This article represents, for me, the absolute importance of being informed.
The delicate superdelegate predicament
Democratic nominee should be chosen by voters, not party elite
By Jesse Jackson Jr
February 12, 2008
The Democratic Party is on fire. We have two talented, precedent-
shattering, history-making candidates. We have a fired-up, mobilized,
energized base, breaking voting turnout records. We have a grass-
roots donor base that is using the Internet to set new fundraising
records every time we turn around. And the Republican Party seems to
have settled on an aging nominee who has serious problems with his
conservative base, tells voters that their jobs are gone and promises
a 100-year war and occupation of Iraq.
So I would suggest that this is a time that Democratic superdelegates
should tread lightly. Let's not get in the way of our rising tide.
Let's allow grass-roots voters to choose the 2008 presidential
nominee for the Democratic Party, not party elites.
This is a subject I know a bit about. I am one of 796 superdelegates,
by virtue of being a member of Congress. I'm a national co-chair for
the Obama for President campaign and I was once a Democratic National
I came of age during the great political campaigns of my father, Rev.
Jesse Jackson, grass-roots campaigns during the 1980s that took on
the Democratic Party's establishment, the superdelegates and the
question of political elites ruling the convention.
My father's 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns brought the civil
rights movement of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. fully into electoral
politics, registered millions of new Democratic voters and changed
the face and structure of the party -- including the rules.
We fought during the '80s to make the Democratic Party a party of
inclusion, and we largely succeeded, as our two remaining Democratic
presidential nominees this year illustrate. Back then, we registered
millions of young African-American voters, an investment that has
paid huge dividends to the party at every level for the last 20
We fought to lower barriers to grass-roots participation and won
rules changes that made our primary process fairer, smoother and more
accessible to everyone.
These rules changes were bitterly resisted at the time, yet
Democratic presidential nomination races since 1988 have been less
acrimonious and fairer and have helped us win at least two, really
three and maybe even four presidential victories in the years since
(depending on how many stolen elections you believe took place).
What were those changes? We fought to eliminate "winner-take-all" and
"bonus" primaries, which were very biased against grass-roots
candidates, especially minorities -- and we won.
We fought to lower the threshold percentage for winning delegates
from 20 percent to 15 percent -- and we won.
We actually succeeded in eliminating hundreds of superdelegates at
the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, by taking away
the status of unelected committee members. (Unfortunately, those
slots were quickly reinstated as superdelegates the next year, once
the election was over.)
The Democratic Party now is fairer and more accessible than it was a
generation ago, which is a big reason why Barack Obama has such a
good chance to become the party's presidential nominee. Still, one-
fifth of the convention delegates in Denver this summer will be
superdelegates -- more than enough to make the final choice in this
year's close primary contest.
Don't do it. Let the process play out. Let's see if the voters point
us in a clear direction, and rather than intervening to change that
direction, we superdelegates can ratify their decision.
Let's trust the voters to make wise decisions. Let's trust the
candidates to stay on the high road, so that a long primary process
continues to build the party up. Let's keep a wary eye on proposed
solutions that favor the power of elites over that of voters.
And when this is all over, let's revisit this whole superdelegate
issue. Because maybe the number of superdelegates who will be seated
at the Denver convention are just too many. If it better serves
justice, I'd be willing to give up my automatic superdelegate slot
(as long as my colleagues join me).
Most of all, let's not break the hearts of the millions of young
people who have been inspired to participate in the election process
this season. If we keep them involved, we'll all reach higher ground.
Jesse Jackson Jr. represents the 2nd Congressional District of
Illinois. He is a national co-chairman of the Obama for President