Foucault's Delegate Counter

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Apr 28, 2008 at 15:25

Back on Friday evening, I argued, in a fashion that would have made Michel Foucault proud, that there is no objective, "true," delegate count, but instead only the power each campaign possessed to make its delegate count a reality. In other words, the truth of delegate counts and the power over the selection and credentialing of, not to mention rule making for, delegates are interchangeable concepts. As such, my new goal in delegate counting is not to determine the "true" delegate count, but instead to accurately determine the delegate count being argued for, and kept by, both the Obama and Clinton campaigns. From that point, we will see who has enough power over the process in order to make their delegate count a reality.

Our first indication of where the power resides will come in about five weeks, since that is when the rules and bylaws committee meets to discuss Florida and Michigan. For now, here are the dueling delegate counts from each campaign, as best as I can determine them:

Obama Campaign Delegate Count
Type Obama Clinton Edwards Remaining 50% + 1
Pledged 1,494 1,333 18 408 1,627
Super 236 257 0 304 --
MI + FL 184 184 0 0 NA
Total 1,914 1,774 18 710 2,208

Clinton Campaign Delegate Count
Type Obama Clinton Edwards Remaining 50% + 1
Pledged 1,490 1,336 19 408 1,627
Super 236 257 0 304 --
MI + FL 103 167 18 80 NA
Total 1,829 1,760 37 790 2,208

And here are my projections for future delegate acquisitions:

Democratic Nomination Primary Schedule
State Date O % C % P. Del Obama Del Clinton Del
Guam May 03 -- -- 4 2 2
Indiana May 06 44.3% 46.8% 72 35 37
North Carolina May 06 51.0% 40.7% 115 63 52
West Virginia May 13 27.0% 55.0% 28 9 19
Kentucky May 20 26.0% 62.0% 51 16 35
Oregon May 20 52.0% 42.0% 52 29 23
Puerto Rico Jun 01 37.0% 50.0% 55 24 31
Montana Jun 03 -- -- 16 8 8
South Dakota Jun 03 46.0% 34.0% 15 8 7
Pelosi Club Jun 04 NA NA 5 6 -1
Future add-ons Jun 21 NA NA 64 38 26
Vacant Jun 21 NA NA 7 3 0
Total June 21 -- -- 484 241 239

Which leads to the following, dueling projections:

Democratic Nomination Delegate Projection
Type Obama Clinton Edwards Remaining 50% + 1
Obama Count 2,155 2,013 18 230 2,208
Clinton Count 2,070 1,999 37 310 2,208

The disparity in the "remaining" column in the two counts comes from the argument over Florida and Michigan. The Clinton campaign count currently leaves 45 Michigan pledged delegates (all PLEO and at-large), 21 Michigan superdelegates, and 14 Florida superdelegates in the undetermined column. The 45 Michigan pledged delegates will be determined at the state party convention on May 17th, and will allow Clinton to gain some ground in her count. The rest of the "remaining" column in both counts are non-add-on superdelegates from outside Florida and Michigan.

Since it is one of the few times I have been able to apply Michel Foucault to something outside of academia, I am enjoying this new post-modern delegate counting that eschews a belief in an objective delegate reality. Even so, I do actually have a personal preference on how Michigan and Florida should be decided. If I were in charge, I would seat Florida's pledged delegates as is, and seat the pledged delegates from Michigan Clinton 73-55 Obama. From that point, I would strip both states of their superdelegates. This way, the voters of the two states are not punished, but the superdelegates who are responsible putting both states in this mess are. I actually think that this should become the standard punishment for states that flout the primary calendar: keep the pledged delegates, but strip the superdelegates with no possibility of reinstatement. I also really like the idea of superdelegates whining that they should be seated at the convention. That would be an hilarious press conference.

Chris Bowers :: Foucault's Delegate Counter

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More Foucault, Please. (4.00 / 1)
Or Bourdieu. Love Bourdieu.

RE: Foucault's Delegate Counter (4.00 / 1)

I really like this approach and this post.  I think it gives a good summary of the various points in this and highlights the fuzzy math involved.  

Also, I am glad that you are promoting stripping the superdelegates of their votes.  

I have been suggesting this here since March ( ), and I believe that it is an appropriate penalty.  Hopefully, more will join in this call.

Me too (4.00 / 2)
And I REALLY like your idea on not seating the FL and MI superdelegates.  That would go a long way towards correcting abuses of power.

