The Democratic presidential race now turns on the 794 superdelegates, who can ratify or veto the voters’ will. What will they do? To track the players in the Democrats’ elitist endgame, an unprecedented campaign is now using the Internet to expose every last superdelegate.
Mark Myers, a technology analyst, music blogger and Floridian who did not vote in the state’s primary, came up with the idea for an online hub where people could “shine a light” on this arcane process. Backed by a coalition of blogs and good-government websites, the Superdelegate Transparency Project (STP) posts political, professional and personal information about the people who will ultimately decide the nomination. In its first two months, the nonprofit site drew more than 160,000 visitors.
The project is “open source”–meaning that most of the onerous research is conducted by an army of self-appointed volunteers. They scour public records for information, posting it directly online and call superdelegates for interviews, waving only their “citizen media” credentials. About 215 unpaid researchers report to Amanda Michel, a former online campaign organizer who now works for the Huffington Post. “We’re not trying to influence the end outcome,” she says. But if the superdelegates can essentially pick the nominee, the public has a right to learn more about “who they are and why they’re chosen.” Transparency is STP’s only stated goal. It does not back a particular candidate or advocate a metric for how the superdelegates should vote.
Nannette Isler, a Long Island pediatrician, volunteered for STP after learning about superdelegates’ voting power, which she found unfair. She says the site gives “ordinary citizens a greater insight into the nomination process.” Isler wrote profiles and conducted an hourlong interview with Stephen Fontana, a DNC member and State Representative in Connecticut. Fontana, who read about STP on blogs, says he feels an obligation to respond to “Democratic activists who are trying to make the process more transparent.” That makes him an unusually open insider. So far only 15 percent of superdelegates have agreed to talk, according to the Huffington Post.
Not every superdelegate, however, is ducking the discussion. One new blog aims to tell the superdelegates’ side of the story. At MrSuper.org, an anonymous superdelegate defends his fellow party officials against charges of elitism. After providing information to confirm his real identity by telephone, Mr. Super said the characterization of superdelegates as “unelected insiders” was inaccurate, since most run in local party elections and are answerable to constituents. He thinks sites like STP might even be more influential than the presidential campaigns, precisely because some superdelegates listen to their constituents more than to the famous politicos campaigns deploy to make their case.