There were a few recurring gags on the 1967 cartoon show Super Chicken.
There was the point in most episodes where Super Chicken tells Fred, his sidekick/butler, who was always taking the brunt of their adventure, “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.”
And there was this exchange, or some variant of it, between Fred and Super Chicken in which Fred, in the middle of an heroic exploit, would ask Super Chicken, “Why don’t you use your super vision?
To which Super Chicken would answer, “If I had any supervision, I wouldn’t be running around in this funny suit.”
I thought of this as the Democratic State Convention in San Antonio came to a wild conclusion at the Alamodome early Saturday evening with the delegates approving a few resolutions brought to the floor by outnumbered supporters of Bernie Sanders but ultimately adopted, amid a convention-wide chanting and shouting match which I, frankly, thoroughly enjoyed.
It made up for the low energy of the long, Teleprompted evening program of the night before.
Among the resolutions that passed, and the one that roused the most passion, was one to call on the Democratic National Committee to scale back the future influence of super delegates by reducing them from 15 to no more than 10 percent of all convention delegates, not allowing them to vote on the first ballot at the convention, and barring corporate lobbyists from serving as super delegates.
As succinctly explained by Emma Roller back in April in The New York Times:
Superdelegates are pre-eminently a Democratic institution: a group of more than 700 elected officials and senior party officers who are automatically entered into the delegation by virtue of their position. They account for about 15 percent of the convention’s total votes. Crucially, these superdelegates are “unpledged” or “unbound,” meaning they can change their mind about which candidate they will vote for at the Democratic National Convention in July. In other words, primary voters have no direct bearing on whom superdelegates choose to support.
Robert Shrum, a veteran Democratic consultant and a politics professor at the University of Southern California, said superdelegates are “cushy patronage for party officials and past political officeholders.”
“They’re fundamentally undemocratic,” he said. “They shouldn’t exist, and it would be wonderful if we got rid of them. Superdelegates are a poison pill that the Democratic Party has never swallowed, in the sense that they have never determined a nominee against the will of the voters.”
But, as Roller noted:
The paradox of a strong system of superdelegates in the 2016 primary season is that a significant section of the Democratic Party, which has them, wishes it didn’t, while the leadership of the Republican Party, which doesn’t have them, may well wish it did.
Left-wing Democrats have long argued that their party’s system of superdelegates is unfair because it gives too much weight to ruling elites, disenfranchising ordinary voters. Hillary Clinton’s lead in the delegate count — even as her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, racks up win after win in state primaries and caucuses — has only sharpened the debate.
At the same time, with the failure of any establishment candidate to stop the populist insurgency of Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party also seems saddled with rules it doesn’t like. In its case, though, party leaders may wish they had something more like the Democratic approach.
That was back in April and that “party leaders may wish,” is now more “party leaders would give anything if,” because they are frantically aware that if the party goes ahead and nominates its “presumptive nominee” in Cleveland in July, they will be left telling the Freds of America, “”If we had any supervision, we wouldn’t be making Donald Trump our candidate for president.”
Remarkably, Super Chicken had an episode – The Wild Hair – in which Super Chicken and Fred must tame a giant, out-of-control hair piece created by a mad scientist.
Super Chicken and Fred try everything – attacking the hair with a razor, which only makes it grow stronger, and with hair spray – “It only made the hair shiny and soft to the touch.”
They chase the hair across the country to “Texas, at the Houston Barber Supply Warehouse, where it had glutted itself on a week’s output of hair restorer.”
“It’s bigger than ever,” said Fred.
But it is then that Super Chicken has his aha moment.
Super Chicken: Fred, what makes hair fall out?
Super Chicken: “No. Worry. We have to worry that giant toupee to death.”
Super Chicken proceeds to harass the toupee with late-night phone calls, salacious rumors, scare headlines.
And finally, his masterpiece, a telegram from the toupee’s draft board classifying it 1A.
Note this was 1967.
And here from Craig Whitlock last July in the Washington Post, which Trump has banned from his events.
A few weeks after his 22nd birthday, Donald Trump received a notice from the federal government. On July 9, 1968, his local draft board had scrawled a “1A” beside his name in its handwritten ledger, classifying him as available for unrestricted military service.
For the previous four years, Trump had avoided the draft — and the possibility of being sent to fight in the Vietnam War — by obtaining four separate deferments so he could study at Fordham University and the University of Pennsylvania. With his diploma in hand and his college days over, he was suddenly vulnerable to conscription.
