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The Only Way Out For Dems? A Superdelegate Primary

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Democrats are balancing on a live wire and after the primaries are finished need to take decisive and immediate action to ensure the nomination battle does not make it all the way to Denver. That, surely, would cost us the general election in November.

I am writing today in strong support of a plan I've been reading about for the past week to end this primary process with transparency and fairness. If you haven't already done so please check out my recent appearance on MSNBC (here comes the plug!) where I argued this prolonged primary process is good for Democrats and especially good for Obama. I want to see him tough and tested in the primary so he can be ready to stand against the crap that McCain will have coming in the general. If Clinton only managed to throw the kitchen sink, McCain and his doofi will surely throw the sink, cabinets, bathroom fixtures and the family minivan.

So, how does this all end neatly?

Phil Bredesen, the current Governor of Tennessee, has proposed a plan to hold a superdelegate primary immediately following the final party primaries in Montana and South Dakota on June 3, 2008. The plan, which Bredesen outlined in a recent New York Times editorial, makes sense because it brings closure to the process and pressures superdelegates to act swiftly in casting their votes.

Here is some more from Bredesen and the New York Times:

"Here's what our party should do: schedule a superdelegate primary. In early June, after the final primaries, the Democratic National Committee should call together our superdelegates in a public caucus.

Of the 795 superdelegates, over 40 percent have not announced which candidate they are supporting; I'm one of them. While it would be comfortable for me to delay making a decision until the convention, the reality is that I'll have all the information I reasonably need in June, and so will my colleagues across the country.

There will have been more than 20 debates, and more than 28 million Americans will have made their choices and voted. Any remaining uncertainty in our nominee will then lie with the superdelegates, and it will be time for us to make our choices and get on with the business of electing a president.

This is not a proposal for a mini-convention with all the attendant hoopla and sideshows. It is a call for a tight, two-day business-like gathering, whose rules would be devised by the national committee, of the leaders of our party from all over America to resolve a serious problem. There would be a final opportunity for the candidates to make their arguments to these delegates, and then one transparent vote.

This is our electoral process at work in a way the founders would be proud of.

The formal nomination itself obviously awaits the Denver convention. However, if most of the superdelegates were to come to the table in June, there could be a clear conclusion, and enormous moral pressure on the candidates to accept the result and move on.

Some might raise reasonable concerns about the cost and logistics of assembling these superdelegates. But those would be manageable; this is a business meeting of a few hundred people almost three months from now, not an extended, cast-of-thousands convention.

Possibly the nominee will become clear by June and such a gathering will no longer be needed. That's fine: it can be canceled or turned into more of a formality. The chance to have our nominee clearly identified in June as opposed to late August far outweighs any logistical or financial concerns."

Much ado been made about the rules that govern the Democrats' nominating process. The angst that been expressed from many people comes from the feeling that, after all of the campaigning and votes cast, there would be a chance that superdelegates could make a decision that would seemingly overturn the "will of the people."

My biggest concern is that with over three months between the final primaries and Denver, all parties will have too much time to meddle, court and lure the uncommitted superdelegates and as a result we could end with a stalemate or worse- a result that is seen by many as tainted.

The superdelegates have had over a year to study the campaigns and analyze each of the candidacies. After the Montana and South Dakota results are reported and the campaigning officially ends, the ball moves squarely into their courts and they must immediately get off the fence and pledge their support.

We all know there is a lot at stake in the coming weeks. Without a superdelegate primary, I fear we stand a good chance of squandering an opportunity to win this election and change the direction of our country. However, worse than losing an election, we stand to lose the trust of millions of voters from around the country and that will prove fatal for the future of our great party.

-Matthew Slutsky

Check out OffTheBus's Superdelegate Investigation to read superdelegate profiles and interviews.