Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Yes, They Will

As someone who supported Barack Obama even when it looked like Hillary Clinton was a lock to secure the nomination as the Democratic party's candidate for president, it is impossible not to be excited about the events of the last few weeks. First, Senator Obama had a better-than-expected showing on Super Tuesday, winning more states and, I believe, more delegates than Senator Clinton (some confusion lingers regarding the precise number of delegates awarded in connection with the February 5 contests). Over the weekend, that trend continued with victories in Maine, Kansas, Louisiana, and Washington. Then, last night, Obama trounced Clinton in the so-called "Cheaspeake Primaries" held in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Senator Obama has also up-ended the Clinton campaign in an equally -- if not more -- important race: he raised almost three times as much money as she did in January.

The "Yes, We Can" mantra of the Obama campaign is an inspiring, and, apparently, a winning theme to his improbable run at the presidency. Here at Where's Luke, we don't apologize for the idealism that fuels our support for the junior Senator from Illinois. To the contrary, we latched on to it early, and have celebrated the fact that there is an inspirational candidate around whom we can share some naked optimism and excitement. As we observed a few months ago:

Whether Mr. Obama can carry the day in the face of the overwhelming the power, poise and pockets of Hillary Clinton's campaign is yet to be seen, but it will of course be an uphill battle. Mrs. Clinton is a deft politician, but we believe she represents a retreat to the center, and -- if the reader will excuse a worn cliché -- "politics as usual." By contrast, we believe an Obama presidency presents the best opportunity for America to rediscover its identity as a responsible leader of the world.

The idealism of endorsing Obama a few months ago, coupled with his recent success in a number of state primaries, ought to help supporters like me become more confident in his chances, and give substance to the hope that Obama could secure the nomination. A more and more resounding "yes, we can" with each individual success.

And yet I am as pessimistic as ever, and instead of reminding myself that "yes, we can," I just keep thinking that "yes, they will."

Will Hillary and Bill Clinton tap their personal fortune to fund the campaign while refusing to disclose exactly where that money came from? Yes, they will.

Will the Clinton campaign play the race card the second they perceive a political advantage from doing so? Yes, they will.

Will the Clinton campaign use back-room deals to secure a seat at the convention for delegates from Michigan and Florida despite a party decision to penalize those states for holding their primaries too early? Yes, they will.

Will the Clinton campaign try to secure a victory by relying on unpledged delegates (i.e., superdelegates) who are not chosen by the democratic process but instead are anointed as such by virtue of their membership in the party? Yes, they will.

The last one -- the superdelegates -- is really the one that gets me the most. As the New York Times explains:
There are two kinds of delegates assigned to each state by the Democratic National Committee — pledged and unpledged (commonly called superdelegates).

Pledged delegates are chosen by each state’s nominating process and bound by the process, while unpledged delegates are not bound by any state elections and include all of the members of the Democratic National Committee and elected officials such as members of Congress and governors.

Superdelegates were created by the Democratic Party following the 1980 presidential election as a means of ensuring that party officials were given a substantial voice in the nominating process. Since 1984, they have made up 15 to 20 percent of the Democratic delegation and have historically supported the front-runner at the convention.

There will be 796 unpledged delegate votes cast at the Democratic National Convention in August 2008 if the penalties against Florida and Michigan hold.

Could there be a more un-democratic process to be employed by the Democratic Party? The superdelegate process appears to be a first cousin to the electoral college (don't even get me started), except that the electoral college was created in the 18th century, while superdelegates are not even thirty years old. While it may be reasonable to give the elite a pass for their "don't let the masses screw things up" mentality in 1789, I can't cut the same slack to that kind of thinking in 1980.

The thought of Senator Obama winning more votes in the primaries -- especially in a year when all of the states have a meaningful say in the process -- yet still losing out to Senator Clinton because "senior party officials" determine to anoint her as the nominee is sickening (and sounds like we are electing Gorbachev or Brezhnev rather than an American President). I'll try to do my part (donations, phone banking, etc.), but in the back of my mind, when I worry that the Clintons will do everything wrong, and remind me of every single reason why I cannot support Hillary, but still find a way to come out on top, I just cannot shake one gloomy thought:

Yes, they will.


The Notorious LJT said...

well said.

don't check that man, check that ho.

Joe Grossberg said...

except that the electoral college was created in the 18th century, while superdelegates are not even thirty years old.

Well, and the electoral college is at least ostensibly there for a valid reason: balancing equal treatment of states with proportionate representation (like our Congress).

The superdelegates are simply a holdover from a smoke-filled-room compromise.

Open Bar said...

If the superdelegates were to select her the people's choice of him, as awful as that would certainly be, it would be a hell of an exciting time watching the Democratic party tear itself apart at the seams. Who knows what the ramifications might be?

But ultimately, I don't think there's any way the superdelegates are gonna overturn the will of the people, even if there's some serious Clinton strongarming.

Sugar Aphrodite said...

great blog! let's try to keep hope alive for now, at least.

down with dirty politics. down with hilcifer!