Hopefully, many of us still remember that painful, yet triumphant odyssey that on the one hand left a very sour taste about racism and white politics, but on the other demonstrated what a collective, never-say-die group of 64 blacks and a few whites could do when they stood up for right and justice. After pushing the Democratic National Convention (DNC) into crisis mode by challenging the legitimacy of the regular all-white Mississippi delegation (and making a steel-trap argument to support their position), the MFDP leaders were offered a compromise: “we can’t send whites home in order to seat blacks, even though your point is entirely correct, so we’ll instead give you two non-voting seats in the Convention to observe the proceedings and learn how it all works.” Saying, “We didn’t come all this way for no two seats, cause all of us is tired,” Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry and the others there simply said no. Our respect is worth more than two seats.
How much of an influence this embarrassing scenario had on a major shift of Democratic Party procedures, is of course, speculation. But it is a fact that the 1970 creation of the Super Delegate category by the McGovern-Fraser Commission, which was also known as the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection, had as one of its prime directives how to improve the representation of racial and ethnic minorities.
In Democratic Party delegate elections, the recommendations and most of the changes made by this Commission were not implemented until 1984, and that is the year of the first usage of the Super Delegate category by the Democrats.
Essentially, Super Delegates are elected members of the Democratic National Committee (approximately 450 people), registered Democrats who are elected governors, U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives (including non-voting Washington, D.C. and Virgin Island representatives), plus former elected Democrats at the level of U.S. President, Vice President, Senate and House leaders, DNC chairs, and lastly unpledged Democrats appointed by the current DNC Chair. Although no one right now seems to know the exact number of Super Delegates in the Democratic Party (the Republicans do not have this category), at minimum for the 2008 presidential nomination there are 796 and at maximum, there are 850.
In all, the Super Delegates represent either 24.5 percent or a more solid 25 percent of the total 4,049 Democratic Party convention delegates. In order for any candidate to win the nomination straight-up, he or she has to obtain at least 2,025 delegates from a combination of the state primaries and caucuses, and the Super Delegates. With no candidate obtaining that minimum, there will be a direct vote and intense negotiations at the Democratic National Convention in August, 2008, in Denver, Colorado.