Derek Woellner —
Nearly a month after Wisconsin overwhelmingly voted for Senator Bernie Sanders as the next democratic presidential nominee, it appears that the impact of the impressive turnout by millennials is being negated.
After winning 71 of 72 counties in the state, Sanders had received 48 pledged delegates to Clinton’s 38. These delegates will be casting their vote at Democratic National Convention this summer, at which time either Sanders or Clinton will be named the nominee.
But also casting their votes at the convention will be what are called “superdelegates”.
Wisconsin has 10 superdelegates. So far, six of them have pledged their support to Clinton, one for Sanders, and three of them are still undecided. If the three undecided superdelegates follow their colleagues’ lead, giving Clinton nine superdelegates, then Wisconsin’s presidential primary essentially results in a tie for the democrats.
A similar situation happened earlier this year in New Hampshire. Even though Sanders broke a record and received more votes than any other person in New Hampshire primary history, after adding in New Hampshire’s eight superdelegates he and Clinton are virtually tied in that state. Sanders’ 22-point win scored him 15 delegates compared to Clinton’s 9, but after adding in the six superdelegates that have pledged to Clinton, the current pledge count for New Hampshire stands at 15 to 15. With two New Hampshire superdelegates still undecided, Clinton very well could walk away with more delegates from the state despite Sanders’ landslide victory at the polls.
Back in Wisconsin, one of the superdelegates that supports Clinton is U.S. Representative Ron Kind. Kind represents Wisconsin’s 3rd District, which includes UW–Stout, UW–Eau Claire, UW–River Falls, UW–Platteville, UW–La Crosse, and UW–Stevens Point. Kind announced his decision to back Clinton a week before the Wisconsin primary at a WisPolitics.com luncheon. After Sanders swept his entire district, winning each county within it by double digit margins, Kind publically doubled down on his support for Clinton.
Representatives and other elected officials are not required to follow their constituents’ wishes when acting within their role as a superdelegate, but going against the decision of the people could have an effect on the election this November when superdelegates like Kind find themselves back on the ballot. The congressman was asked what effects he thought his decision may have on this year’s election, but he did not respond.
Sanders’ supporters expressed outrage over Kind’s endorsement on a Wisconsin pro-sanders web forum (reddit.com/r/wisconsin4sanders). User GoodbyeIWP urged other Sanders supporters to support Kind’s primary opponent, Myron Buchholz, come November. Supporters for Buchholz say his opposition to the TPP and advocating for a $15 minimum wage put him more to the left of Kind on the political spectrum, closer to Bernie’s position.
Although there are no formal rules for how a superdelegate must decide who to vote for, some superdelegates choose to pledge their support to the candidate that wins their state.
The chairperson of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin, Martha Lanning, said that she would follow such a precedent last November. Speaking to the Associated Press, Lanning said, “I will be supporting the candidate who wins the primary in Wisconsin next year. The Democratic voters in Wisconsin will evaluate each candidate and pick the strongest one, and I will cast my vote for the candidate that they pick.”
Since making that comment, however, Lanning has since evidently lost the belief that voters in Wisconsin would pick the strongest candidate. Her spokesman, Brandon Weathersby, is now saying that Lanning will vote for whoever is the presumptive nominee by the time of the convention, who at this point in the race appears to be Clinton. This change by Lanning was rated as a “Full Flop” by Politifact.com.
Sanders has no doubt inspired the young people of this state and spurred them to participate in politics, and the long-lasting effects remain to be seen. Will the youth vote keep their newfound strength and begin reshaping the democratic party in Wisconsin, or will interest be lost, leaving the party without the much needed large youth turnout this November?