You may be a Congress member, a governor, a mayor, a party official or a president, but two weeks ago at the Democratic National Convention you did something that I and millions of others have done in the last six months: you voted to have a say in deciding who will lead this great and mighty nation over the next few years.
There is, however, one unmistakable difference between your voice in this decision and those of others: yours carried thousands of times as much weight as any one of the others. Those others entrusted their say in this election to other, ordinary, non-super delegates. You delegated your voice to yourself.
Yet, as you stood on the convention floor next to your non-super fellow delegates, your vote counted as much as any one of theirs. In fact, if one considers all the endorsements and stump speeches, all the media appearances and fundraisers you have likely done, all the sway you hold over the minds of ordinary, non-super citizens, your voice may have counted for much, much more.
Now, I am willing to consider the possibility that years of progress up the ranks of power have imparted to you knowledge and acumen that are equivalent to thousands of mine or any citizen whose role in elections has nothing “super” about it. I can allow the possibility that by caucusing with your fellow superdelegates in the back corridors of political power, you arrive at a collective super wisdom that is beyond the reach of ordinary voters, who caucus with their neighbors and political junkies on the subway (none of whom come close to the super foresight of your peers). I am even willing to consider that voting when all primaries are over enables you to know which candidate is most electable, even though I cannot square this with the fact that most of your super peers endorsed the same candidate en masse before a single non-super vote was cast in this election.
I am even tempted to imagine for a brief instance that the purpose of having superdelegates, as some proponents claim, is to keep party stalwarts from running against grassroots activists for delegate seats, which could give activists more presence at the Convention. Although this argument truly stretches my imagination since that goal could have been easily accomplished without giving you an unpledged first ballot vote.
All of these possibilities aside, have you considered, what your super status means to me and millions of others? Have you thought of the message your vote sends to the multitudes of your non-super fellow citizens? The message, intended or not, is loud and clear: “Your voices do not matter as much as ours. You need to be told what’s good for you, what to think, who to believe, and what kind of world to live in. We’re here to do your thinking and choosing for you.” That is not a message that any citizen in control of his or her mental faculty should welcome. To your generous and possibly well-intentioned offer I answer: thanks, but no thanks.
It has been suggested that the superdelegate's mission is to protect voters from popular demagogues -- an idea driven by the age-old fear of letting ignorant unwashed masses into the august halls of power. But are we so terrified by the threat of demagogues that we will blind ourselves to a threat of a different kind: that of power-hungry elites, whose claim to wisdom degenerates into hubris and tunnel vision, driving angry and fearful masses into the embrace of demagogues?
Will we forget that before the Reign of Terror, there were coiffures of Marie Antoinette; that before Hitler and Mussolini there was the speculation boom of the 1920s; and that before voters took Donald Trump’s “believe me” at his word, there was a banker's gambling extravaganza that left millions on the margins of our ever slow recovery? And how in the world would superdelegates stop demagogues once they capture enough popular anger and fear to fuel their ascent to power? Don’t they have coups, terror plots, brownshirts, and revolutions at their disposal (not Bernie Sanders political revolutions, the other ones -- with guns and machetes)?
But do you really protect the public from demagogues as much as you guard a fenced pool of your fellow politicians, uber delegates like yourself, from competing with outsiders, demagogues or not? Are you then a super delegate saving the innocent from being duped or a super duping delegate, who does the duping for the benefit of your club? Either way, uber delegates don’t get duped. A fish that lives in a pool never learns to swim in the sea.
And when the day of reckoning comes, superdelegates will not do much more than will corporate backers, closed primaries or any political chicanery, to keep the water of party politics safe for its inhabitants. Sooner or later a big white shark breaks through the fence and eats all the fish. If you have followed this year’s elections, you surely get my drift. Take heed then: your Trump may be coming for you and all of us sooner than you think. And he ain’t gonna be nothing like a billionaire entertainer putting on a “demagogue-for-president” reality show, believe me!
Shortly before the opening of the Convention, I heard a disgruntled talk show listener call superdelegates a “politburo.” Watching this grandiose spectacle, I had an eerie feeling. I have seen this show before: the speeches, the fanfare, the party unity, the angry alienated masses in the streets. Mike Bloomberg quipped about Donald Trump: “I know a con when I see one.” I too want to keep cons away from power. But I have also seen my share of politburos on both sides of the Atlantic. I grew up under a politburo. I know a politburo when I see one. And I am familiar with the road paved with its good intentions.
So, here is a message to you superdelegate, as well as other uber delegates and politburos of many times and places: Please don’t save people from themselves. You can keep some demagogues away sometimes, but you cannot keep all of them away all the time. Nor can you convince anybody that you know what’s good for them when you drown out their voices by a thousand.
And if you think you know what’s good for all of us, why not make your case in the open? Why not compete fair and square with cons, demagogues, and what not for the hearts and minds of citizens? Why not govern in a way that makes a con’s empty promises look bad against your kept ones? You are free to do all of that without risking your life, limb or liberty.
Count your blessings. They are brought to you and all of us by a conscious and civil citizenry -- a precious but fragile work-in-progress of those who think and decide for themselves, and ask the same of others. It is that work that saves us from cons and demagogues, not clever party rules devised in backroom meetings. And when you find your fellow citizens too deep in civic slumber to do the work, there is a mission for you that is worthy of any citizen, super or not: help us all shake ourselves awake into consciousness.
Photo Source: AP