Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What We Need To Know About Winnowing

I've suspected for the past couple of cycles, and now believe strongly, that Republicans have become ruthlessly efficient in winding ways to get losing candidates to drop out of the presidential nomination race well before the Iowa caucuses. Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour were clear cases of it this cycle; we've had others in previous cycles, including Dan Quayle, Lamar Alexander, Liddy Dole, and Pete Wilson. Then there are less clear cases, such as John Thune and Mitch Daniels, who acted like candidates for a while but pulled the plug before fully committing.

On the other hand, Democrats have been less likely to drop out early. There are some -- Mark Warner and Evan Bayh last time around -- who are in that Thune category, but mostly those who get in stay in until the voters administer the final judgement in Iowa (or a bit later). So in 2008 six plausible nominees (conventionally credentialed and with views of public policy in the mainstream of the party) made it to Iowa on the Democratic side, but this time around it looks as if the Republicans will have just a couple.

So when I see a blog post such as this one from Isaac Chotiner arguing that Pawlenty made a mistake in dropping out after Ames, my initial impulse is to say that it wasn't so much a choice as a consequence of having already lost.

But I have no idea what the mechanism is that separates the Democratic process from the GOP one. I see different results, but I don't really know why. It could even be a random effect, although I'm convinced it's not. It could be that internal party norms are different; it could be that there are specific incentives that are different -- for example, perhaps Republicans (which ones? how?) have either effective threats for those who won't drop out, or promise benefits to those who will.

What we really need is someone to investigate. Hey, reporters! The people who have made these decisions, both the candidates and campaign managers, are out there; wouldn't this make a good story? Actually, I could see it as a good research idea for political scientists (hey, grad students!) too. Why did Tim Pawlenty's story end differently than Bill Richardson's?

37 comments:

  1. A thought: maybe it's the partisan differences and institutions that matter. If Republican partisans value authority and loyalty to far greater degrees than Democratic partisans, as Matt Yglesias pointed out (http://thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2011/10/24/351013/moral-foundations-of-politics/), the institutional incentives to candidates will reflect those values. I.e., after fighting for every last inch in a primary as a plausible candidate, it's much easier for a Democrat to return to or be promoted to an position of institutional power within the world of her party's politics.

    I think it's telling to compare the candidacies of Joe Lieberman in '03 and Jon Huntsman in 2011. Both were borderline-plausible outsiders whose campaigns rested at least in part on the premise that they were best-equipped to beat the incumbent on his own turf. Whereas Lieberman could mostly return to the Democratic fold in the Senate (even while being defeated in the primary!), there are likely going to be very few high profile institutional options available to Huntsman in either a Perry or Romney administration. He'll be lucky to get shipped off to China again.

    When your partisans value fairness and harm, as Democrats do, nobody gets hurt by letting voters play the race out to its foregone conclusion. In fact, fairness is served by letting partisans continue to choose among options, as Democrats did into June '08 with Hillary Clinton and late spring '04 with Dennis Kucinich. Both the frontrunner's authority as a nominee and the challenger's loyalty to party norms come into question, however, and so Republican partisans tend to do what they do and winnow the field earlier.

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  2. I think you'll first have to document your assertion, before calling on others to "explain" your assertion. I'm not going to bother counting up anything, I'll just make an equally valid assertion that 5-10 doofuses from either party go for the nomination every or every other cycle. They come and they go. No difference.

    Probably the only outlier would be the D party's 20% super delegate count, which might put a potential carrot in front of candidates' noses, until such time as the super delegates are finally bought off, and make it clear to everyone who's bought them, thus driving out the outlier candidates, who'd been hanging around hoping against hope (but were merely price point establishers, as it always turns out).

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  3. The definition of plausible given above is "conventionally credentialed and with views of public policy in the mainstream of the party" - doesn't Tim Pawlenty actually satisfy those conditions?

    As a secondary question, how lax is the "views of public policy in the mainstream of the party?" Because, Romney dances along the fine edge at times (on abortion and health care and, given his "I'm running for office" comment, immigration is also suspect) and Perry is potentially outside on immigration and HPV - it's not entirely clear that either of those guys truly qualify depending on the boundaries of that phrase.

