Friday, February 12, 2016

Wait, Conservatives Object to Super Delegates? What?

I take it that a certain ambivalence and distrust towards full blown democracy is consistent with, if not a core tenet of, conservatism. And yet in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton losing the New Hampshire primary by 22 percentage points to Bernie Sanders but still being awarded the same number of delegates, you’d get a different impression. On social media and in numerous columns conservative pundits and supporters have been either mocking or highly critical.

The reason for the New Hampshire result is the Democratic Party’s use of super delegates. Of the total 4,763 delegates and 2,382 needed to win, 712 are super delegates whose voting is not constrained by the voting in primaries. So super delegates constitute 14.9% of the total. If my math is correct a pure insurgent candidate would need to win 58.8% of the voting determined delegates to gain the nomination [2,382/(4,763 – 712) = .588].If you hang out with Vox, Salon, MSNBC this an abomination, but for conservatives? If Aaron Burr having dispensed with Alexander Hamilton seeks the Federalist Party nomination is an 8.8 percentage point higher bar in the popular will beyond the pale?

This same week, John Yoo wrote an interesting piece titled Trump and Sanders, The Founders Worst Nightmare on the founder’s view towards selecting a president. Yoo notes:

“To prevent mindless populism from seizing the White House, the Founders rejected nationwide election of the president. Instead, they created the Electoral College. States choose electors (equal to the number of their members of the House and Senate), who meet and send their votes to Congress. If there is no majority, then the House votes by state delegation to choose the chief executive.

While the Electoral College today seems Rube Goldberg-esque, it served the important purpose of weeding out emotional passions and popular, but poor, candidates.”

I suspect the real issue here for conservatives is a) the progressive tendency to overplay the idea of their being the true voice of the people, and b) disdain for Hillary Clinton. A better avenue of criticism would be Hillary’s call to abolish the Electoral College in the aftermath of the 2000 election. On that occasion Hillary stated:
         “We are a very different country than we were 200 years ago,…I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people and to me, that means it’s time to do away with the Electoral College and move to the popular election of our president.”

In light of recent events, an enterprising reporter or debate moderator might ask her about this.

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