My recent blog and Minnpost essay sharply criticized party democracy in both the Republican and Democratic parties, expressing concern about who is the party and the clash between party elite and rank and file or voters. One issue was the role of super delegates within the Democratic Party. Less the point was missed, one part of the story about them is how their introduction in the 1970s was in fact to democratize the party. More specifically, until the 1970s the face of the Democratic Party was White Caucasian male. The delegates expressed little diversity and the same could be said about the party leadership.
Super delegates were a reform measure. They brought women, people of color, and other groups and voices into the Democratic Party. For that the super delegates should be applauded. The issue one should not ignore is that balancing democracy with diversity, or majority rule with minority rights is a central tension for all societies including the US, and it also a problem for the parties. I generally remain concerned about the role that Super Delegates have in the Democratic Party but also think we should not lose track of another overriding concern–inclusion and diversity. Should there be an effort to get rid of the super delegates one must also make sure processes are in place to guarantee diversity and respect for a range of voice and perspectives within the party, including those who represent the next generation of members.
For the Democrats the challenge seems to be with bringing in and accommodating the Millennials in the party. The Democratic Party is really torn now between Baby Boomers and Gen Xers (to a lesser extent) and more strongly Boomers and Millennials. Clinton is challenged to reach out to those who are younger than 30, and it is not clear that they will turn out for her should she secure the nomination. Moreover, even among those who support Clinton, including people of color, their turnout is weaker than for Obama in 2008 and overall the enthusiasm factor for her among Democrats tepid. For Clinton to win she needs to bridge these gaps, and part of her problem still is about constructing a narrative for her presidency as well as about her being the candidate of status quo and the establishment in a year yet again about change and the anti-establishment.
For Republicans the issue of inclusion pits the main line members against the core Trump supporters. Many Republicans want the party to change and shed its plutocratic and socially conservative image. This too is a debate about party democracy and inclusion of diverse view points.
The States that Matter
There is an Internet post that points to Clinton doing well in Republican states a Democrat will not win in November and how Sanders is doing well in swing states. That post makes a good point. As I argue in my new book all things considered the presidential race is effectively over in 40 states and there are only 10 swing states that will decide the fate of the presidency. Among those 10 swing states, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada. These five states also happen to have already had Democratic caucuses or primaries. Sanders has won two (Colorado and New Hampshire), Clinton two (Virginia and Nevada), and one was essentially tie (Iowa). More or less they are even in the swing states so far.
Yet one needs to worry about the average turnout in these states for Democrats compared to Republicans. Second, in thinking about the general election the winner of these and the other swing states will be the candidate who can mobilize the swing voters. Swing voters really do not swing that much between Republican and Democrat, but instead swing in or out of voting, with people of color, single and suburban woman, and young voters being the most important. These are the people Democrats need this November and it is not clear (as noted above) they will vote or turnout in the numbers Democrats need. Finally, among swing voters, Clinton and Trump and not viewed favorably and instead have 50%+ negatives.
In sum, the presidential election is about how swing voters in swing states view Clinton and Trump, assuming they are the nominees.