Feb 19, 2008
For reasons that escape me, I've moved on from flipping through People magazine and watching Simpsons reruns to reading Alexis De Tocqueville's "Democracy in America."
It is a heavy lift (read: it's a big book.)
Nevertheless, for a chap who wandered our nation between 1835 and 1840, De Tocqueville makes many observations relevant today. With the disclaimer that I have yet to climb through all 300+ pages of "Democracy in America" the current race for the presidential nomination struck a chord as I read.
Regarding the choice of our forbearers to create an electoral college rather than allowing the House of Representatives to elect the President, De Tocqueville writes, "It was thought that if the legislature was empowered to elect the head of the executive power, its members would, for some time before the election, be exposed to the maneuvers of corruption and the tricks of intrigue."
So, the electoral college was created as an attempt to evenly balance the power of voters - and their states - across the nation where numbers based strength varies. In essence, unelected electors funneled the states' votes according and are not susceptible to the politicking and politics of elected bodies like the House of Representatives.
To date, this formula has kept the coastal states from dominating our nation's political agenda and balanced (to some degree) the approach of presidents.
De Tocqueville goes onto observe, "parties are strongly interested in winning the election, not so much with a view to the triumph of their principles under the auspices of the President elect as to show by his election that the supporters of those principles now form the majority."
Foreshadowing the need to organize voters along common values De Tocqueville views our election of president as a battle of ideas between parties of individuals. Of course, we find that within parties there is a separate battle for ideas and control.
If this remains the case, are a modern political party's principles (perhaps an oxymoron) circumvented by giving disproportionate weight to one (super) delegate versus a (mortal) delegate?
If the battle for a party is a battle for ideas, superdelegates should serve no role in a democratic nomination process. Yes, democracy sucks; but, democracy shouldn't suck this much.
If the definition of democracy is, "That form of government in which the sovereign power is exercised by the people in a body," then it is fair to say that superdelegates circumvent democracy by granting their heavily weighted endorsements - often at odds with the primary election decisions of the voters in their districts.
In the presence of democracy corrupted by power and money in so many ways, party nominations - the very base from which a president operates - one vote should count as one vote. Nothing more, nothing less. For a nominee to be anointed by the power and money of superdelegates is nothing more than rigging an election.
Someone get Jimmy Carter on the phone (that is, if he hasn't endorsed).
Ali Noorani is the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and a regular blogger at the Movement Vision Lab.
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