Democratic meltdown looming
By Eric T. Campbell
The Michigan Citizen

The Democratic presidential nomination process is now in danger of succumbing 
to irregular campaign strategies and accusations of mass disenfranchisement. 

The drawn out race between Senators Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton for state 
delegates has had the unintended effect of exposing some undemocratic 

The current delegate count has determined that, without several landslide 
victories in the remaining primaries, neither Senators Barack Obama nor Hilary 
Clinton can secure the nomination before the national convention. 

In a scenario the Democratic Party leaders do not desire, political analysts 
are now speculating whether the race may be decided on the national convention 
floor by a group of political office holders and party insiders, called super 

Super delegates consist of elected Democratic officials such as U.S. senators 
and representatives, state governors, former presidents and vice presidents, 
national party officials and party insiders. Nationally, they add up to a total 
of 795, or about 20%, of the 4,048 Democratic delegates available. 

Their status as ‘unpledged’ means that their vote may or may not reflect the 
numbers shown in primaries or caucuses, in effect superseding the will of the 
voters in a close nomination race. 

It is possible for a candidate to receive a majority of the popular vote and a 
small number of delegates like Eugene McCarthy did in the 1968 Pennsylvania 
Democratic primary. Super delegates are also allowed to publicize, keep private 
or change their candidate allegiance at any time before the convention.

The Democratic Party supported reforms to make the nomination process more 
transparent in 1968 through the McGovern-Fraser Commission. But by 1980, the 
Democratic Party established the super delegate structure after it was 
determined that there was too much electoral influence in the hands of the 
general population. 

Michigan has 26 super delegates and they include Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick spoke to the Michigan Citizen during a recent appearance at the 
Coleman A. Young Recreation Center about the responsibility that comes with the 

“I’ve had the privilege of being a super delegate at a couple of different 
conventions, but none of them mattered as much as the super delegates that will 
be at this Democratic convention,” Kilpatrick said. “You go in with your 
conscience first. We’re at a pivotal point in American history. Who can deny 
the fact that a country that was built on the notion that African Americans 
were three fifths human are now given the opportunity to have an African 
American president. How could you not think about that going into the room? But 
also, you have to look at your constituency, and what’s best for Michigan. 
You’re going to have to discuss things with organized labor—many of them are 
super delegates.” 

Virgie Rollins, regional director for the National Federation of Democratic 
Women and the Chair of the DNC Black Caucus, is also a Michigan super delegate. 
She told the Michigan Citizen that despite the irregularities exhibited in the 
current Democratic nomination process, traditionally, super delegates have 
voted with the Michigan constituency. Rollins sees no reason to believe that 
super delegates will ultimately decide the nomination.

“We’ve seen the most participation in an election in our lifetime,” Rollins 
said, indicating that the increased attention will prevent the nomination from 
being swayed by the super delegate influence. “The people are ultimately going 
to make the choice.” 

Elected by precinct delegates and party members to the Chair of the 14th 
Democratic Congressional District, Edna Bell received super delegate status 
during the 2004 Kerry campaign.

“The delegates absolutely have an obligation to their constituents,” Bell, who 
is now the Detroit coordinator for Michiganders For Obama.

“My prayer is that it doesn’t come down to that—it would be divisive for the 
Democratic Party.” 

Bell recommends separating the super delegates into two categories, elected and 
non-elected, each carrying different weight. She says appointed super delegates 
should not be in a position to decide the nomination.

Political advisors in both the Obama and Clinton campaigns will now be heavily 
dependent on current and past political relationships. 

Clinton campaign managers have openly stated that courting super delegates is a 
large part of the campaign strategy now that Obama has maintained a lead in 
delegates earned in state primaries. 

Super delegates in Clinton’s own political circle include campaign manager 
Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 
to 2005, and former president Bill Clinton.

Who are Michigan’s Super Delegates?

1. John D. Cherry, Lt. Governor 

2. Rep. John D. Dingell, U.S. Congressman, 15th District

3. Joel Ferguson, at-large member of the DNC, businessman, member of MSU Board 
of Trustees

4. Dale Kildee, U.S. Congressman, 5th District

5. Sander Levin, U.S. Congressman, 12th District

6. Mark Schauer, State Senator, 19th District

7. Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Senator

8. John Conyers, U.S. Congressman, 14th District

9. Arthenia Abbott, Vice Chair, Michigan Democratic Party

10. Lu Battaglieri, President of Michigan Education Association, union 
representing retired teachers and education employees

10. Mark Brewer, Chair, Michigan Democratic Party, Vice Chair, Democratic 
National Committee

11. Elizabeth Bunn, UAW Secretary-Treasurer

12. Eric Coleman, County Commissioner of Oakland County, 23rd District

13. Debbie Dingell, WSU Board of Governors, senior executive at General Motors

14. Robert Ficano, Wayne County Executive

15. Jennifer Granholm, Governor 

16. Kwame Kilpatrick, Mayor, City of Detroit

17. Carolyn Kilpatrick, U.S. Congresswoman, 13th District

18. Joyce Lalonde, Board of Directors, National Education Association

19. Carl Levin, U.S. Senator

20. Jeffrey Radjewski, business and finance manager of the International 
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)

21. Virgie Rollins, regional director, National Federation of Democratic Women, 
Chair, Democratic National Committee Black Caucus

22. Richard Shoemaker, UAW Vice President

23. Bart Stupak, U.S. Congressman, 1st District

24. Michael Tardiff, DNC 

25. Richard Weiner, attorney and former Granholm staffer

26. Lauren Wolf, President of the College Democrats of America, she is 
attending law school in Detroit.

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