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Super Nonsense


Why does the Clinton campaign object to the term “superdelegates?” Harold Ickes stated that “The Fourth Estate created the term,” and helpfully alerted voters to the fact that “they don’t have super powers.” Seems like a silly point to make, since I don’t think anyone confused them with the Super Friends. But he is wrong about the press creating the expression. It was widely used over a quarter century ago during the fight inside the Democratic party over the Hunt Commission reforms that created the nomination system as we know it today. Feminists in particular used it as a term of opprobrium against the white, male elected officials they thought would dominate the category, and argued successfully for proportional representation. The earliest reference I have found is in a November 8, 1981, article by David Broder, noting noted the strong objections to the proposed influence of well-connected delegates not selected by the voters. He quoted Barbara Fife, a reform Democrat from New York: “I’m opposed to having these super-status, super-delegates come in and pick our nominee.” So credit Ms. Fife for the term unless there is an earlier confirmed public sighting. She has since held various positions in New York Democratic circles, and is now an avid Clinton supporter. I suppose like Mr. Icke’s views on the credentials of the Florida and Michigan delegates, Ms. Fife’s opinion of the role of superdelegates has very recently “evolved.”


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