Give the People What They Want

Superdelegates shouldn't buck the will of their constituents.

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In a competitive primary season, the question of endorsements is always a hot topic. But this year, the jockeying for support has reached its zenith with the tightly contested race for the Democratic nominee threatening to go all the way to the Democratic National Convention and being potentially decided by "superdelegates," a pool of elected officials, party officials and political insiders. These super-delegates, who make up 20 percent of votes cast for the nomination, may overturn the decision made by voters in polls across the country.

Elected officials who have endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, with districts supporting Obama, face a tough choice. And the stakes are highest for the black elected officials of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). With deep ties to the Clintons and offering endorsements far ahead of schedule, many black members are now faced with overwhelming majorities in their districts who support Barack Obama.

The question on many minds is, how will these superdelegates vote if the primary vote contradicts their own preference?

The choice should be clear: black elected officials must act as superdelegates to safeguard the will of voters.

This primary season has seen overwhelming turn out across the nation -- and black Americans, concentrated in districts represented by the CBC, have spoken with a clear and decisive voice. They want Obama. According to the Washington Post, Obama has "swamped" Clinton among black voters: "Obama now has such a lock on the loyalties of African Americans – 84 percent of the black vote in Alabama, 87 percent in Georgia, 84 percent in Maryland, and on and on -- that the black vote is no longer contestable."

Though all elected officials who are superdelegates face a decision come August, this choice is particularly important for CBC members. There is a clear will among voters in their districts that goes against the interests of senior members of black America's political establishment, including Florida Reps. Kendrick Meek, Alcee Hastings and Corinne Brown; California Reps. Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, and Laura Richardson; Missouri's Rep. Emanuel Cleaver; Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones; New York Reps. Gregory Meeks, Yvette Clarke, and Edolphus Towns; Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee; and Virgin Islands Del. Donna Christensen.

All are Democrats. All refuse to make clear how they will vote as super delegates, with many indicating they will "vote their conscience" and stick with Clinton against the clear will of voters.

This argument is wrong. Giving the party elite power to choose against the will of everyday Americans who participate in a democratic process is bad for business, particularly when it comes time for a general election. For the CBC, this is particularly noteworthy: the existence of the caucus was predicated on the Voting Rights Act of 1964, protecting black America's voice at the polls. The CBC has been the most stalwart defender of that right, most recently in 2000 and 2004, shining a light on rampant voter suppression and intimidation in the two presidential elections to ensure that black votes were counted.

But now, when old allegiances are challenged, they threaten to undermine the electoral power of their constituents and the general electorate, with impunity.

To be clear, while black America has spoken definitively, there is a clear split among black elected officials. Reps. Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Eleanor Holmes Norton have made strong statements encouraging their colleagues to let the people's voice carry and Reps. John Conyers, chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee and David Scott have actively lobbied other black delegates to put aside their preferences and listen to the overwhelming chorus rising out of their districts.