Just as democratic leaders are assuring voters that they will not pick the next nominee as superdelegates, top Clinton Aide Harold Ickes has called the primaries “irrelevant” for the outcome and predicted that party leaders would give her the nomination regardless of losing any future primaries. At the same time, he has called for the delegates in Florida and Michigan to be seated despite the fact that the other candidates did not campaign in those states under an agreement with the party — an agreement that Clinton herself accepted before the race became so close.
There is widespread outrage over the fact that the party elite would pick the democratic nominee. It is therefore a particularly curious time for Ickes to be dismissing the upcoming primaries and heralding the domination of the process by the party establishment. Yet, he did not seem to care about how his views would be received by voters in the upcoming “irrelevant” primaries.
He is quoted as saying: “We’re going to win this nomination. You’re not going to see this go to the convention floor.” He suggested that voters are a bit clueless and that the party leaders “have a sense of what it takes to get elected.”
He presented the matter as simple math: “Hillary will end up with more automatic delegates than Obama” and, as for the upcoming primaries, any Obama victories are “irrelevant to the obligations of automatic delegates.”
I assume that Ickes was not trying to dismiss democratic voters as irrelevant, but he sure picked a poor way to say it. He must have known that his call for superdelegates to determine the outcome would enrage people. In that sense, this may have been a trial balloon from the Clinton campaign: indicating that they will win by any means — including a superdelegate vote. With the debate turning decidedly against this notion, the Clinton people may have seen the need to push back to slow the momentum away from superdelegates.
Ickes is the ultimate party insider and he is managing superdelegates. He is himself a superdelegate and personifies the problem with the system: a collection of establishment figures who control the direction and message of the party — often resisting calls for change from voters. The superdelegate campaign is a strange choice by Clinton who has insisted that she is not part of the establishment but a true voice for change.What is particularly disturbing is the bait-and-switch being proposed by the Clinton camp over Florida and Michigan. After assuring the other candidates that she would abide by the party decision on those states, Clinton switched her position after the votes became important in a close race. That seems a bit unprincipled and opportunistic.
The proposals by Howard Dean and others for a new primary in one or both of those states seem to have merit. What should be uncontroversial is that the superdelegate system should be eliminated. If Clinton were to secure the nomination through the party establishment, it would confirm the worse stereotypes about contemporary American politics and her candidacy.