On "Super" Delegates and the Duopoly

At the South Carolina Democratic Convention in 2008, I held the only Democratic state-wide office (State Superintendent of Education) in South Carolina. As a result, I was a "super" delegate, one who, by Party definition, was to remain "uncommitted" until the national convention that Fall.

The competition between the Obama and Clinton campaigns was at that point very heated and close in South Carolina, and I was pressured by both campaigns to abandon my uncommitted position. When I refused, the "leadership" within the S.C. Democratic Party successfully maneuvered a series of unscheduled floor votes (one by show of hands, and finally by voice) to have my delegate vote given to a publicly committed Obama supporter for the 2008 national convention.

Thus, I saw in a personal way an example of how both political parties maneuver internally to predetermine who the American people actually get to choose from on our national and state ballots. These two private organizations maintain a duopoly that exercises significant control over our democratic processes and the choices we are afforded. That control is directed largely to serve their respective (and collective) ends- and only incidentally the needs of our nation.

In this year's Presidential election, we see the results of that controlling self interest in the choices provided for President of the United States. We are being given the two most unpopular candidates since we began measuring public sentiment and a new emphasis to the oft quoted American voter dilemma of being forced to vote for" the lesser of two evils".

The results of the duopoly selection processes have created scenarios that should be both frustrating, and frightening, to many Americans:

  1. An increased skepticism of the legitimacy of our political and democratic institutions;
  2. An even more divided citizenry and electorate in America;
  3. A heightened probability of discord -and even violence-leading up to the November election.
  4. An increased probability that the next President will be unable to effectively govern and will not be re-elected after one term;
  5. A possibility that fragile American and world economies, and markets, will suffer because of the increased uncertainty and volatility in America.

Many of our Founding Fathers tried to warn us about, and argued against, a two-party system. George Washington, in his last public address, warned that they were likely to put their own needs and concerns above that of the Nation. I do not know if the Father of our Country "never told a lie"; but, if he did, this was surely not one of them.

Dr. Jim Rex
Chair of the American Party of South Carolina