Super delegates should vote for Sen. Barack Obama because he's black, many pundits
are saying though not in precisely those words.
Hillary Clinton should drop out because it's all but impossible mathematically for
her to overcome Sen. Obama's slim leads in elected delegates and total votes cast,
wrote Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen of the Politico.
"Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote which also would
take nothing less than an electoral miracle and use that achievement to impress
super delegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American
opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with
voters, the prize is going to someone else," they wrote.
Howard Kurz, the Washington Post's media writer, isn't impressed. "Remember when
the media wrote off Hillary after Iowa, and again again during the 10-state losing
streak on the way to Ohio and Texas? Well this time they really mean it," he said.
Thanks to the Democratic party's bizarre rules, it's also all but impossible for
Sen. Obama to win the nomination in the primaries and caucuses.
The Democratic National Committee, in its wisdom (rather, in the utter absence of
it) created 796 super delegates (more than the elected delegates in California, New
York and Pennsylvania combined) and made them free agents.
Having guaranteed that in a close race it would be the super delegates, not the
voters in the primaries and caucuses, who would select the nominee, many Democrats
are arguing for an ersatz form of democratic legitimacy. Super delegates are morally
obligated to vote for the candidate who received the most votes in the primaries and
caucuses, they say.
But why is this more "democratic" than to have the super delegates vote for the
winner of the primary or caucus in their state, or to vote for the candidate with
the higher standing in public opinion polls when all the primaries and caucuses are
over? Because only the first unambigously benefits Sen. Obama.
If super delegates choose her over him, Hillary will have "stolen" the nomination,
pundits argue. But unless she's threatening to take a tire iron to the kneecaps of
super delegates who support Sen. Obama, this isn't true.
The super delegates may choose wisely or foolishly, courageously or cravenly. They
may choose the candidate they like the best, or fear the most; the one they think
would be the better president, or the one they think is the more electable. But any
choice they make is legitimate, because the DNC made them free agents.
The revelation that Sen. Obama's pastor is a foul-mouthed bigot makes him
unelectable in November, Sen. Clinton argues. He wouldn't have done so well in
February if voters had known then about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. (which they
would have, if the journalists covering the Obama campaign had done less
cheerleading and more reporting).
Sen. Obama, moreover, built his slim lead by winning mostly in states where
Democratic prospects in November range from slim to none. It is she who has won
most of the big states where Democrats must prevail, Hillary argues.
If Sen. Clinton's opponent were Barry O'Bama, charming Irish-American pol with the
gift of gab, these arguments would have more resonance. But, as columnist Bob Novak
notes, the super delegates "fear antagonizing African-Americans, who have become the
hard-core Democratic base." Geraldine Ferraro, who Sen. Obama unfairly likened to
his racist pastor, was right. Sen. Obama wouldn't be where he is today if he
Many who suspect Sen. Clinton is right about Sen. Obama's electability still would
rather nominate him than her. Better to lose an election than to split the party.
Besides, if angry blacks stay home in November, Hillary won't be electable, either.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, many Democrats hope Hillary will go quietly
into that dark night. But few can name instances when the Clintons have put the
interests of others ahead of their own.
Perhaps Democrats should let voters decide. The question in Pennsylvania's primary
April 22 is not whether Hillary will win, but by how much, so the decisive primaries
may be those May 6, in Indiana and North Carolina. If either candidate wins both,
super delegates could in good conscience gravitate to him or her. If they split,
the Democrats' nightmare will continue.