Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tammy can you hear me?

Everyone's talking about superdelegates these days, so I really hate to add to the cacophony, but this particular story hits rather close to home.

Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a politician for whom I have given my full support since I moved here in 2000, has the interesting and tricky honor of being one of those much talked about superdelegates. That means that, come the Democratic National Convention in August, she gets to vote for whoever she so chooses. It's a strange little bylaw, to be sure. Here's how it all works for Wisconsin:

Forty-eight [of 74] of the Wisconsin delegates are awarded based on vote totals in the state's eight congressional districts. In the second congressional district, which includes Dane County, Obama will take five delegates to Clinton's three, the most lopsided total of any district in the state.

Besides the 74 pledged delegates, there are 18 unpledged so-called "superdelegates" in the state who are not required to vote for any candidate and who can support anyone they want. One of those, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, has endorsed Clinton. Her campaign released a statement Wednesday saying that she remained committed to Clinton.

"Congresswoman Baldwin announced her endorsement of Senator Clinton many months ago," the statement read. "She supports Senator Clinton because she is the only candidate fully committed to health care for all Americans."
Tammy has every right, during the primaries, to support and campaign for any candidate she wants. That's not up for debate here. What I and a number of other folks find irksome, however, is the fact that Baldwin is still promising to vote for Clinton come convention time, regardless of the fact that the vast majority of Baldwin's constituents supported Obama in the primary.

Ben Brothers over at Badger Blues lays it out nicely:

Unfortunately, unless things change, [Obama's] actual advantage at the convention will be only a single delegate, since Tammy Baldwin is a superdelegate who plans to vote for Senator Clinton.

Thanks to arcane bylaws written decades ago, Tammy Baldwin has the ability to trump the expressed wishes of her constituents (251,627 people voted for Baldwin in 2004...If we take that to be a fair estimate of the district’s Democratic voting population, we find out that Tammy Baldwin’s vote in the Democratic primary is roughly 31,000 times more important than anyone else’s), and singlehandedly cut Obama’s delegate advantage in half. Today she stated that she plans to do just that. This hardly seems fair to the thousands of Democrats in Madison and the surrounding communities who went to the polls yesterday and voted for Barack Obama.

Never before have superdelegates played such a crucial role in the nomination of a candidate for the presidency. In years past, the contest for the nomination hasn't dragged on for so long and been so close. I love that the race this year is so hotly contested because it means that more people in more states get to vote when it still matters, instead of having the first three or four states to hold primaries/caucuses decide their candidate for them.

Since things are so close, however, everyone is paying close attention to these superdelegates, chasing even the lowliest of the them down for interviews and a clue as to where their loyalties might lie.

Shouldn't these elected officials be beholden to their constituents, though? If the majority of people in your district vote for one person, shouldn't you be obligated to support their decision at the national convention? Isn't that how our republi-mocracy is supposed to work?

Clinton failed to win a single district in Wisconsin. Her defeat was most resounding in the second district--Baldwin's--with student voters (who make up a large chunk of Baldwin's support base) going 10 to 1 in favor of Obama. If, in the end, she ignores that loud and clear message, Baldwin risks losing a great deal of face with the very people who put her in office.

I like Tammy, I like what she stands for and what she's done while in office. It's not as though I would vote for her opponent come the next election (sorry, Dave "Vote for Me Because My Wife Died" Magnum doesn't really do it for me), but my disappointment would be deep. I imagine it would be the same with a lot of her constituents.

Again, Ben Brothers sums up my feelings on the subject well when he notes that "In exactly the same way that Sandra Day O’Connor’s vote for George Bush was worth more than the votes of 51 million Americans, this sucks."

We've suffered through one too many rigged and flawed elections in the past eight years. I'm pleading with Tammy and all the other superdelegates when I say, please don't put us through another one.


jen x said...

I was glad to see someone posting on this. When I was getting ready to move from NYC to Wisconsin I decided to find out who my congressperson would be -- I was thrilled to read about Tammy B. I've been a huge fan since wheels-down in Madison. But the recent interviews trouble me, too. I realize she feels loyalty to Sen Clinton. But after her district went so overwhelmingly for Obama -- one would hope she would reconsider before the convention.

Time for a letter I suppose. Thanks for raising this.

ellie said...

I suspect Tammy's got plans to get that useless coot Kohl's senate seat, and has started laying the groundwork for a move to a more middle of the road approach.
Sucking up the the Clinton machine sure would put her deeper into that circle, even if Hillary doesn't win.
But it pisses me off to think that the Democrats are starting to pull the same kind of crap that got us BushCo in 2000.
I hope a letter to Tammy acutally gets heard. I've tried writing Kohl, and it's pretty pointless, because no matter what I write, I get some form letter about a different subject back.
The guy's worse than useless. His vote for Telecom immunity with that FISA fiasco really pushed me over the edge.

Emily said...

JEN - I can't take full credit for this, because it was Ben Brothers' post that brought it to my attention in the first place. But I'm happy to do what I can. Letters are good, too, and more likely to catch her attention than a lowly blog. :)

ELLIE - I have no idea what Tammy's future political plans are, but if she were to go for the Senate seat currently occupied by do-nothing Kohl, I'd certainly support her (unless someone far more awesome came along). I'd never been particularly pro or anti Kohl, mostly because he never did much and was probably better than having a neo-con in the seat.

Of course, that was before his vote on FISA. That's just inexcusable.

Anonymous said...

Kohl is do-nothing? What does that make Baldwin?

Anonymous said...

Just so I understand -- Kerry and Kennedy, superdelegates from a state that went for Clinton, ought to switch to her, too?

Emily said...

If the majority of the people in Kerry or Kennedy's districts (ie: their constituents) voted for Clinton, then yes, my opinion is that it would make sense for them to vote Clinton.

All I'm asking is for fair representation by our elected representatives. I'm not saying they're legally obligated to do one thing or the other, just that I think this would make sense.

The Lost Albatross