    With Pawlenty, I think the right answer is ultimately that he made a mistake - he simply misjudged things. He didn't forsee that Perry would end up a joke and that Romney would continue to fail in acquiring consensus, thereby opening up a path to the nomination.

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  4. Josh,

    Right -- Pawlenty fit that category, but he didn't make it to Iowa. So did Barbour this cycle, and others I mentioned in earlier cycles. But that doesn't seem to happen on the Dem side. So the question is: why? If it was one candidate, then you could say it was a mistake in judgement, but since it's a pattern, I'm looking for something systematic.

    Anon,

    No matter how many times you rave about the Supers, it doesn't change the fact that the Supers have always followed the results of the primaries, and therefore play no independent role in determining the nominee. As delegates, that is. In both parties, party actors play an important role, but not as delegates.

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  5. "...therefore play no independent role in determining the nominee."

    .

    Right. Those 20% super delegates are never for sale. Gotcha.

    Except you cannot document that, and meanwhile the rest of us know what it is that will be their prime impetus. They are there, and therefore they are for sale. This is a plain blog about politics, remember?

    And yes, if you have a valid point in your blogpost, and I don't think you have anything more than an assertion at this point, but if you do that point would be explainable by the super delegates' illegitimate role in the D nomination process.

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  6. Jonathan,

    I think that you're half-right on Pawlenty. I think that he did conclude that he lost, so he dropped out (was winnowed). But I think the current speculation is that he misjudged the situation (he was only "mostly dead"). That when it appeared that he had lost, he actually still had a faint pulse. And if he had been patient and bided his time while Perry stumbled (and stammered) his way out of the gate, it might be TPaw who was now gathering the anti-Mitt energy.

    So it could be that he "lost" but hadn't really LOST.

    Possibly not, but I think it's a speculation worth considering.

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  7. Anon, obviously you can never say never, and in some future Dem contest perhaps the supers will prove to be the wild card you suggest.

    But 2008 was a pretty decent field test of that proposition, wouldn't you say? Hillary had racked up superdelegates out the wazoo, but once the elected delegate count swung decisively to Obama, the supers started defecting in droves. In May/June, he picked up tons of supers that had previously endorsed Hillary. In the end, he was literally nominated by acclimation.

    So while I'd have to acknowledge that to some extent the supers are a ticking bomb, it appears that as a practical matter Jonathan is right, and the Supers will follow the will of the party.

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  8. Well, as I'm scorning Mr. Bernstein's blogpost here, lemme take the opportunity to throw some roses onto his dome, as he was one of the few who recognized that Pawlenty was a quite "plausible" (I believe that was the word that was being used in the blogger catfight of the time) candidate, even when dropping out of the race.

    Pawlenty just didn't have the belly for the fight, apparently. Perhaps not psychotic enough to run for president, or whatever. But he had a plausible path to the nomination. He just didn't plan for contingencies, like Bachmann derailing him in a straw poll in Iowa. But if the guy let that little happenstance derail him, he never really wanted it. It's a long fight, and you have to plan to stay in it 'til 1st quarter election year, if you want to have a chance. If you don't commit to that, you should've never been in it in the first place.

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  9. "...the supers started defecting in droves."

    Precisely. They "defected". Now, we just have to determine what induced them to "defect".

    Oh that's right, they did it for "party". ;-)

    Look, gang, it's a plain blog about politics. No need to pretend here. We all understand this game. We all understand human nature. You lefties need to get with the program. This is a disgrace. It is an abomination. It is insulting. And yes, it is a statement about the Left's mindset, and not a good one.

    So somebody scares up some millions to put out a hit on Dean 2004, flooding the airwaves with negs, the hit succeeds, then we have some more inducements to clean up the totals and push it over to the chosen candidate, selected, not elected. Argue that all you want, but that too is plausible, and will be, until that super delegate travesty is eliminated.

    For a bunch complaining about money in politics, you've sure opened up the door wide to its effects.

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  10. ""...the supers started defecting in droves."

    Precisely. They "defected". Now, we just have to determine what induced them to "defect". "

    Well I'm neither a superdelegate nor a political scientist, but the explanation seems pretty clear to me.

    It seems to me that on the whole they defected because they didn't want to be the last rat off the sinking ship. Also, collectively, they didn't want to be tarred as the group of elites in "smoke filled rooms" who overturned the clear will of the rank & file. Basically, it's all about political self-preservation, another concept Jonathan goes on about at some length in this blog.