You have Obama ahead at the end, but Hillary wins most of the remaining contests.  As I see it, there may be a real fight if that is the case.  "Electability" vs effect opn downballot races.  Past vs future.  Old guard vs demographic groups of the future.  Potentially ugly.  I would like to see Obama win IN to end this, but the polling is getting problematic.  Will there be an effect of the upholding of the IN voter ID law?

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Same here ... (4.00 / 1)
Stop the abuse of power by stripping the powerful of their power.  I like this, and it is especially sweet when voters are not penalized due to the actions of the people with power.

[ Parent ]
It ain't going to happen (0.00 / 0)
not this year anyway. It's a pie in the sky fantasy.

[ Parent ]
Re: It ain't going to happen (0.00 / 0)
While I agree that there is virtually no chance of it happening this year, I do believe that it would represent the most appropriate penalty that the DNC could impose.  Further, the more people that advocate for such a penalty, the more likely that it will be taken seriously and debated publicly.  Like the light that is shining on the superdelegates in general and their appropriateness in the process, I think that this is a good thing.  

[ Parent ]
Not all supers (0.00 / 0)
are in the legislature so not all of them voted to move up the primaries. Problem huh? And do you penalize just specific people for voting in their own state legislature? If you do you are penalizing democracy.

The answer here is to change the primary system on a rotational basis in the future so this doesn't happen again.

And what if the supers were committed to your candidate - would you still feel the same?

[ Parent ]
Re: Not all supers (0.00 / 0)
I see no problem in depriving all of the supers with voting rights at the convention.  They are all state party leaders in some form or another and have some degree of power in how the state party chose to respond to the issues.  There were other options to have a revote than a state sanctioned primary, but leaders from both camps worked to defeat those.  

I agree fully that the primary system needs to be changed, and I think a rotational basis -- much along the lines of what Larry Sabato has proposed -- would be great.  However, that does not address the issue of what penalty, if any, should be imposed in this convention.  While I agree that my proposal has little chance of being enacted, I continue to think that it is good that people like Chris and everyone else that agrees use whatever media is available to them to communicate it (which was the whole point of my initial comment).  

Also, you assume that I am supporting one candidate or another in making this argument.  I am not.  All I want is a resolution that allows us to move forward with a resolution that is as close to the voter's expression as possible (hence no 50/50 split) while, if possible, enforcing a bit of a penalty against the power-brokers that got us into this mess.  I do not care who the super delegates support at this point; they, not the voters or the national party as a whole, should bear the pain of the decisions that their state party made.  

[ Parent ]
Since you have introduced a new way to think about delegates... (4.00 / 1)
(i.e. the importance of power, rather than objective truth), it would be illuminating if you discussed how the two campaigns will likely exert power in the months ahead.  Which campaign do you think will be more effective in making its delegate count hegemonic?

Good idea (0.00 / 0)
I intend to do that, but it is difficult to get the campaigns to explain their plans on this one. Very muhc super secret stratgy.  

[ Parent ]
Yeah, that makes sense.... (0.00 / 0)
I guess I'm looking more for a general perspective, based on your knowledge of the party apparatus, for how lines of influence might form in the coming weeks and months.... What are you hearing from uncommitted superdelegates?  What forms of leverage do the two campaigns have?  Are there any deal-breakers (in other words, is there some threshold in terms of delegate margins or pop vote totals that the majority of supers won't cross)?  What time frame are we looking at?    

[ Parent ]
seabrook -- another angle: look further into unpledged add-ons (4.00 / 1)
Kos noted something today that may start overturning a false conventional wisdom. Unpledged add-ons do not automatically go to the candidate that won the state. Kos noted that over the weekend something like 4 add-ons expected to go to Clinton didn't.

You have to look into the bylaws for each state to see what the process is for picking any unpledged add-on delegates.

Here in W.Va., for example, there is one unpledged add-on delege who will be picked by the Democratic Party Executive Committee at the conclusion of the state convention. That's a committee of 70 or more people (2 men and 2 woman per state senate district + some others). Most of them were elected to office during the 2006 election cycle. In other words, it's a whole other power structure outside of the rest of the presidential nomination process.

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue

[ Parent ]
Indiana (0.00 / 0)
In Quick Hits there is a projection of Clinton ending up +12 delegates so according to that you are short changing her 10 delegates. Even if you slit the difference of the short fall she should show being +7 not +2.

