Joe Andrews, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee in the late 1990s, warned on Thursday the actions of Sen. Hillary Clinton had the serious potential of tearing the Democratic Party apart.
"I had hoped, like Nancy Pelosi, that this [primary] decision could be have been made after the primaries were over," he told reporters during a conference call. "But I have grown concerned that the actions of one candidate, my former candidate, are going to hurt us in the fall... And so now I am calling upon my fellow superdelegates, however they make their decision, whatever they make it by, to do it now."
Andrews, a superdelegate who was appointed to the DNC by former president Bill Clinton and had endorsed Sen. Clinton, announced this morning that he was switching his support to Barack Obama. His primary reason? The divisiveness and lack of principle he believed was emanating from the Clinton campaign. [Read his letter announcing the switch.]
As Democrats we have an embarrassment of riches," he said. "We have two great candidate and public servants, but they have run their campaigns in different ways."
Specifically, Andrews pointed to Clinton's proposal for a gas-tax holiday -- an idea derided by economists but, likely, welcomed by voters -- as evidence that her candidacy promised not principle, but merely the opportunity to "play the political theater better than anyone else."
"The idea that we would step back from the real energy policy and environmental policy...for half a tank of gas," he said. "Is something that really was the straw that broke the camels back for me."
There is an interesting and long-standing electoral undercurrent to Andrew's endorsement that stems back to the very first primaries. Indeed, his endorsement of Obama is, in many ways, a reflection of and reaction to comments made way back in the lead up to New Hampshire by Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal.
The choice in the Democratic primary, Blumenthal told the New Yorker, was not "a question of transcending partisanship," which Obama has pledged, "it's a question of fulfilling it."
On Thursday, Andrews - who said he expects repercussions and political attacks for his switch - railed against the Blumenthal notion.
"Along comes a principled elected official in Barrack Obama and he says no, you don't have to do it, that is crazy," he said, "Lets talk about some real solutions to problems... lets not talk about giving someone back a half a tank of gas, lets talk about a real environmental and energy policy."