Trump’s exposure to the draft, however, didn’t last long. Two months later, on Sept. 17, 1968, he reported for an armed forces physical examination and was medically disqualified, according to the ledger from his local Selective Service System draft board in Jamaica, N.Y., now in the custody of the National Archives.
With news of his 1A classification, the remaining hair fell out the tortured toupee, leaving nothing but a giant, bald dome.
“But what are we Houston folks going to do with a ten-foot dome?”
“What else?” Super chicken says. “Play ball.”
And thus the Astrodome – (completed just two years before the episode was aired) was given a creation story.
Amid Trump’s troubles, he had a good couple of days in Texas last week, with three fundraisers – in Dallas, San Antonio, simultaneous with and a dozen miles away from the Democratic Convention, and Houston – and rallies in Dallas and The Woodlands.
Here is Trump Saturday night, even as the Democratic Convention was going on, with a huge, wild and woolly rally in The Woodlands, veritably feasting on hair restorer, if you will, from the mad, shouted opening invocation on.
Meanwhile, even as Texas Democrats – at a convention dominated by Clinton delegates – were voting in their most raucous moment, to demand that their national party curb the future influence of super delegates – the Democratic Caucus of the Congressional Black Caucus was issuing an open letter saying that the super delegate system has worked quite well and in the party’s interest, and should not be changed.
Sanders has always been elected as an Independent, and only became a Democrat to run for president – a fact that Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Houston, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and Clinton insider, reminded the convention of Saturday.
“If you are a Democrat — and Bernie, he’s not been one in Congress yet,” she said to roaring hoots of derision from Sanders’ supporters on the floor.
Sanders ran against the Democratic establishment, but black elected officials are a bulwark of the Democratic establishment, which is why Barack Obama had to prove he could beat Hillary Clinton – and John Edwards – with white voters in Iowa, before black leaders and black voters would throw their lot with Barack Obama, and only went with the outsider because he was a once-in-a-lifetime political talent on his way to becoming the first African-American president of the United States.
Now that establishment looks forward to making amends to Hillary Clinton, who was a good sport, serving as Obama’s secretary of state and cloaking her campaign in her greater faithfulness to Obama than Sanders. And black voters were, overwhelmingly, Clinton’s most devoted supporters, and it was they, not super delegates, who guaranteed her nomination.
In other words, the super delegate debate is complicated, even, maybe especially, from a progressive perspective.
From the Secret History of Super Delegates, a cover story last month in In These Times Branko Marcetic, with the subhed: 712 Democratic Officials Will Decide Whether Clinton or Sanders Wins the Nomination. Newly published documents show that’s what the party planned all along.
Since its launch, a specter has haunted Bernie Sanders’ run for the Democratic nomination. It’s not his age, though at 74 he would be the oldest president in American history. And it’s not that he’s an avowed socialist, the label that a mere eight years ago was used to smear Barack Obama as a sinister, alien threat to the American way of life. Rather, it has been the so-called superdelegates—the 712 Democratic Party insiders who are free to vote at the nominating convention for the candidate of their choosing.
The Democratic Party’s bizarrely undemocratic process raises an obvious question: Why did it choose to institute such a system? To answer that, you need to go back to the Hunt Commission, which in 1982 invented the superdelegate.
The proceedings of the Hunt Commission were never published, so In These Times went to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., to study the transcripts of the seven-month-long discussions. The records paint a picture of a party eager to win and convinced that, in order to do so, it must return control of the nominating process to top officials. It’s a strategy that reflects a shift in the party since the 1970s, away from the grassroots—a shift that has led to tensions within the party that are boiling to the surface with Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
The superdelegates’ kryptonite
In recent months, momentum has been building on the Left to overhaul the Democratic Party nomination system, including superdelegates—part of the larger “battle for the soul of the Democratic Party” that has emerged in and around Sanders’ campaign.
“The superdelegates are an acid test for whether you think the Democratic Party should be democratic,” says Ben Wikler, MoveOn’s Washington director.
Kryptonite, kryptonite. Where else did I hear someone talking about kryptonite in the political context recently? (t wasn’t Super Chicken, who, as far as I know, had no weakness.)
Oh no, I’ve got it, it was Meet the Press Sunday, talking about nascent efforts by Republican delegates to do what super delegates would be doing if their party had super delegates, and stop Trump in Cleveland
So could a Stop Trump effort turn into a convention coup? And if so, how?
If the polling in the contested Senate races starts dropping for the Republican candidates, that can cause a general panic amongst all the elected officials not named Donald Trump.