[ Parent ]
More likely scenario using Obama math (0.00 / 0)
Pledged according to Obama: 1494
Supers according to MSNBC:  243

Subtotal: 1737

(Need to win: 2025)

Using Obama's own conservative projections, between now and June 3rd, suggests he is likely to win 208 pledged delegates :

Subtotal on June 3: 1737 + 208 = 1945

Supers needed: 80

(FL & MI broke rules and don't count)

Using Obama's projections the Clintons will have

1333=pledged as of today
264=supers as of today
200=pledged by June 3
1797=total pledged and supers on June 3

Supers needed= 228

228 vs. 80...........and who is getting one super a day and who is not??? What outcome is most likely?

0 delegates for MI and FL is exceedingly unlikely (0.00 / 0)
And no one is saying that Clinton is the frontrunner.  Obama has a pretty sizeable lead at this point, and will probably win given that he makes no major mistake.

[ Parent ]
MI and Fl delegates will be seated by dem nominee (0.00 / 0)
AFTER the dem nominee has been chosen and not before. MI and FL delegates will not influence the outcome but of course they will eventually be seated in Denver.  

[ Parent ]
Howard Dean (0.00 / 0)
was emphatic the both state would be seated and even stated that the voters should not be punished. I'm glad he read my and others emails.

[ Parent ]
This... (0.00 / 0)
Is exactly right. It is the 'actual' Obama argument. If we're going to let each side make their case, why modify Obama's and not Clinton's?

[ Parent ]
but in the interests of power (4.00 / 2)
I want my representatives and everyone else in the 48 states to vote against counting delegates assigned in rogue pseudo-elections.  Furthermore, I would like my bloggers to at least pretend that the existing rules could be followed. Otherwise there can never be calendar reform.  

The recent commentary about how Terry McAuliffe had to threaten MI in 2004 plainly demonstrates that enforcing the rules is necessary and the situation will only get worse.  

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

Haha (4.00 / 1)
I'm not a huge fan of Foucault or Postmodernism in general, but this is excellent, Chris.

Former Edwards Supporter, Obama Supporter since January 30, 2008

This implies the existence of a (4.00 / 3)
similar law: the Heisenberg political uncertainty polling principle.  As we know, Heisenberg stated:

In quantum mechanics, the position and momentum of particles do not have precise values, but have a probability distribution. There are no states in which a particle has both a definite position and a definite momentum. The narrower the probability distribution is in position, the wider it is in momentum.

Put another way,  the more polling results agree, the greater the probability that the polls are wrong.  

From which we derive the Heisenberg polling principle:
It is impossible to know what the current state of a political race is AND know which way the race is heading..

What about the uncertainty part where (4.00 / 2)
if you don't poll you can't tell where the electorate is at and the more powerfully you poll the more your own polling changes where the electorate is at.

Jeff Wegerson

[ Parent ]
Aha (4.00 / 3)
The Quantum Zeno Effect, then. An unstable electorate, if polled continuously, will never decay to a stable state.

[ Parent ]
"decay into a stable state" (4.00 / 1)
I rather like that....

[ Parent ]
So create a Bowers Count because ... (0.00 / 0)
while you don't have nearly the power the other two counters have, you do have some no matter how small. Therefore you have a reason to post your own totals based on how you would seat Fl and MI for instance.

Jeff Wegerson

the real question (0.00 / 0)
What are the odds that this is decided without Superdelegates mattering? Pretty close to zero at this point?

Technically one could say they don't 'matter' unless they overturn the pledged count, except they can end it early. n/t (4.00 / 1)

End this war. Stop John McCain. Cindy McCain is filthy rich.

[ Parent ]
There is no 'overturning' (0.00 / 0)
If you listened to Dean over the weekend he said the Supers vote how they vote just like you vote. He even said they are part of our Representational Democracy and as such vote how they want.

Now if you disagree with that then you should start a campaign right now to unseat both Kerry and Kennedy. lol

Fact is that there will be Obama Supers who go against the votes in their states. And when that happens and if enough Supers go to Clinton making her our nominee then you will have no argument whatsoever that you can make. What's good for the goose...

[ Parent ]
collective action vs. individual action (4.00 / 1)
in the current system, superdelegates vote how they want.  But if there were a collective rule that superdelegates had to vote according to the results of their state (i.e. basically they were eliminated), then it would make sense to  make the argument you're making.  If, though, there  is a pledged delegate total nationally and the superdelegates, collectively, reverse that, then they quite clearly are reversing the collective results of a state-by-state election.

Which is why it's not vote-based that they have any say in this process at all, though it is part of the rules now.

Of course, if you're going to go by rules, then florida and michigan should be stripped of their delegates unless they follow the procedures laid out by the DNC.