    I'm not sure what you're getting at with the Dean thing. Superdelegates had nothing to do with that, he was sunk between the first caucus and the first primary. It's true that there were a lot of elites who didn't want him, and perhaps it could be described as a "hit" but it had nothing to do with supers.

    And what I guess you're insinuating, that a bunch of superdelegates could be "bought off" to overturn an elected-delegate win, is I suppose possible but it would be a pretty public betrayal, and hard to conceal.

    I have some misgivings about the superdelegate role too, but I think your conspiracy theories are rather over the top.

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  11. ...a bunch of superdelegates could be "bought off" to overturn an elected-delegate win, is I suppose possible but it would be a pretty public betrayal, and hard to conceal.

    You mean "hard to conceal", like all the other political payoffs that get caught out, every day?

    And I suppose all the rigorous campaign disclosure and financial disclosure required of those superdelegates can be relied upon to smoke it out? That it?

    Oh that's right, there isn't any of that.

    Come on, folks. It's a plain blog about politics. Please don't feign naivete. Or maybe you are naive, I don't know. You shouldn't be.

    20% of the available delegates are available for direct purchase. Couple that with a readily available cash stash for any hits required, and you got yourself a process ripe for the rigging.

    This is simply a disgrace. An insult.

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  12. Anonymous, I don't understand why you call the superdelegates "illegitimate." Let's say you're right and they can be bought off with political favors or even cash. So what? The nomination of a political party is not a public office. It's the party's choice. The rules by which the party arrives at it are also the party's choice.

    Suppose that you decided to form your own Anonymous Party, and that you got some of your anonymous friends together and nominated an Anonymous candidate for president. Wouldn't it be up to you and your fellow party members how you went about that? If the anonymous winner of the Anonymous Party's nomination won it by paying off anonymous people (in plain, unmarked brown bags of cash, needless to say), what business would that be of mine? Or let's say you decided the nomination based on whose (undisclosed) last name came first in the alphabet. Or on hair color. What of it? It's your party. Outsiders and members of other parties would, of course, be free to argue that a nominee chosen in any of those ways shouldn't get people's votes, but you'd be equally free to ignore that and go ahead with your Anonymous campaign. Right? Where's the "illegitimacy"?

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  13. Wait, Anonymous, I've lost track. What type of blog is this blog about politics? Why can't you just give it to me straight?! Please clarify this point for us all.

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  14. I read somewhere that the described winnowing was one of the less caustic innovations of the Atwater/Rove era; while 1976 and 1980 were poorly-winnowed Republican primaries, there hasn't really been one since, save 2008, when arguably interest and intensity were at a fairly low ebb. The argument, as I understand it, is that "airing a party's internal dissent in a bitter primary is bad for the general", though to be honest, except for a couple of mildly awkward clips of Biden saying Obama was unprepared for the presidency in 2008 primary debates, its not clear that lack of winnowing has hurt the Dems all that much, at least not overtly.

    But. I 100% agree with Jeff's comment above about the superdelegates; its their party, and they'll pick a nominee how they want to, its no issue of ours if the process or participants are corrupt. Aside from potential corruption, superdelegates may create a problem by being a natural anti-winnowing force.

    One recalls that, while Obama was rolling up the last few states in the 2008 primary season, there was a consistent push for an en masse superdelegate defection to HRC because Obama was young or inexperienced or a black guy or whatever. That inherent uncertainty is probably bad for the party, and not just because it delays winnowing.

    Much worse, it delays the party's enthusiastic consolidation around the nominee. Didn't hurt Obama, but then he had some great tailwinds like a troubled economy and a troubled opponent. Has superdelegate-spawned uncertainty hurt other Democratic nominees?

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  15. There IS a plausible party rule explanation for why Dems persist, and it isn't superdelegates.

    It's the unit rule. Being the 2nd choice in IA, NH and SC gets you NOTHING in the GOP, and keeps you in the game on the Dem side of the aisle. A Dem candidate could reasonably think that, if only they "beat expectations" in IA and NH, that they could do well on a super-Tuesday of some kind, an only trail the front-runner by a handful, maybe less than 100 delegates with 4000 left to go (numbers approximate, but check out Green Papers). A similarly-positioned R candidate would enter supercalifragilisticexpialidocius Tuesday (March 6, this go around) possibly down by a couple hundred, with only 1600 delegates left.

