by Todd Beeton, Tue May 06, 2008 at 12:14:22 AM EDT
I was asked the other night: "Why is Hillary still in this thing?" I responded, "Has Barack won the nomination? Because if he has, why is he still campaigning?" Seriously, if the nomination is so settled as many Obama supporters like to claim, he's free to just go home to Chicago. No one's stopping him. Yet it's Hillary Clinton who is the object of the ire of Obama supporters who seem to honestly believe that Hillary Clinton's winning the nomination would be tantamount to her robbing him of something he hasn't won yet. What a joke.
Democratic strategist Ari Melbers's appearance on MSNBC Sunday during an hour long Obama love-fest hosted by David Schuster was particularly dishonest about the situation:
"Senator Clinton is highly unlikely to make up the elected delegate metric, which is the key thing here, that's the count from the people who've actually voted in these states...Even if she does her best, she's going to be down in the Democratic count and there's really no way she can legitimately win the nomination at this point."
The central problem with this statement is the premise that superdelegates handing someone the nomination is inherently illegitimate when in truth, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will need superdelegates to win the nomination. As you can see from DemConWatch's handy chart, there simply aren't enough pledged delegates left to put either of them over the top.
Now, of course, in the mind of Melber and all proponents of the Obama inevitability campaign, the pledged delegate count is king, which means that if superdelegates hand it to Obama it's OK, but if they hand it to Clinton it's not. How convenient. The problem with this formulation though is that there's absolutely no basis or precedent for the presumption that the superdelegates are bound to the pledged delegate leader. As Howard Dean himself has said of the superdelegates:
Their role is to exercise their best judgment in the interests of the nation and of the Democratic Party. I am confident that they will carry out that duty responsibly and in accordance with the highest values of our democracy and our Party.
Josh Marshall has more on the history of superdelegates that splashes a bucket of cold water on the notion that superdelegates must take their cue from the pledged delegate count. In fact, like it or not, they were created with the express purpose of keeping this count in check.
Obama supporters say that the superdelegates as a group should not overturn the verdict of the primary and caucus election process while Clinton supporters say that it's precisely the point of the super delegates to make their own considered judgment about who the party's nominee should be regardless of the finally tally of pledged delegates. The second accurately portrays why the superdelegates were created.
In fact, even this description puts too gentle a gloss on it.
But quite to the contrary, now we have phase two of the Obama inevitability campaign wherein the very people who've been fear-mongering about superdelegates "overturning the will of the people" are now concern trolling about the negative consequences for the party if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination via superdelegate. How is that for a self-fulfilling prophecy, one borne of a dishonest and divisive meme spread by Obama supporters intended to annoint Obama as the nominee before he's even earned it. So much for an honest debate, eh? And what was that about unity? The fact is, people only believe Hillary winning the nomination is "stealing" because the very Obama supporters who are now wringing their hands about what it would mean for the party if Obama lost told them so.
But the reason this isn't as cut and dried as many Obama supporters like to claim is because of the pesky matter of Florida and Michigan. Really, how can anyone talk about Obama's pledged delegate lead as reflective of voter intent with a straight face without taking into account the intent of millions of voters in two huge states that just happen to be...wait for it...Clinton strongholds? Now people are correct, of course, to say that the rules going in were that those two states wouldn't count toward the nomination, but to pretend that a pledged delegate count that will include Guam and Puerto Rico but not Michigan and Florida is somehow reflective of the "will of the voters" is disingenuous at best. By any strict interpretation of the phrase, Hillary Clinton is the only one really advocating for the will of the voters to be taken into account, while the Obama campaign and its Obama inevitability campaigners around the country would prefer to conveniently ignore those millions of votes that were cast. In fact, if the Obama inevitability campaign had its way, Hillary would have dropped out before voters in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Indiana plus all states in between and beyond had voted. In other words, people voting is merely an inconvenience to them because it just delays an inevitable Obama nomination. The inconvenient truth is that the lead that Obama currently holds in both pledged delegates and popular vote depends entirely on not counting millions of votes cast and in the absence of a remedy for Michigan and Florida, anyone truly advocating for superdelegates to reflect the "will of the people" should be demanding that they take the true intent of voters in all 50 states and territories into account when deciding whom to support.