Which results in the idea that unless Hillary Clinton overcomes the pledged delegate lead that Obama has, no matter how narrow it is, she will ultimately have to reverse it through a combination of appealing to the existing system and asking for exceptions to it where it works for her, which is what I find pretty cynical.

[ Parent ]
sorry (0.00 / 0)
Dean. Representational Democracy. Kerry and Kennedy. Other Obama Supers vote against their state.

You have no argument for that which is why you didn't address any of it.

[ Parent ]
What on earth are you talking about? (0.00 / 0)
Kerry locked up the nomination fairly early, and I'm not quite sure which Kennedy you're talking about. If you mean JFK, well, he didn't win like that. If you men EK, well, he lost.

End this war. Stop John McCain. Cindy McCain is filthy rich.

[ Parent ]
If you would read my (0.00 / 0)
post two posts up you would know what I am talking about. In other words follow the thread instead of jumping in and proclaiming 'what!!'

[ Parent ]
no i did have an argument for that (0.00 / 0)
the point is that in the current system, as agreed upon by everyone involved, for better or  for worse (in my opinion worse) superdelegates can vote on whatever criteria they choose.  Which, notwithstanding the issues about Michigan and Florida, is actually what makes it impossible to get to a clear winner by pledged delegates.  So, by the rules of the current system, Kerry, Kennedy, and anyone else can decide whatever grounds they want to choose, and then we can evaluate what we think of their individual decisions.

If, on the other hand, all superdelegates were obligated to vote according to the wishes of their states, then they would be in the wrong - but Obama would then more clearly win the nomination, assuming Flordia and Michigan were resolved (which I'm guessing they probably would be, in some fashion).

That (in addition to other reasons laid out above) is why I think your argument carries no weight and is just so much sturm und drang.

[ Parent ]
That is quite (0.00 / 0)
a convoluted argument full of 'if's'.

My point is this. When people like Kerry and Kennedy vote against their state for Obama and then others vote against their state for Clinton and Clinton gets the nomination then Obama supporters will not have a legitimate argument about Supers voting for her because some supers like Kerry and Kennedy voted against their state too.

That is my simple and accurate argument. You can talk about all the other 'if's' you want but that is where we are at in this election.

And in the end it does not matter what people think because the supers can vote as they please.  

[ Parent ]
here is the simple boiled down version of the argument (0.00 / 0)
1. superdelegates can vote however they want, according to the rules.
2. if the superdelegates, collectively, overturn the results of the pledged delegate count, then that's overturning the results of an election.  That doesn't mean they're not allowed to do it by the rules--it just means that it's f@#ked up.
3. This is perhaps the only way that Hillary Clinton can win the nomination, barring seating Florida and Michigan in a way that cuts significantly into Obama's delegate lead.
4. But the entire argument about superdelegates voting how they wanted was about rules, not whether or not you think it's good that there are a bunch of party establilshment people that get to play tiebreaker.  So if it's about rules,  then Florida and Michigan shouldn't be seated.

So that's one version (and that's where we're at today).  Here's the other version:

1. the electorate should be first and foremost and state elections should be the sole deciding factor, including in Florida and Michigan.
2. as a result, even though it's allowed by rule, superdelegates as a whole are a totally illegitimate institution by democratic standards.
3. therefore, all superdelegates should be constrained to vote according to the results of their states and those that are not affiliated with any states should be stripped of their votes.  It's no longer about individual choice for superdelegates- just pledged delegates as determined by processes that state democratic parties chose.

The effective counterargument to this is:

But wait- institutions like caucuses, where Obama did really well and which gave him this extensive lead, don't accord with this one-person, one-vote election thing that you're talking about, and that's the real problem.  And if this were really about "democracy" or "popular vote" then that's what people from the Clinton camp should draw more attention to and attempt to overturn.  But there would still be no role for superdelegates.

But I haven't yet heard anyone propose that all the caucus elections should be redone as primary elections prior to the Democratic convention in the interests of democracy.  And I find it fairly unlikely that this will happen.  Because this is all about wrangling for power and trying to get as close as possible so that the margin of victory among delegates for Obama is so narrow that it's politically credible to overturn it.

At which point, people will take your argument seriously (and it will still be a partisan argument not based on merits).

[ Parent ]
Wrong (0.00 / 0)
"2. if the superdelegates, collectively, overturn the results of the pledged delegate count, then that's overturning the results of an election."