Already, dozens of delegates are organizing an effort to replace Trump at the convention. Kendal Unruh, a Colorado delegate and Rules Committee member bound to Ted Cruz, has circulated a conscience clause that she plans to introduce.
The delegates have always had right to conscience and the free will to be able to unbind themselves. And so I say that we have the kryptonite, we have the power to be able to unbind. But we were told that it’s just a hunk of glass.
Other options, a vote to unbind the delegates or require a supermajority to win the nomination on the first ballot. For delegates looking to stop Trump, the alternative is unclear. No challenger has stepped up.
It is a very, very long shot.
Roger Stone predicted yesterday that Trump and the party “would crush this little rebellion of bitter-ender Ted Cruz supporters.”
From Charles Lane earlier this month in the Washington Post: If the GOP had superdelegates, we might not be in this Trump mess
Clinton got more primary votes and non-superdelegates than Sanders did anyway; thus, as many election analysts have noted, she probably would have won sans superdelegates.
Still, the latter served as a fail-safe, protecting the party against a hostile outside takeover in the event that Sanders denied Clinton a majority of pledged delegates.
If only the Republicans had such a circuit breaker! Instead, they were left at the mercy of an untameable intruder, Donald Trump, and the large but motivated minority of primary voters he inflamed by attacking the GOP and its leaders — as well as by vilifying various minority groups and repeatedly violating basic behavioral norms.
(Note: The elephant images are from The Elephant Spreader, another remarkably prescient episode of Super Chicken, “in which Prince Blackhole of Calcutta is tired of the searing heat and ships elephants to every address on the other side of the planet. This causes the earth to shift and let it snow in India.” Man-made climate change! 1967!)
More from Meet the Press:
SPEAKER PAUL RYAN: All I want to make sure is that it’s done above board clearly, honestly, and by the rules. So I see my role now given that he’s got the plurality, he actually won, is pretty much a ceremonial position. But the last thing I’m going to do is weigh in, and tell delegates what to do–how to do their jobs.
CHUCK TODD: All right. I guess so if they decide to change the rules, which they can do, you’re comfortable with however they change the game?
SPEAKER PAUL RYAN: You’re asking the wrong person. You should ask the party. You should ask Reince Priebus. You should ask the delegates. I think the Rules Committee meets the week before or something like that–
CHUCK TODD: But if you have an opinion on this it matters–
SPEAKER PAUL RYAN: My opinion is not relevant here. I’m not going to tell the delegates how they should do their jobs, because I am Chair of the convention.
CHUCK TODD: As you know, there’s a ton of prominent Republicans that said they’re not going to do it. Governors of Maryland and Massachusetts. You know the handful of senators, whether it’s Senator Sasse, Senator Grant. Do you think it is that members in the House Republican Conference; follow your conscience. If you don’t want to support him, don’t do it?
SPEAKER PAUL RYAN:
Oh, I’m not going to tell– Absolutely. the last thing I would do is tell anybody to do something that’s contrary to their conscience. Of course I wouldn’t do that. Look, believe me, Chuck. I get that this a very strange situation. He’s a very unique nominee. But I feel as a responsibility institutionally as the Speaker of the House that I should not be leading some chasm in the middle of our party. Because you know what I know that’ll do? That’ll definitely knock us out of the White House
CHUCK TODD: While hearing the speaker of the House tell members of his own party that they have a hall pass to walk away from their presidential nominee was extraordinary. And not surprisingly, Donald Trump was eager to respond. My colleague Hallie Jackson caught up with Trump yesterday, just before he held his rally in Las Vegas.
Well, we have to do what the Republican party is unify. I hope to see Speaker Ryan focusing on the budget. It’s a big job to get the budget down the way it should be. And other than that, I have no view on it.
It doesn’t bother you? The most powerful Republican in Congress isn’t telling his people to fully back the presumptive nominee?
I don’t know that that’s what he’s saying. He has endorsed me. And I tell you, you see the crowds I’m getting, you saw last night in Houston, you see today in Nevada, I think we’re going to do very, very well.
You told me recently that your campaign hasn’t even really started yet.
We really haven’t started. We start pretty much after the convention, during and after.
What’s taking you so long? Why wait? Hillary Clinton has a big head start.
Oh, well I’m doing well. She has a head start, but I’ve raised a lot of money for the party. We’re doing very well. Millions of dollars just this weekend.
Not as much as her.
