A chaotic brokered convention because no presidential candidate has enough delegates to win the party’s nomination — while that could be the description of the 2016 Republican National Convention, it WAS the description of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
New York Senator Robert Kennedy’s assassination left his delegates uncommitted, but he and Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, favorites of the anti-war left, had a combined majority of delegates. Behind the scenes lobbying by party leaders led to Hubert Humphrey getting the nomination despite never running in a single primary. He lost handily to Richard Nixon in the general election. For the Democrats it was a disaster.
Marge Hoffa’s role as a one of Minnesota’s 16 “super delegates” is a direct result of that convention. She says the job of a super delegate is to “potentially stop a train wreck” at the national convention.
Since 1984, Democratic members of Congress, governors, party leaders and selected former officials have been designated as unpledged delegates. They played a decisive role in Walter Mondale winning over scandal-plagued candidate Gary Hart. But since then, they haven’t really influenced the outcome.
“They’ve always gone along with the will of the majority of the pledged delegates,” says Hoffa.
A large number of super delegates announced their support early for Hillary Clinton which led to criticism of the system from supporters of Bernie Sanders. Since then there’s been online petition drives to require superdelegates to reflect the popular vote, rather than “the sentiment of party elites.”
“I’m just a regular person. I don’t have a McMansion. I don’t drive a Lexus. I’m just a regular person who is very passionate about getting Democrats elected. That’s why I’m vice-chair of the state party because I strongly believe in the principles of the DFL,” says Hoffa.
“I didn’t run to be a super delegate. I ran to be the vice-chair of the party to make sure the health of the party is in good shape and in that respect making sure we get Democrats elected up and down the ticket.”
Minnesota’s super delegate delegation includes the DFL elected members of Congress, Governor Dayton, State DFL Chair Ken Martin and R.T. Rybak, a vice chair of the National Democratic Committee, Former Vice President Walter Mondale , plus four other individuals.
Primary wouldn’t eliminate super delegates
Video above: Marge Hoffa explains the role of a super delegate.
There is a bill with bipartisan support in the Minnesota legislature to have the state pay for a presidential primary instead of the party-paid caucus system. Hoffa says she supports that move because more people can participate when voting is over an entire day instead of just a two hour window in the evening.
A primary wouldn’t eliminate super delegates because they are a creation of the national Democratic party.
Pushing the cost of a primary to the state is one reason there is some opposition to it. “Democracy shouldn’t be looked at as ‘oh it’s going to cost too much money,’” says Hoffa. “I think it’s better that we do the best we can to involve as many people in making decisions and the primary is just a better way to go to include more people.”