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Reality Check: Democrats Have a Major Superdelegate Problem

Author: Ben Swann
Created: 11 March, 2016
Updated: 17 October, 2022
3 min read
Reality Check: Democrats Have a Super-Delegate Problem

Reality Check: Democrats Have a Super-Delegate Problem

Posted by Ben Swann on Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Democratic Party has a problem: superdelegates. A system the party created to protect itself from the wrong kind of Democratic nominee.

But those superdelegates could actually destroy the Democratic Party going into this year’s presidential election.

This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.

“Well, look, I won one of the contests and lost another close one. I am continuing to work hard for every single vote across our country. I was pleased that I got 100,000 more votes last night than my opponent and more delegates.” — Hillary Clinton

“And I think in the coming weeks and months, we are going to continue to do extremely well, win a number of these primaries, and convince superdelegates that Bernie Sanders is the strongest candidate to defeat Donald Trump.” — Bernie Sanders

That was Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders going at it in last night’s Democratic debate on CNN. Sanders, coming off a huge win in Michigan, a race that polls had him losing by 20 points. But Sanders beat Clinton 49.8 percent to 48.3 percent.

Of course, remember that in a primary, winning votes is not as important as winning delegates. Sanders picked up 65 delegates to Clinton’s 58 delegates.

If we are doing a true pledged delegate count, right now Clinton has the lead with 745 pledged delegates compared to Bernie Sanders’ 540 pledged delegates. So Clinton is currently leading by 205 delegates.

And that’s not much when it takes 2,383 delegates to win the nomination.

But the real problem for Sanders is unpledged delegates, also known as superdelegates.

The unpledged delegate count looks like this: of the total 712 superdelegates, Clinton has 461. Bernie Sanders has only 25.

So who are these superdelegates? They are party elites like Democratic governors, members of Congress, well-connected Democratic state legislators, and state party officials.

Again, it takes 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic nomination. But one third of that number is actually made up of superdelegates. According to the New Republic, superdelegates were put in place to stop grassroots populist candidates, like George McGovern and Jimmy Carter, from winning the nomination over the establishment party-approved party insiders. A great example of how this works: a tweet from former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. He said this just the other day:


And in that case, Dean is right. He doesn’t represent the people. And that is precisely the reason that with every state that Sanders continues to win, the superdelegates actually damage the party they are supposed to protect.

Why? Simply put, Sanders on the Democratic side and Trump on the Republican side are both pulling from disenfranchised voters who simply feel that the political process is rigged against them.

And the truth is… the system is rigged.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties are private clubs, and the rules of those clubs are designed to protect the party, not represent the people.

And that’s what you need to know, because here is the bottom line. Right now, Hillary Clinton has won the majority of the vote in 12 states. Bernie Sanders has won the majority in 9 states.

But when you take the pledged and superdelegate count together, Clinton more than doubles Sanders’ numbers of delegates with 1,216 delegates for Clinton and only 571 for Sanders.

In a different year, the Democratic Party might be able to get away with using superdelegates to protect the party. But if Democratic voters feel that their candidate is getting cheated by party insiders, of all people, then the Democrats better be ready to have a large number of those voters stay home in November during the general election.

This transcript of Ben Swann's latest installment of "Reality Check" originally published on Truth in Media on Friday, March 11, 2016.