When Sanders' Superdelegate Truthism Confronts Reality, Reality Wins

Lately there's been an outbreak of superdelegate truthism around the Democratic nomination fight.

Bernie Sanders and his supporters have started saying "Superdelegates don't vote until the convention" as a way to try to hold off people believing that Clinton will clinch the nomination on June 7.

But, based on the way delegates have been counted since the start of superdelegates, that's absolutely untrue.

Superdelegates are always included in the tally. They don't come with magic asterisks.

Sure, like pledged delegates, superdelegates cast their votes at the convention.

But we can and always do count them as part of the tally.

Sanders is making that claim because, based on returns from New Jersey, Clinton is highly likely to get enough delegates to clinch the nomination.

Like the poll unskewing we saw from Romney supporters in 2008, superdelegate truthism appears to be a way of keeping up the morale of the supporters of the candidate who's behind.

And, like the poll unskewers, superdelegate truthers choose a comforting story over reality.

What happened in 2008 shows that superdelegates count before the convention

On June 3, 2008, Obama clinched the Democratic nomination.

As you can see, CNN's Wolf Blitzer interrupted the airing of a speech by John McCain to announce that Obama "will be the Democratic presidential nominee," based on projections of the number of delegates Obama would win in South Dakota.

Those delegates, Blitzer stated, "would bring Obama over the top" in the delegate tally, which included both pledged delegates, which are allocated by voters in primaries and caucuses, and superdelegates, who have always gone with the winner of pledged delegates.

Later that night, Obama made a speech in Minnesota that acknowledged he had clinched the nomination and praised Clinton.

While Obama and the press marked him clinching the nomination, Clinton wasn't quite done.

But four days later, on June 7, 2008, Hillary Clinton conceded to Obama.

Clinton celebrated her campaign, saying:


Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.

Clinton also endorsed Barack Obama and called on her backers to support him.

Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. We have to work together for what still can be. And that is why I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next president.

And I hope and pray that all of you will join me in that effort.

In short, Clinton was no superdelegate truther.

How much of this will we see of this next week?

What Sanders will do is hard to say.

It's possible he will continue his superdelegate truthism, but that's going to get harder.

Moreover, there are hints Sanders knows that.

As Politico reported on May 25:

Asked during a brief interview this week at the Capitol when her husband would return to the Senate, Jane Sanders responded, "After the 8th." But she quickly backtracked and said, "I don't know." California and a host of other states are holding their contests on June 7. A Sanders campaign spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment to clarify Jane Sanders' comments.

Sanders, his wife and staff must know there will be versions of the first two videos.

Like in June 2008, the press will announce that Clinton clinched and she will make a speech about her status as the presumptive nominee, dealing a severe blow to superdelegate truthism.