    Oh, and Anon: what about the GOP and it's "unpledged" delegates? As I understand it (and others would know more than I), there's 3 "party delegates" per state/territory, making them about 8%. Plus, a number of states have delegates they send who are pledged to nobody. Why no insane ranting about them?

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  16. @JB
    Two big factors I’d consider one historical one current. Currently the conservative gravy train of lucrative offers to be on boards or work for "think tanks" ect allows party actors a great deal of leverage in convincing GOP nominee's to drop out. See Dan Qualye becoming an investment banker while people on the Dem side go back to doing what they did before.

    Historically do you think the fact that the GOP dominated the presidency in the first two decades after the post-Watergate reforms had anything to do with it? That is, since the GOP was more headed by a resident of the White house than a party chair or congressional leadership perhaps the GOP developed systems of control to keep everything orderly (as it behooves a President to do) while the Democrats focused more on conflict over control of the Party (hallmarks of the convention showdowns of 68’ and 72’ and also reoccurring themes in other Presidential contenders like Gary Hart, Dick Gephardt and Bill Clinton.)

    I’d also point out the Democratic Party is simply more Democratic than the GOP, making it harder to run the Party like a top down corporate hierarchy and winnow people out starting in June. But that's just me.

    @Matt Jarvis yeah that probably explains a huge part of it too.

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  17. Some good points here since I posted. I believe CSH is correctly reminding us of a recent case in which the existence of superdelegates delayed the losing primary candidate (HRC) from dropping out. So that might be an argument against such a system. There are also arguments for it. Again, it's a matter for party members to debate and settle among themselves.

    But if we're going to take seriously Anonymous' point about legitimacy, then the same analysis should be applied to winner-take-all primaries like the Republicans have relied on at least until now. Recall that winners, especially early on, tend to win only pluralities, like 30%-40%. (McCain won SC in '08 with 33%.) And for that, they collect all a state's delegates? Or all minus the superdelegates-except-in-name that Matt mentions? Then most of the party's voters might simply not be represented at all at its national nominating convention. That's legit, but superdelegates aren't? Really?

    Or: Ross Perot. He nominated himself. Then he invited people to form a party around him to turn that nomination into a campaign. Should that not be permitted? There were plenty of reasons not to vote for Perot; whether and how and by whom he was named a candidate was pretty low on that list.

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  18. I absolutely love Jeff's comment (at 5:14).

    The supers really have only played a serious role in the 2008 race. I do think in 1984 and 1988 IIRC they tended to help clinch things, but again IIRC only to help avoid a Carter/Kennedy type of "maybe if the delegates defect" wishful thinking kind of thing.

    I think longwalk's theory is potentially correct, as is what CSH said about Atwater/Rove, but I'm looking for more in the way of hard evidence. Or at least soft evidence! Not that I'm complaining about good comments, mind you.

    I don't think the timeline is right for it to be the consequence of the Nixon/Reagan/Bush years; the first one of note was Pete Wilson, which isn't until 1996. The GOP had very solid candidate fields in 1980 and 1988, and they all made it to Iowa (again, IIRC).

    As far as the GOP just being more top-down...maybe. I suspect so, but I don't think we actually have that nailed down.

    Ah, one more thing. Matt -- I don't see it. Yeah, you fall behind more early, but you can catch up easier! I'm not sure why that would push people out pre-Iowa.

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  19. Good point, JB. I still think I'm right. But, I'm going to need to crunch some numbers (theoretical, not a regression or anything) to test it.

    Basically, think of it as being similar to the Electoral College landslide effect. Obama can win by 6 points and win in the EC by a ton. Same principle.

    Hmmm....actually, maybe I WILL need to look at the historical data to make some assumptions and play this out. I'm pretty sure the logic is sound for an also-ran; I'm wondering if I'm right about a legitimate #3 or #2 candidate.

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  20. It's probably worth noting that the Republican Party will only be allowing states to have winner-take-all primaries in 2012 if the primary takes place in April or later. All primaries in March or earlier will have to use some kind of proportionate allocation.