That is wrong. They vote how they want. Those are the rules. Go the Meet The Press and read Dean in the transcript there.

The supers don't overturn anything. They are part of the process and their vote is their vote. Just as a pledged delegate can choose to change their vote at a convention is part of the process.

Spin this anyway you want but it is just spin and doesn't change the facts. Go read Dean and then argue with him.

[ Parent ]
great. (0.00 / 0)
so you agree that florida and michigan should be stripped of their delegates? :)

[ Parent ]
You have a problem reading (0.00 / 0)
Like I said go read Dean. He covers it all.

[ Parent ]
too pessimistic (4.00 / 2)
Those projections for upcoming contests look off base to me. Obama will win North Carolina by more than 11%. He isn't going to come in below 30% in West Virginia and Kentucky either. Montana is listed as an even split? Based on geography it would figure to be an Obama (possibly even a strong Obama) state. I'm not so sure the only options for Michigan and Florida are a 50/50 split or sitting all the delegates. Seating only half the delegates seems like a probable scenario since it's what the Republicans are doing.

I do like your idea about not seating superdelegates for states who violate the calendar in the future, but it doesn't seem like an adequate punishment this time given that the candidates didn't campaign in the two states and Obama wasn't even on the ballot.

Obama was on the FL ballot n/t (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
W.Va. not wildly off (0.00 / 0)
I tend to agree that Obama will do better than -10 in W.Va., but it's an uphill battle for him. (As a Obama supporter, my hope is for Obama to keep it to +6, but unless he camps out in the state from the 7th through 13th, that's an admittedly optimistic view.)

Applying W.Va. census data and W.Va. voting history to county level analysis of the nomination contest thus far, I calculate Clinton's natural base in W.Va. gives her a +12 delegate starting point. Obama should be able to close that a bit, but until we see movement in polls, Clinton at +8 or +10 is not at all unreasonable as an estimate.

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue

[ Parent ]
Great post (0.00 / 0)
I still don't know what you were thinking when you posted that other delegate count that included FL and MI and pretty much assumed they would be seated as is but you have by far redeemed yourself.

End this war. Stop John McCain. Cindy McCain is filthy rich.

I have diff projection for you: (0.00 / 0)
1. I will project that Hillary will win popular vote.
2. I will project in delegates, not in %% (first number for Obama, second number for Hillary):
Guam 2-2
NC 63-52
IN 31-41
WV 9-19
KY 17-34
PR 21-34
MT 7-9
SD 7-8
Superdelegates: 114-186 (2nd scenario/projection: It is possible that many superdelegates will not vote until 2nd round of voting on convention, so ALL delegates will become UNPLEDGED).

Total (without FL&MI): 2017-2002

When eventually Florida and MI will be added, Hillary will have
more popular vote and more delegates.

Obama's Website Says 241 Superdelegates (before Bingaman) (4.00 / 1)
Hi Chris -- I'm a longtime admirer but never registered until today. I did so just to let you know that yesterday (Sun, April 27), the Obama campaign said that Arizona superdelegate Charlene Fernandez "is Senator Obama's 241st Superdelegate endorsement." You may already have seen this, but I did not see it referenced as I skimmed over this thread, and the number seemed a little different than what you have listed. FYI, the blog entry on the Obama website was written by Christopher Hass and posted at 12:48am on Sunday, April 27. Hope this is helpful. Keep up the amazing work.  

[ Parent ]
why do you even bother talking about the popular vote? (4.00 / 1)
It's a bit of a red herring because:

1) There's no way to effectively measure the "popular vote" in a meaningful way because some states had caucuses and others had primaries.
2) As your argument illustrates, this is not about who voted for whom; this is about who can most effectively convince the superdelegates that he/she should be the nominee.  The democratic (as defined by "elections") portion of this primary process is basically over.

[ Parent ]
Instead of 'super' or 'automatic' (4.00 / 3)
delegates can we just start calling them 'aristocratic delegates'

Dean on TeeVee wanted to call them simply "non-pledged" delegates :P n/t (0.00 / 0)

End this war. Stop John McCain. Cindy McCain is filthy rich.

[ Parent ]
Foucault Would Be Proud, I Think. (0.00 / 0)
In a letter quoted in Dreyfus & Rabinow's "Beyond Structuralism" (I wish i were a member so i could c&p some of this), Foucault outlines the problem of popular epistemology (paraphrasing from memory): People say they know what they do, and sometimes why they do what they do. What they don't know is, what what they do does.
I think you've gotten into that final category, here.
Me likey!


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