosen by people who are not members of the party. Additionally, it should be easier for independent and minor party candidates to get a place on the general election ballot, as the illusion of choice between two candidates who support almost identical ideas, is no choice at all.

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