Friday, April 4, 2008

Superdelagates, Unite!

If the Democrats are to win the White House in 2008, they need to start acting less like movement conservatives in the way that they stubbornly hold fast to ideological principles despite all the evidence that suggests their sacred ideas are bad ones.

And as a good liberal, I’m worried. I’m worried that the Democrats’ inability to treat their nomination as a practical matter, and not as a sanctified exercise of democracy, will ultimately lead to another Republican administration.

While watching HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” recently, I was discouraged when Mr. Maher acted as if there were no potential consequences of a long nominating process. The votes of all Americans must be counted! That’s what’s most important, right? Not even close.

Democrats, superdelegates especially, need to be reminded that there are real things at stake here, things that supercede philosophical debates about party rules. In all likelihood, the next president will nominate two supreme court justices, inherit a recession, and have the opportunity to reshape our policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s a full platter.

I’m horrified by recent polls that suggest Obama and Clinton supporters won’t vote for the other candidate if their first choice does not win. I can understand the disappointment of not having your greatest hopes realized, but now is not the time for pouting on the sidelines.

Instead, unhappy Democrats should just do what my brother advises and “hold your nose.” After all, that seems to be the Republican strategy.

Before Mr. McCain won his party’s nomination, there was widespread speculation that conservatives would not get behind him.

But, eureka! Miraculously, he seems to be enjoying ample support from his base. Perhaps movement conservatives have perfected what liberals should start practicing: considering the alternative.

Republicans have an agenda that they are committed to advancing, and their internal squabbles are quickly forgotten when the big picture comes back into view. Those that fall en route are quickly trampled over as the rest of the group marches toward the One End.

Democrats, on the other hand, squirm endlessly over relative minutia and worry constantly about who might be left behind. In this case, that means agonizing over whether delegates from Michigan and Florida will be seated. Or whether every state will get a chance to cast votes. Or whether pledged delegates or the popular vote is more important. Or whether big states or small states or traditionally blue states or the overall number of states is the most important.

Fueling these pointless hypotheticals is the ideological opposition Democrats have to disenfranchisement — the “will of the people” must be protected at all costs. A noble aspiration, indeed, but no way to win an election. Here, again, Democrats should take a cue from Republicans: worry about ideology after you get elected.

At this point in the Democratic race, it has become obvious that Mrs. Clinton can not overtake Mr. Obama in either the pledged delegate count or in the popular vote. She is sustained only by her own ruthless ambition, which has recently led her to claim that pledged delegates are a “misnomer,” and by superdelegate fence-sitting.

There is no reason for this to continue. It’s time to make a choice before we’re all forced to go down with the ship. If superdelegates are worried about the party’s selection process appearing undemocratic, then they can take heart in the fact that most of them are currently serving a term in Congress, and they got there because people in their state or district elected them to make choices on their behalf.

And if, as a constituent, you don’t like who the persons you voted for are propping up for national office, then there’s an easy, built-in democratic solution: elect someone else to represent you. Or, form your own party, make your own rules, and run yourself. Joe Lieberman did.

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