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  21. Regarding the GOP being more of a "top-down" party, remember that in the debt-ceiling negotiations last summer, it was the GOP backbenchers who "disciplined" Boehner for making a deal with Obama that didn't suit them. John Sides at The Monkey Cage mentions the notion of "conditional party government," whereby the parties--now that they have become more ideologically cohesive--grant greater power to their leaders but only if those leaders remain within the bounds of the accepted ideological consensus. Boehner stepped outside the ideological bounds to forge a practical solution to a practical problem (something that would once have been considered praise-worthy) and was hauled back by his "followers."

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  22. "Anonymous, I don't understand why you call the superdelegates "illegitimate." "

    Because he's not very bright.

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  23. "its their party, and they'll pick a nominee how they want to, its no issue of ours if the process or participants are corrupt."

    I enjoyed the 5:14 comment, too, but that's not quite right. Parties are free to adopt a wide range of processes, but they're still subject to numerous civil and criminal restraints that go beyond "murdering and mutilating potential rivals not OK." The degree to which the internal rules and processes of the parties are subject to regulation has frequently been taken to court, and their conduct - fundraising, electioneering, incorporation, etc. - further falls under relevant state and federal laws. This reality in turn benefits the major parties, since they function as appendages of the political system, of the government, rather than strictly as associations of like-minded individuals.

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  24. Yes, CK, I know it's legally more complicated. Obviously parties, just like churches, can and should be subject to the law in their dealings with the rest of the world. As to their internal processes, my understanding is that these can indeed be legally challenged, but again -- same as with churches -- on much more limited grounds, because the courts will generally defer to the organization's leadership on internal disputes and will try not to get involved. I'm inclined to think that they're too deferential in that regard, although I would not like to see the law try to stop the trading of political favors within parties, because that would basically stop them from operating. (Even the Blagoevich prosecution was a bit of a stretch in that regard, I thought.)

    May I also note that at 8:23 above, we have Anonymous accusing Anonymous of not being very bright. I am reminded of the old joke about the authorship of Homer's plays: that they weren't really written by Homer, they were written by another guy named Homer.

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  25. I mean poems, not plays. But maybe the other Homer also wrote plays. ;-)

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  26. Jeff, your criticism of the internal workings of the Anonymous Party is neither appropriate nor productive. If you want to change how they do things, put a brown paper bag over your head and get to work. ;)

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  27. classicist, while you're here, correct me if I'm wrong: Doesn't the word "nominate" come from a Latin root meaning "to name"? So I guess an Anonymous Party can't really nominate (name) any candidate without violating the principle for which it was founded.

    Leaving that problem aside, you're right to call for constructive proposals. So at our next meeting I will float my plan (without attaching my name to it, of course): I think our Anonymous nominating convention should be held in a beer hall, and whichever party member buys the most rounds will be named the "superdelegate" with full power to make all further decisions. I see no downsides to this whatsoever.

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  28. Anonymous, I don't understand why you call the superdelegates "illegitimate." Let's say you're right and they can be bought off with political favors or even cash. So what? The nomination of a political party is not a public office. It's the party's choice. The rules by which the party arrives at it are also the party's choice.

    I'm calling the super delegate process illegitimate because it's illegitimate. They are not chosen by the People. They are selected, not elected. And they are beholden to nobody other than the people who buy them.

    Now, if your point is that this is "legal", then fair enough. It may very well be "legal". That doesn't mean it's legitimate, because it's not. Let's hope you're not devolving to the algore "no controlling legal authority" defense. Especially as it's you lefties who are constantly complaining about money in politics. That doesn't comport with this super delegate business, and makes your "money in politics" talk just pure hypocrisy, no?

    Try this one on, since you lefties appear to be clamoring to embrace the OWS folk. Head down to that Manhattan square and tell your OWS wannabe mates that 20% of the presidential delegates will come about absent any grassroots acclamation, and may potentially be purchased by that Wall Street guy climbing into the tower across the street.

    See what your newly found OWS buddies have to say about that.

    It's up to you how you want to play it, but let's not call this anything other than an insult. And it is an insult.

    It's a plain blog about politics. You want bought politicians, evidently. That's plain.