I don’t think we need frankly as much. And she’s selling herself to Wall Street and the Wall Street fat cats are all putting up a lot of money for her. And I don’t even want that kind of money. What I’m doing is, and I don’t think we need that money. I don’t think I need that money, frankly. I mean, look what we’re doing right now. This is like a commercial, right, except it’s tougher than a normal commercial.
Look, we’re going to raise a lot of money, I’ve raised a lot of money this weekend, I’m raising it for the Republican party. I mean, I’m doing a good job. If you look at Reince, he’ll say that we have done an amazing job in a very short period of time. I think we’re going to have a great convention.
And I think we’re going to go onto a great victory. It would be nice if the Republicans stuck together. I think because I’m a different kind of a candidate and, you know, Paul Ryan said that, I’m a different kind of a candidate, I think that I win either way. I can win one way or the other.
With them or without them?
I do believe that. But I think because I obviously won the primaries without them, I’m an outsider and I won the primaries. I do believe that we can win either way. But it would be nice if we stuck together.
Last one for you before they pull me out of here. I talked with a lot of Republicans. Your critics say within your own party your campaign is not organized well enough, it doesn’t have the money, and it doesn’t have the infrastructure in the battleground states. How do you combat that perception? What are you doing to basically reassure people in your own party that you could actually win? There’s a real, deep concern about that.
Well, if it were short of money, because we’re raising a lot of money for the party. But if it were short of money for myself, I would put up my own money. I mean, I’d just put up my own money if it was at all short of money.
How much would you put up?
I’d put up whatever I need to win. I’d put up my own money. I wouldn’t be that generous with it outside. I mean, frankly, people have to contribute money, people have to endorse, people have to really come through. I think, you know, the one thing they’re not doing is, I’ve had so many endorsements, I mean, Darrell Issa called yesterday. And so many people have endorsed me. We have so many great endorsements, nobody ever talks about that.
If the delegates at the convention trying to overthrow?
I don’t believe that. I think that’s the press. Number one, they can’t do it legally. Number two, I worked for one year and we won all of those delegates. And, you know, I guess I’m at almost 1,600, 15 to 1,600. Remember they said the most we could get is 1,200, we’d be short of the magic number, and I got close to 1,600. So we worked for a year along with other people. And I competed along with a lot of establishment people. I beat them all.
And now a couple of them would like to come in through the back door. It’s awfully hard when I win, what did I when, 37 or 38 states? So I win 38 states and somebody else won none, and they’re going to be the nominee? I don’t think so.
MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart, on Meet the Press, said that any effort to make the bid to shear the Great hair in Cleveland appear as an organic, grassroots effort, reminded him of his father’s comb-over.
JOSE DIAZ-BALART: This reminds me of the, and my dad had this, the big comb-over, you know? The person–CHUCK TODD:
Where are you going with this?
The person with the comb-over thinks you think it looks natural. And that it really is that way. But when you’re looking at the person, you’re saying, “That’s a big comb-over.” This thing is being organic and that it comes from the bottom up is a big comb-over. It’s a big comb-over. We can see it, everybody’s going to see it. And you can say what you wish, if it’s coming from all these organized groups, it’s a comb-over.
But that was before the latest very bad news for the Trump campaign.
It was not his dismissal of the Big Lewandowski as his campaign manager.
It was this.
As Hallie Jackson pointed out on Morning Joe this morning, Ted Cruz, who dropped out of the race at the beginning of May, has fives times as much cash on hand as Trump; Ben Carson has more cash on hand, countless congressional candidates have more cash on hand.
This report doesn’t reflect the money Trump raised in Texas. But still.
“There’s no way to spin this positively,” Jackson said. “It’s bad new for Donald Trump.”
Meanwhile, because the Democratic Convention ran long on Friday night, they bumped a number of speakers to Saturday, and bumped John Patrick, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, from Saturday’s program altogether. Where I come from – New York – Democrats would not bump the the president of the AFL-CIO, but this is Texas, so they did.
But, courtesy Ed Sills’ Texas AFL-CIO email news, here is the speech that Patrick would have delivered.
And, yes, there is an apropos Super Chicken exchange, from an episode – One of our States is Missing – in which a villain by the name of Appian Way has carved Rhode Island out of the mainland, dragged it out to sea and is holding it for ransom.
It turns out that Appian Way is an old school chum of Super Chicken and Super Chicken tells Fred, he comes from money.
“But if he was born rich, why did he become a thief,” Fred asks.
“To stay rich,” said Super chicken.