In for a long contest

Well, it looks like the Democratic party is in for one real fight – both with itself and then with the Republicans. While some people think that a Democratic president is a definite at the next election, I am less confident. I think that for each day Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are fighting against one another, it gets more and more difficult to beat John McCain in the general election.

How do we know this? How do we know that one of the candidates won’t be dropping out any time soon? By some of the rhetoric that is being thrown about, and by who is saying it. First, there’s the candidates. After the states were called (bar the Texas caucus), the candidates came out to do their speaking and spinning. While Clinton proclaimed that her victories justified hers staying in the race all the way to the end:

For everyone here in Ohio or across America who has been counted out but refused to be knocked out, and for everyone who has stumbled but stood right back up, and for everyone who works hard and never gives up, this one is for you. The people of Ohio have said it clearly – we’re going on, we’re going strong and we’re going all the way.

If there was any doubt that she would stay in past Texas and Ohio, even with no real delegate gains, those doubts should be gone now. It’s incredibly disloyal to the party that she is supposed to be serving considering it is no easy feat to catch Obama. Barack Obama sort to reiterate this fact when he essentially claimed that he would be the Democratic nominee regardless of the March 4 results:

No matter what happens tonight, we have nearly the same delegate lead that we had this morning and we are on our way to winning this nomination.

And:

We still have what is close to an insurmountable lead in terms of winning pledged delegates.

It’s good to see confidence, but I really hope that he and his campaign haven’t got carried away after their February performance. Yes, they are in the best position to get the nomination, and yes, they have a good schedule from here-on-in, but I don’t want them to have lost sight on running the race, not running to the end.

You expect both candidates to come out and say that they won’t be giving up until the very last vote. I didn’t expect some of the heavyweights of the Democratic party to come out and say they will let it go to the very end though. Howard Dean is probably the most powerful Democratic figure in an ‘office’ these days. Al Gore is probably the most, but he isn’t exactly in ‘office’ anymore. It has fallen on Dean’s shoulders to attack John McCain, considering his party doesn’t have a candidate to do the attacking. This is a sad fact, but someone has to attack the Republicans to turn some of the attention away from the Democrats attacking each other.

Next on the hierarchy of power brokers is Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives. She should, theoretically, be able to get the House to sway either way seeings she is part of the majority. It’s assumed that the Democrats will continue their majority hold over the House (and maybe actually do something with it) after the general election. So having the Speaker on your side is a hefty political weight. But having control of the House means that she can either make of break policies and papers of a President, as well as the ability to block items that the President might want to go through. So she’s got so clout, which solidifies her spot in the list of people that could broker a deal between the Democratic candidates before the convention.

She won’t be doing that though. She’s said it publicly before, and also said that superdelegates shouldn’t ‘interfere’ and decide the process. But that was some time ago. She has unfortunately reiterated her position since the March 4 results became known:

The electoral process has to work its way. There are still many voters unheard from yet, and I think that our candidates both have the capacity to inspire, to bring out a big vote that will hold us in good stead in November, and I think that now is not the time for anybody to weigh in.

I wonder if she realises the damage a continued campaign does to the party and to the nominee? I also wonder if she’s one of these disillusioned people that think a Democratic president is a lock. It isn’t, and someone should tell her that.

Pelosi’s views are also shared by other powerful Democrats. House Majority Whip James Clyburn and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen have also stated similar things. Clyburn first:

It’s crazy to think that way, and it’s crazy to act that way. What our role is supposed to be is to extend the will of the people, not reverse it.

And then Van Hollen:

I do think it would be a huge mistake for the superdelegates to try and somehow overturn the judgment of the voters throughout the country.

This approach works well for Obama in the long run because he has a near-on insurmountable lead in terms of pledged delegates when you factor in his future wins too. But it still means we are waiting until August till he can begin his campaign against McCain. And by then, don’t think that McCain will have figured out the perfect campaign against either candidate in the 6 months he will have had touring and promoting himself.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, however, has split from the opinions of Pelosi, Clyburn, and Van Hollen:

The superdelegates were created, in my view, to bring their judgment, their experience and their commitment to success in the general election, and to bring that judgment to bear on how best we can accomplish the most success.

Superdelegates should exercise their conscience, regardless of what the pledged delegate totals might be at convention time. [Superdelegates] should bring their experience to bear on the question of the nominee. The superdelegates didn’t do a bad job with Abraham Lincoln. They didn’t do a bad job with Franklin Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson or even Harry Truman.

While this is a good idea, he’s allowing them to wait until the convention. And what’s worrying is that he doesn’t think the pledged delegate count really matters. So while he is speaking some sense, he is sounding like a fool also. Why wait until the very end to override the voter’s decisions? If you’re going to do that, best that you do it before everyone has voted, and you have a clear ‘winner’ by that standard.

So while I want the whole thing to finish up early, I am more in favour of leaning towards Pelosi & Co.’s ideas of having the superdelegates go with the candidate with more pledged delegates. It seems like the best way – more people have voted for a particular candidate, thus more people would want that candidate nominated. I know that this opinion would come as no surprise, but it really does seem like the best way of conducting business.

Anyway, that’s how we know we are in for a long fight here. There isn’t a party ‘elder’ really left to sit the two candidates down and figure something out. Nor is there much of a will from anyone. The Democratic party and candidates all seem content to let the primary race run out to the very end. Not a smart decision while you opponent is starting to campaign already. What will happen at the convention doesn’t seem to be any clearer either. How the candidate will be decided, seeings it’s impossible for either Obama or Clinton to reach the magic 2,025 number, is still up in the air. Hopefully the party can at least decide before the Democratic National Convention so that we all know.

Thomas.

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