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  29. Jeff -- yes, "nomen" = name. But it also can just mean "noun," hence you could nominate committee chairs and things while respecting the principle of anonymity.

    I think our Anonymous nominating convention should be held in a beer hall, and whichever party member buys the most rounds will be named the "superdelegate" with full power to make all further decisions. I see no downsides to this whatsoever.

    That, however, might well violate the anonymity principle, since everyone would immediately recognize that the superdelegate in question was Anthony Kennedy.

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  30. CK & Jeff,

    The US courts have in fact decreed that political parties are to be considered as something of a public utility, rather than purely private organizations. I generally think that was the wrong way to go, but regardless it is to some extent true.

    That said...the courts have never said or done anything to indicate that the Supers are problematic. And rightly so; after all, there were essentially nothing but Supers from the beginnings of national conventions in the 1820s (hope that's right; I'm too lazy to double-check) up until 1972.

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  31. This has become another great Plain Blog thread whose discussion causes me to look anew at something old, in this case superdelegates. What I learned here is that, regardless of legitimacy (or our right to participate), the superdelegates are inherently counterproductive.

    In the language of this blog, superdelegates exist to provide a safety net insuring that the winner of the invisible primary also ends up being the winner of the visible one, unless of course the peanut gallery so overwhelmingly chooses the wrong candidate that the supers can't offset popular ignorance. There are at least two significant problems with this arrangement.

    The first is that the winner of the invisible primary is, by definition, invisible. Did HRC win the 2008 Democratic invisible primary? Perhaps. Her name brand would tend to suggest as much, plus the fact that Obama was somewhat slow to build support, (apparently) particularly among African-Americans. Then again, maybe HRC didn't win the invisible primary.

    The second problem is related to the first: dispassionate observers of a hotly-contested primary, who would be able to execute on the mission of re-aligning the primary to the initial, invisible outcome, simply don't exist. HRC's PUMAs, in 2008, might just as well have been an acronym standing for "Pretty Universally Miffed Association", since it virtually goes without saying that any ~low 50%s v. high 40%s primary will involve deep, passionate convictions from all stakeholders, in either direction.

    So who will be these dispassionate superdelegates, in such an environment, to look out for the interests of the invisible primary deciders? They can't exist, and if they do exist, they can't do their job well.

    Which, coming full circle, ties into our discussion about whether we average Joes have a right to influence or participate in a party's selection of a candidate. Per the influence of the invisible primary, the answer is clearly no. Per our expectations for a democracy, the answer is clearly yes.

    Perhaps this also helps clarify the winnowing difference in the original question: the Republicans winnow because they have no qualms about squaring the circle of the inherently non-democratic process of selecting a nominee; Democrats go for things like superdelegates as a reflection of that party's perpetually awkward attempt to serve multiple masters.

    In an odd way, this sort of works for me.

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  32. CSH,

    Perhaps it's going too far to say the superdelegates exist to assure the victory of the invisible primary's winner. They exist to prevent the selection of an unelectable nominee. Whether they actually fulfill that role is, of course, another question. But that role does not preclude the actual voters having a meaningful say between the invisible primary and the final choice, especially given the fact that the visible primay winners have in fact won the nomination.

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  33. I don't know what rationales were originally put forward for having superdelegates, but if I were asked to justify the practice today, I wouldn't put it just in terms of what impact they do or don't have on the choice of nominee. I would note what JB said above: that for a very long time, the only delegates were superdelegates, i.e. people very active in party affairs on a regular basis. While I grant that parties have become "public utilities" of a kind, and that the Democratic Party can't (legitimately) be run purely on the same terms as the Elks Club, my argument for supers would be that it is still, nonetheless, a voluntary association of people who have joined together to advance their causes as they define them, and that voluntary associations can make their own rules. It makes sense, in that view, to recognize different levels of activity or commitment. In an important sense, the national convention is the party -- it does other things besides pick the nominee -- and a convention that was mostly or entirely a bunch of newcomers wouldn't accurately reflect that.

    But as CSH says, the Democrats are in a muddle because as usual they're torn between different impulses: to be a cohesive party, with a convention that acknowledges different levels of commitment and stakeholding, and to be open and democratic, with a convention that reflects the outcomes of public votes in recent primaries. There's no perfect arrangement, and I also agree with CSH that in an odd way, this compromise works for me, though I could imagine circumstances that would get me to rethink that.

