Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is it good to have a check on the voters?

Alexander Hamilton said “The masses are asses.” Thinkers as far back as Plato agreed. Pure democracy puts power into the hands of the great unwashed. Political parties are not mobs bound together by rough ideological similarities. To be successful, we have seen in recent decades, they must have coherent policy ideas, systematic approaches to branding and concept marketing, and an intentional and well-designed approach to governing that targets key voting blocs.

It is with this in mind that our Founding Fathers created a representative democracy designed to allow the people to put representatives in power, but to give those representatives more power than the normal voter.

It is the same reasoning that the Democratic Party used in designing its selection procedure for determining a presidential candidate. Voters elect most representatives to a committee convention, but a number of party insiders, termed superdelegates, make up about 20% of those who actually pick the nominee. The idea is to provide a check on the power of the voters whose passions at a given time in history may not align with the wisdom and intentions of those creating and marketing party policy and what they perceive as the party’s (and therefore the nation’s) best interest.

In a race as tight as the current primary, this 20% may be significant, indeed, may be the tie-breaking and thus deciding factor. Does this structure undermine the democratic integrity of the process or does it simply make it more stable? Does it lead to rationality or stasis?