Boss Crump. Boss Hague. Boss Pendergast. Boss Daley. Boss Jim Gettys.
One might think they'd all suddenly been reincarnated -- as superdelegates. You know, those nefarious behind-the-scenes manipulators we're suddenly hearing all about, who are poised to rob the Democratic party yeoman of their God-given right to pick a presidential nominee. It's a theft worthy of Topkapi, it seems, or the Brinks hold-up men. Or the Supreme Court in 2000. It may not happen in an old-fashioned smoke-filled room, but stealing votes over Pellegrino instead of Pall Malls, this story line goes, is still theft.
Me, I'm kind of thankful for the superdelegates. It won't bother me if they decide things, because it's what they were designed to do. And, besides, they will probably be right..
First, someone has to decide this thing. The vote as things now stand is close to a tie. No matter how the race is resolved, large portions of the Democratic electorate -- indeed, almost half -- might be miffed, but a selection must be made. Second, no one ever promised perfect democracy. As we well know by now, presidential elections aren't purely democratic: there's the Electoral College. Nor has the Democratic presidential race: even in its post-McGovern incarnation, there have been caucuses as well as primaries. (And what are they going to do about all those disenfranchised voters in Michigan and Florida?) The raw vote, as well as the delegate count, is only a close approximation of sentiment, not a perfect headcount.
Most important, the superdelegates, who are mostly incumbent office-holders, are politically savvy, or to be more precise, self-interested. Political executions -- especially their own -- have a way of focusing their minds. They will have a keen sense of which candidate is more likely to prevail, which is usually which candidate is more popular. The outrage that would result if they elevated an also-ran would help drag them down, too. In all likelihood, the superdelegates will only accelerate what's already happening. Should Obama's momentum continue, they'll move toward him, first in a trickle -- too slow to raise Democratic or democratic hackles -- then in a torrent. The doomsday scenario of a brokered convention will never come to pass.
This was precisely why the superdelegates were born to begin with: to provide a bit of grown-up wisdom and perspective and, thereby, to help keep the party from going off the rails. Most times, their opinions won't matter. This year, with two trains barreling toward one another, seems the perfect time for them to pull the switch. Perhaps Donna Brazile and a few other hotheads will go off and stew. But most sane Democrats should conclude that by helping to resolve the irresolvable, and to put a spirited contest to bed, the superdelegates will help accomplish something the party often seem disinclined to do. That is, to win.