On June 4, after all the states have voted, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean should call for an ad hoc superdelegate primary. He should mail out ballots to all the superdelegates, to be returned by June 15, so the party can settle on its nominee before summer starts.
Al Gore, John Edwards, Nancy Pelosi and other party notables should join the call: Vote for whomever you want, but vote by June 15. Further delay is a luxury for the superdelegates, but choosing a candidate in June is a necessity for the Democratic Party.
After tallying the ballots on June 15, Dean should announce the results. One candidate would almost certainly pass the threshold (2,025 delegates) needed for nomination. The other would face enormous pressure to withdraw - rather than keep on fighting in hopes of changing enough delegates' minds.
Superdelegates don't represent the public will. But the votes cast by millions won't control the nominating process in the Democratic Party until the superdelegates ratify their choice. If these party professionals delay committing themselves, they'll harm the party's prospects for winning in November.
Dean has spoken out already about the need for superdelegates to commit themselves to bring the marathon to an end. They have a good case for waiting until after the last primary - Puerto Rico on June 3 - but no longer.
A brief history will lend perspective: Before 1972, delegates picked by political bosses vastly outnumbered those elected by the voters. The dozen or so primaries were purely advisory - an audition to show party leaders how candidates would do in winning voters.
But in 1968 the bosses ignored the massive votes for Sen. Eugene McCarthy and the deceased Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (who had both opposed the Vietnam war) and instead gave the nomination to Vice President Hubert Humphrey - who hadn't contested a single primary. That prompted a riot at the convention, terrifying the bosses and fracturing the party.
The party empowered Sen. George McGovern to recommend new procedures for selecting delegates. The changes went through - so every delegate to the 1972 convention was selected in primaries or caucuses.
But many party leaders had run on slates committed to the losing candidate (Humphrey) and so found themselves locked out of the convention. To remedy those bruised egos, the rules were amended to let Democratic elected officials come as superdelegates. Over the years, this honor has been extended to hundreds of party leaders who hold no elected office.
But nobody anticipated that the superdelegates would nullify the reforms of 1972 and outvote the voters - nor that they'd so delay their decisions as to force the party to enter its convention without a clear nominee.
Superdelegates attend the convention by sufferance. They shouldn't use their status to delay the selection of a nominee. Dean and the other party leaders need to call them to account: Come to a decision by June 15. You owe it to the party that brung you.