Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Democratic Party's Menshevik/Bolshevik split continues

Jonathan Chait sums up the current Bolshevik position at "The New Republic" (author's emphasis):
Almost nobody contends that Clinton has a chance to overcome Obama's lead in pledged delegates. The spin now is that Obama's delegate lead is "small but almost insurmountable" (USA Today) and that, since neither can clinch the nomination with pledged delegates alone, "the nomination is expected to be in the superdelegates' hands" (Los Angeles Times). These beliefs reflect the mathematical illiteracy that has allowed the press corps to be routinely duped by economic flim-flammery. A lead that's insurmountable is, by definition, not small. The very primary rules that make it impossible for Clinton to catch up--proportionate distribution of delegates that award tiny net sums to the winner--are exactly what made Obama's lead so impressive.

The notion that the superdelegates will decide the race implies that pledged delegates won't matter--like a sports event that goes to overtime. Obviously, though, the pledged-delegate count determines how many superdelegates each candidate needs. Depending on how the remaining primaries go, Clinton will need about two-thirds of the uncommitted ones to break her way. Problem is, over the last month, superdelegates have broken to Obama by 78 percent to 22 percent.

And the supers who haven't endorsed are even less likely to side with Clinton. Numerous reports on uncommitted superdelegates have made clear that they have remained on the sideline out of an exquisite fear of stepping on the results of the voters. As my colleague Noam Scheiber reported, "Just about every superdelegate and party operative I spoke with endorsed Nancy Pelosi's recent suggestion that pledged delegates should matter most" ("Slouching Toward Denver," April 9).
What recipe does Chait offer for solving the party's factional split? He makes a veiled suggestion of a Bolshevik party coup:
Last week, Senator Pat Leahy suggested that Hillary Clinton ought to quit the presidential race. How insensitive! How boorish! Pundits gasped, Clinton took umbrage, and even Barack Obama was forced to concede that Clinton has the right to run for as long as she desires.

The persistent weakness of American liberalism is its fixation with rights and procedures at any cost to efficiency and common sense. Democrats' reluctance to push Clinton out of the race is the perfect expression of that delicate sensibility.
In reality, the problem is not an overly punctilious observation of the rules of the election or the rights of the contestants, but a nearly complete disregard for them.

Consider how the Democratic Party's nomination contest is supposed to work. First, all of the viable candidates are expected to raise several megadollars of funds as well as spending weeks worth of face time to contend the Iowa caucuses. Some candidates will strain every fundraising sinew and practically relocate to Iowa in their effort to win. Second, the Iowa caucuses take place and a preliminary winner is announced. Third, the mainstream media then immediately launches into a psychotic, tsunami-like panic in an effort to destroy as many candidacies as possible before the New Hampshire primary is held. If more than one candidate contests the New Hampshire primary, the contest officially becomes a "quagmire". Actual rules and rights aren't even mentioned at this stage of the contest; it is purely a matter of who is raising the most megadollars -- and who gets hit by the media tsunami after Iowa -- until a quagmire has set in.


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