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  34. "I don't know what rationales were originally put forward for having superdelegates."

    By my recollection, the rationale was that there should be no more George McGoverns (possibly George McGoverns or Jimmy Carters).

    By the way, JB, I believe the first national nominating convention was held in 1832, by the Anti-Masonic Party.

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  35. Yet more contradictions found on this site. It's posited that the "economy" rules all, and candidates and policies barely matter, and yet it's also claimed the need for "super delegates" to keep from nominating unelectable candidates for an election where candidates don't matter, as the economy will rule all.

    Huh?

    How about accepting the obvious, that super delegates allow the 1% an illegitimate opportunity to buy the nomination? And as the Left has basically failed at picking presidential candidates for 3 consecutive elections now, and lining up for a 4th it appears, where's the harm in dumping super delegates and leaving matters to primary voters?

    At least it'd be democratic.

    Do they come any more unelectable than the disastrous Kerry, and the even more disastrous Gore (couldn't win even his own home state, against a weak candidate, during peace and prosperity, and with the mother of all October Surprises pulled off the weekend before the election)?

    And Obama is unelectable in 2012, as his in experience and incompetence has made it so, which should have been a disqualifier for any robust nomination process in 2008.

    If the Left goes 1 for 5 in presidential elections 2000-2016, as they appear poised to do, at least as much as these things can project today, will you still be celebrating the current nomination process, including the sacred super delegates?

    Heck, let me pick the candidates, and you'da gone at LEAST 3 of 5 in those elections. Gephardt wins in 2004, obviously, and even Dean had a better shot than the disastrous one. And Clinton would win 2012 handily, if she'd received the nomination in 2008. And the Clintons likely woulda remembered their Gore mistake, and not left succession to stupes, so 2016 might very well gone Left as well.

    Democracy has its advantages, if you let it play out.

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  36. I guess I should do a post about the supers sooner or later.

    But short version: the main reason they exist is because the party wanted them to show up at the convention, and once delegates were converted into slated representatives of the candidates chosen by voters in primaries, that became structurally very difficult.

    Some from the start wanted them to prevent any more McGoverns, but that was in my understanding of it (and the place to go is David Price's book, IIRC) not the main reason (or, as it turned out, the main effect).

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  37. "...the main reason they exist is because the party wanted them to show up at the convention..."

    Let's unpack this. They're "super delegates", humble, hardworking folk, committed to truth, justice and the American Way... but they gotta be bribed to attend the quadrennial presidential convention?

    And does the term "bribe" ring any bells here? The bribed super delegates have already proven they can be bribed, no?

    You can't flood cyberspace with talk of "invisible primaries", while also asserting that the one sure, measurable, tangible (but unaccountable to all but their paymasters) representation of an invisible primary is meaningless, and just goes along with the primary crowd out in the hinterlands.

    Life ain't like that. People are smarter than that. You can sneak that through the masses once every 4 years, sure, but you gotta face the pillorying from those who happen to notice this insult. Consider yourselves pilloried.

    At least part of the reason that we're only now exiting the 60 years long "era of incumbency" (I believe that's what the poli geeks call it) is that robust and roiling discourse and party splits and party formation has been discouraged, particularly on the Left. We've seen a bit of that roiling on the R side: Goldwater, then Reagan, then the Perot thing, now the Tea Party, but nothing comparable on the Left.

    Sure, there was a splinter group for a bit, the "DLC", and yes one of their number was elected president, but promptly informed us that he'd lied about matters fiscal during his campaign, and that there'd be no promised middle class tax cut, and oh yeah, HillaryCare was on the way. He was soon disabused of his direction.

    So obviously, there had been no roiling, raucus process of ideas on the Left, there had only been some cosmetics, and repackaging of the SOS. Sorta like what we're finding out about the Left today, as we see. And the electorate is giving us the expected response, similarly to 1994.

    If you want things to change, you gotta change, and encourage the means to bring that about. It's really disappointing that the Left seeks the least common denominator, and the least grassroots participation, while leaving open the most room for malefactor manipulation.

    Yeah, you need to clarify your position on this. I don't think there's any way to reconcile your multiple positions, but have at it.

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