Liberal Superdelegates Could Face Dilemma
With the 2020 Democratic primary underway, liberals across the country are backing several different candidates.
With so many contenders still in the race, many pundits believe it’s possible that no one candidate will win a majority of delegates to this summer’s Democratic convention.
If one candidate doesn’t have the pledged delegates she or he needs to win the party’s nomination coming out of the primaries, superdelegates will step in to cast their ballots.
These superdelegates, if called upon at the convention, could face a dilemma. Should they vote for the candidate who won the most support in the primaries, or the candidate they consider most likely to defeat Trump in the general election?
Why might superdelegates need to vote?
During a presidential primary election, a candidate secures delegates based on her or his performance in a given state. These delegates are tallied throughout the primary season, as more states hold their primary elections.
If a candidate secures 1991 out of 3979 total delegates during the primaries, she or he will secure the Democratic Party nomination on the first ballot at the convention, which represents the votes of those delegates.
But if no candidate reaches the 1991 delegate threshold, a second ballot is circulated to both delegates and superdelegates.
Who are the superdelegates?
Superdelegates are elected officials in the liberal party. They are Democratic members of congress, governors, party leaders (such as former presidents), and Democratic National Committee members.
Some superdelegates have half votes. No superdelegate has more than one vote, even if she or he fits into more than one of the qualified groups (i.e. someone who is both a congressman and a party leader).
The dilemma superdelegates could face
While pledged delegates are expected to vote in line with the electorate they represent, superdelegates are not. Superdelegates may choose to back the candidate who gets the most popular votes and delegates during the primary, but they may also deviate from the norm and back the candidate they consider most electable, instead.
Given the early trends in the primaries, it seems possible that no candidate will secure 1991 delegates and that a second ballot will be required this year. In that case, superdelegates could face a real dilemma: should they elect the most popular candidate, representing the wishes of the plurality of the electorate, or should they elect the candidate they believe will perform best in the general election?
Far-reaching implications for the party and country
If superdelegates are called on to vote this year, the implications of their decision will be far-reaching.
To choose a candidate other than the popular candidate could alienate some voters, set a questionable precedent, and harm turnout for the general election. But to nominate a candidate who seems unlikely to beat Trump is a big risk for the liberal party.
Determining the best course of action won’t be easy for the superdelegates, and they’ll have to follow their instincts to position the party for victory in November.