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Published in: Society 6/2020

01-12-2020 | Symposium – The State of American Politics

Restoring Trust and Reducing Perceived Influence: Superdelegates and the 2020 Democratic Nomination

Author: Caitlin E. Jewitt

Published in: Society | Issue 6/2020

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Abstract

For the 2020 presidential nomination, the Democratic Party reduced the influence of superdelegates. This reform was designed to appease Democratic voters by tipping the selection power toward voters and away from elites. Yet in 2020, superdelegates remained influential, as they retained the ability to endorse candidates early and shape the narrative and trajectory of the race.
Footnotes
1
On February 16, 2016, a Google search of “Democratic delegates” yielded a graphic at the top of the search results. The graphic depicted Clinton as having 394 delegates to Sanders’s 44 delegates. At the time, Clinton had 32 pledged delegates and Sanders had 36 pledged delegates.
 
2
Letter from Rev. Jesse Jackson to Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul G. Kirk and DNC Fairness Commission Chairman Donald L. Fowler, October 21, 1985.
 
3
The survey was conducted between May 12 and May 16, 2016, as the 2016 presidential nominations were ongoing but nearing completion. The publicly available data set and additional information about the survey can be found at: https://​apnorc.​org/​projects/​the-frustrated-public-views-of-the-2016-campaign-the-parties-and-the-electoral-process/​
 
4
This rule, and others, are detailed in the Call for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, available at: https://​democrats.​org/​wp-content/​uploads/​2019/​02/​2020-Call-for-Convention-WITH-Attachments-2.​26.​19.​pdf
 
5
Superdelegates from Democrats Abroad have a half-vote.
 
6
At the close of 2019, Sanders was leading in fundraising and Biden was leading in national polls.
 
7
The 2020 Iowa caucuses were plagued by chaos, caused in part by new requirements for reporting three distinct vote totals, a malfunctioning app for submitting the results to the state party, and problems with the back-up phone system. As a result, it was days before the American public knew who had won the critical first contest of the nomination season.
 
8
Sanders came in second in the South Carolina primary, winning just shy of 20% of the vote.
 
9
Biden’s South Carolina primary victory speech can be viewed in its entirety at: https://​www.​c-span.​org/​video/​?​469880-1/​joe-biden-wins-south-carolina-democratic-primary
 
10
Though not a superdelegate, the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, also withdrew from the race following the South Carolina primary and endorsed Biden.
 
11
The Democratic National Convention Rules Committee also declined to support a proposal, advanced by a Sanders supporter, to amend the party’s charter on the issue of superdelegates, which would implement the reforms permanently (Marans 2020b).
 
Literature
go back to reference Cohen, Marty, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller. 2008. The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations Before and After Reform. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. CrossRef Cohen, Marty, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller. 2008. The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations Before and After Reform. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. CrossRef
go back to reference Jewitt, Caitlin E. 2019. The Primary Rules: Parties, Voters, and Presidential Nominations. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. CrossRef Jewitt, Caitlin E. 2019. The Primary Rules: Parties, Voters, and Presidential Nominations. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. CrossRef
go back to reference Kamarck, Elaine C. 2009. Primary Politics: How Presidential Candidates Have Shaped the Modern Nominating System. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. Kamarck, Elaine C. 2009. Primary Politics: How Presidential Candidates Have Shaped the Modern Nominating System. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
go back to reference Mayer, William G. 2009. “Superdelegates: Reforming the Reforms Revisited.” In Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process, edited by Steven S. Smith and Melanie J. Springer. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, pp. 85 – 108. Mayer, William G. 2009. “Superdelegates: Reforming the Reforms Revisited.” In Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process, edited by Steven S. Smith and Melanie J. Springer. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, pp. 85 – 108.
Metadata
Title
Restoring Trust and Reducing Perceived Influence: Superdelegates and the 2020 Democratic Nomination
Author
Caitlin E. Jewitt
Publication date
01-12-2020
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Society / Issue 6/2020
Print ISSN: 0147-2011
Electronic ISSN: 1936-4725
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-020-00549-5