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Are Superdelegates Disenfranchised?

Disenfranchised voter or super delegate

Set up to fail.

Have you ever had a non-communicative boss? An absent boss? A boss you spent hours compiling a detailed plan of action on a given topic that responds sporadically with confusing language right out of an unrelated product assembly guide? A boss that doesn’t reply? A boss that responds to only one line item off a well-composed list of thought out inquiries? Don’t lie now! We all have – at least once in our life. How did that go for you?

You went into that position with the goal to contribute. First, you learned a skill, then prepared your resume, and reached out to organizations with your interests. You give it your all at your interview and are hired! You are starry-eyed and excited and ready to take on the world – through that position anyway.

What if we applied this process to elections? After all, they are applying for a position. Right? The candidates prepare their campaign, reach out to the public, participate in the election, and then some become elected.

I used to vote and then return to my world bubble. What could go wrong?

Let’s say a company with absent bosses we only heard from every few years hired us. How productive would we be? How well would we have guessed the needs correctly and offered solutions to fix the problems?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’d stay as focused as I should be, or in the direction the company would want me headed. Would I be winging it? Probably. Doing my part to communicate without the bosses input would spin me in perpetual circles. You?

The formula we apply to electorates appears to be the same as applying for any position. Is this formula set up to fail?

Looking back.

During election seasons prior to iPads, Kindles, smartphones, Skype, Google Hangouts, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Periscope, Imgur, MeetUp…you get the point… we were informed how everything in our world was doing through our local communities town halls and/or through newspapers, then TV and CBS, NBC, ABC, and sometimes PBS. Before TV there was radio. We believed in their prided investigative reporting. They trained us to listen to their truth and believe. We did.

The advancement in communication technology has changed the conversations occurring as compared to the 2008 and 2012 elections. To put this in perspective, the iPad came out during the 2009 Super Bowl commercials. I went to my editor the next day exclaiming how it would change the world. He chuckled. We can use this one moment in time as a gauge on the advancement and cost … and use of all the devices of today.

We are now communicating with neighbors across the city, county, state, country – across the globe about issues we personally find dear. The news media of old turned into self-interest reporting when a multitude of channels added to the four I grew up with, and those on the net found other means to become informed. So many of those make up an entire generation that was born after this change. For more perspective, before my daughter turned one we were just starting up Bulletin Board Systems and AOL came out. She turned twenty last November.

The election today seems different than past elections in terms of active participation and understanding of the process because it is. One can see how this happened by looking at the progression of technology and information in addition to all the groups forming and sharing of information now more than ever before. Ever.

It no longer takes weeks to receive a letter to the editor in a newspaper that printed last week about an event that had significance a few days before that. Today, we know as it is happening. Within minutes of yesterday’s Nevada Democratic Convention, Twitter went wild reporting the change of votes from the caucus results to new results. People across the country and globe discussing the significance of this brings into perspective how we receive our news now, versus days of old. Two stories that highlight this information shift came in at 11pm EST on my twitter feed: The Las Vegas Sun and KTNV.

Information now.

So, today, our cyber highway is jammed packed with a plethora of source information. Some of those are campaigning civil discourse, some are pitchfork donning disenfranchised voters flooding the feeds with memes displaying starry-eyed elected faces – probably taken after winning their campaign and resembling the same expression you had when hired at your position – with a call to action to contact them if they dare ignore the people’s voice. Their bosses voice.

Our information sources have grown and so has our involvement. Yet we are learning, still. Through this new communication paradigm, we have become painfully aware that the process we have relied on in days of past does not reflect the ways in which we might better accomplish communications going forward. We have only recently understood the significance in the 1980 addition by the Democratic National Convention to impart superdelegates who are able to pledge their vote to whichever candidate they see fit, regardless of the people’s vote. But we are learning.

However, previously we elected them, and then mostly left them alone.

Sure, some folks contact their elected officials at a variety of offices and levels – but not many in proportion to the population – probably a fraction of the population has actually called, written, or stopped by their local elected office to just see how they fare.

Why on Earth would these superdelegates even think to use their votes against the voters? Would you as an employee deliberately do the opposite from your boss’ wishes? I’d get fired. You?

So, what is wrong with them? Or what is wrong with us! This is a democracy! I see The Anger exploding into nasty name-calling finger-pointing insults flying faster than fighter jets all over my social network feeds. How did we get here?

Perhaps these superdelegates believe we, the people, their bosses, will once again go back to our regularly scheduled lives after the election – like we have historically done – leaving all of them to do whatever, without much contact with us, the voters, their boss.

The recent conversation sparked by this call to action between Alaskan state superdelegate Kim Metcalf and voter Levi Younger smacked me like a comet full of ah-ha! Well, one comment in particular in this article.

Washington state super delegate Kim Metclafe and Levi Younger
Screenshot of conversation between Alaska state superdelegate Kim Metcalfe and Levi Younger.

“…You’ll be involved after the election?…” Metcalfe asks.

This being the first primary I’ve ever really paid attention too, and I turn 43 this week, made me realize I was part of the problem by not staying involved. I had become the absent boss.

I start to see how this trouble-train started and derailed, with blinding clarity. Perhaps we hired them and then forgot to check in on them more often than every few years.

We voted and left them alone … mostly… for years… and we expected them to know all the things we need them to do. But do we tell them how we would like it done? Do we, collectively, give consistent and continuous ongoing suggestions, solutions, and probable outcomes? Or do we just say go do it! Buh-bye! See you next election!

Historically speaking, I feel we did the latter. Then, we let the media tell us how they were doing, and we believed them. Because we have been trained to believe The news is the truth to believe. We believed they investigate and report without bias, their findings for the sole purpose to inform. This has changed.

Moving forward.

Wrapping my head around how our electoral process and just how we got to where we are today has led to a mountain of research. This includes watching past and present source speeches (not corporate media, I tuned that out in 2010) from as many candidates as I can squeeze into my day… around everything else. I spend a vast amount of time looking up, and crossing looking up, the plethora of links from countless outlets resembling piñata dizziness of misinformation, manipulation, blatant lies and bias self-interest. Needle meet haystack.

I’m slowly taking it in but I’m quickly waking up to the reality that brought us here.

Election time comes around and we say if they didn’t do right by us, we will fire them. Yet we have left them alone, mostly. So, who is the jerk? Us? Or them?

So how about we stay on them this time? How do we break the cycle of sparse involvement? They have become disenfranchised employees with mostly absent bosses. Or jerks. But that would be name calling which I try to avoid. And which of the two would be classified as the jerk? The boss or the employee?

After all, when was the last time you wrote, called, or visited your elected officials? Find something you find passion in and reach out to someone in your area of interest, or your community, or state, and country.

Don’t be the absent boss. That doesn’t work out so well… If we stay involved, really stay involved, maybe they would not be so disenfranchised by our sporadic input. With technology as it is, we have the ability to collectively discuss changes over a vast area. Let us use it wisely. For the people.



Written by Jennifer Louise

Opinion Writer. Immersed in arts and sustainable living initiatives and a newfound call to participate in democracy beyond just voting. Jennifer Louise has MA in design strategy + innovation, a BFA in graphic design and mass communication, and a BA in art history.

Jennifer Louise is a Guest Contributor to Progressive Army.

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