(Update: Below the fold graphic inspired by Laurel’s comment)
It’s amazing how quickly we grow accustomed to the foolishness of the caucus process. From Iowa to Maine, we’ve seen an aggressive paring down of candidate support by mathematical formulae, bizarre “at-large” districts, and multi-day extravaganzas. From Texas, we saw selection events that would embarrass a Third World republic trying out democracy for the first time.
Now this: persons far less known than any dreaded superdelegate have swung nine national convention delegates away from the candidate who won them according to the rules. Against the wishes of these voters, folks largely unknown to their own state party staged a by-the-rules putsch for no discernible reason. This isn’t just non-democratic…it’s anti-democratic. And our expectations are so low that we just accept it.
For all the breathlessness of cable news anchors, the evening of January 5th was the first step in the allocation of Iowa’s delegates headed for Denver. We all remember that night (if you don’t, look here) — Obama won with about 37.5% of the score, Edwards with 29.7% and Clinton with 29.4%. An observer might be forgiven for thinking that the allocation of Iowa’s 45 pledged delegates would fall accordingly, along the lines of 18-13-12.
Those caucus-night results have little to do with who Iowa is sending to Denver. Those numbers are the percentage of county delegates that were pledged to each candidate at the local caucuses across the state. Mind you, “pledged” is used ironically…there is nothing to bind a delegate to vote for whom they promise. Indeed, the choosing of the delegates in each local caucus is a subject of maneuvering in many local caucuses, and winning a place in the county convention is often a carrot to entice people to switch from one candidate to another.
That’s right. The system rewards people who demonstrate a lack of loyalty to a candidate…by giving them lots of say over the fortunes of a candidate. So these people go to a county convention, which elects delegates to a state convention. Can you see where this is going?
On January 5th, almost 30% of precinct-level caucus delegates were awarded to John Edwards. The assumption was that Iowa’s delegation would contain most of John Edwards’s voice in Denver. In a case of a brokered convention, or in the case of close platform and charter votes, the people of Iowa wanted a significant number of those people to be Edwards voters. I’ll repeat that: the people of Iowa wanted Edwards to have a strong voice in their delegation.
John Edwards suspended his campaign after the Iowa caucuses, and before the Iowa county conventions. Now, the term “suspended” is important because it means that Edwards is still in control of those delegates.
Apparently, though, those anonymous Iowa delegates don’t go out for such niceties. No. These individuals decided to ignore the (semi-)democratic process of precinct caucuses and ignore the results completely. Although these people reached the final stage of the Iowa process by expressly promising to back Edwards, at the last second they threw in with another candidate. These nobodies decided to muffle Edwards’ voice in Denver.
From day one, the rules were that superdelegates had an outsize voice. People were generally upset as they discovered this, though the emotion waxed and waned as the mass of superdelegates picked sides. However, nowhere have I read that “anonymous folks in Des Moines get to throw almost ten delegates toward a candidate against the will of Iowa voters.”
People are grinding their teeth about Florida and Michigan. The proposed half-vote “solution” in Florida offers Clinton 19 more delegates. This maneuvering gains a candidate almost half that, but do we hear anything about it? Superdelegates are scrutinized, but this little stunt counts equal to the entire collection of superdelegates from Hawaii!
It’s a stain on Iowa, and an insult to its voters. The Iowa caucus may be quainter than a Norman Rockwell painting on the set of Prairie Home Companion, but it’s a disgusting parody of democracy. The delegates behind this farce should be ashamed to have lied to their fellow citizens, and I’d like to see the Obama and Clinton campaigns disown any delegates gained by such maneuvering.