WTF, Geraldine?

This is a picture of Geraldine A. Ferraro.

She was Mondale’s VP candidate in ’84. She was also on the Hunt Commission, the group of Democractic party officials who created the superdelegate system that we’re all having to learn way more about than we ever wanted.

In a Times Op-Ed, Geraldine explains the rationale for the superdelegate system, introduced in time for the 1984 presidential election.

Now, being a young twenty something who’s never been interested in politics until Barack Obama became my new bicycle, this was news to me, but: Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter for the nomination in 1980 – obviously a crisis for the Democratic Party.

At the convention, there was apparently a huge fight over a specific rule, called Rule 11 (H), or the “loyalty rule”. This rule required the delegates to the national convention to support the candidate that he or she had been elected to support. (not that weird of an idea, if you ask me.)

But the Kennedy campaign wanted the delegates to be able to “vote their conscience” – independent of the outcomes of the primaries and caucuses that had elected them in one candidate’s name or another. I’m not sure what happened, but Kennedy didn’t get the nomination, and everyone got shit all over, and everyone was mad at everyone.

So then in 1982, the Hunt Commission came along to clean up the nominating process. I’ll let Geraldine explain:

“Democrats had to figure out a way to unify our party. What better way, we reasoned, than to get elected officials involved in writing the platform, sitting on the credentials committee and helping to write the rules that the party would play by?

…So we created superdelegates and gave that designation to every Democratic member of Congress. …These superdelegates, we reasoned, are the party’s leaders.”

First of all, I think that the phrase “what better way…” is pretty lame here. I can think of lots of better ways to unify the democratic party than getting elected officials involved in sitting on committees (as if they don’t do enough of that…) I mean, a pizza party is better than that shit.

I’ll grant, though, that I have no idea what the democrats were going through – I don’t understand what Kennedy’s presidential bid really did to the Party. But it does seem to me that this commission was NOT created to make the nominating process more transparent, clear, and democratic. It was created to ensure a “smooth nomination”.

Geraldine has this to say about the effect the commission had on the 84 convention: “We lost in 1984, big time. But that loss had nothing to do with Democratic Party infighting.”

Whoop-de-frickin-do. It’s so much better when you can lose to Regan, ain’t it? Thank god for the Hunt Commission.

The Hunt Commission seems to have relied upon this weird conception of the “party’s leaders” – that they, as a group of people, are less divided and contentious than the party’s voters.

No, they just have different set of motivations than the voters.

The voters vote for the candidates they like, but the party leaders are looking to their own jobs. They want to line up behind the winner and then ride some presidential coattail. (mass noun!)

Geraldine again:

“The superdelegates were created to lead, not to follow. They were, and are, expected to determine what is best for our party and best for the country.”

Who created these superdelegates? Why were they created to lead? Why are they expected to determine anything at all? Why on Earth should anybody but the people in the democratic party nominate the democratic frickin candidate for president? These Superdelegates are elected officials, but they are NOT elected to choose our candidate for president. They are elected to choose all other sorts of things for us, but NOT our candidate for president.

Geraldine, it looks like the system you created was ad-hoc, designed to elbow out the Kennedy wing of the party. It may or may not have been good then, but I can tell you, it ain’t good now.


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