SuperDuper Delegates: How About Some Leadership?

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET

The Bush Administration has been so disastrous, and Republican Congressional rule so complicit and corrupt, that it seems to follow, "as the night the day", that the Democrats must take over just to staunch the bleeding.

But, what have the Democrats done to show they would do better? Where is the leadership? Rather than cut funds for the Iraq War, and put the onus on the commander-in-chief to insure the safety of the troops with funding withdrawn, they capitulated. There are more troops in Iraq today, spending more US tax dollars, than there were when the Democrats won back Congress in November 2006. More US servicemen and women lost their lives in 2007 than in any prior year. Not exactly a leadership record to run on. Many excuses, but no results.

Because of the unusual situation presented by the Democratic nomination, Democratic Party leaders have a clear opportunity to show they can lead. Will they take it? Are they capable? That's what the next few weeks will determine.

As I understand it, the Clintons plan to do very well in the remaining primaries, and then develop an argument for their nomination. Argument? My middle school civics taught me that elections make choices, not arguments.

But, here's an argument: Bill Clinton was in 3rd place, behind both George HW Bush and Ross Perot, going into the 1992 convention. So, what is the "argument" for superdelegates to divine who will win the November election from August polls?

There are 3 potential outcomes to the Presidential nomination race. Following a protracted, scorched-earth battle, either Hillary or Obama wins the nomination. Each of those two outcomes provides McCain a likely victory.

Equally importantly, it will have shown--again--that Democrats have a genetic disability to lead.

The third potential outcome is that Obama wins the nomination within a few weeks. Yes, that means that Hillary drops out. No further scorched earth. No financial exhaustion of donors. Time to build a consensus. Time to take on John McCain.

A dream? Certainly, if the assumption were that Hillary would awaken one morning, realize her path to the nomination is a pyrrhic victory at best, and decide to do something not only for her party, but for progressive policies. Hillary Clinton is no Lou Gehrig---taking himself out of the lineup "for the good of the team".

Nor should she should be blamed. Our political system is not organized to enable such a selfless act. Consider all the people who have hitched their wagons to a Hillary victory, not to mention people like Mark Penn who are vacuuming in millions of dollars from her continued campaigning---all will be assuring her that the path to her nomination is real, and that they will deal with the implications for the general election when they get there.

There is, however, an alternative. It is called leadership.

At one point during another Republican scandal, Watergate, Barry Goldwater reportedly went to the White House and told Nixon, "it's over". Soon thereafter, Nixon's remaining support in Congress eroded, and the wheels were set in motion for Nixon's resignation.

Superdelegates are a diffuse group of people, scattered around the country, who do not act in unison nor do a few here-or-there carry much weight.

There is, however, a subset of superdelegates ("SuperDuper Delegates") that do have such clout. Like Barry Goldwater for the Republicans, there are major Democratic leaders, Hillary supporters, who could go to Senator Clinton and say, "it's over".

I do not underestimate how uncomfortable such a meeting would be. These people are colleagues, and future colleagues, of Senator Clinton. Many, like Bill Richardson, worked with the Clintons in the 1990s. Moreover, for them to say "it's over" to Hillary is to change their own position, and thus to appear as if they are fair-weather friends.

All true, if the key question for the SuperDuper delegates ought to be their personal loyalty to Hillary. It is not. Hillary had her run, she was inevitable, but, absent a scorched earth campaign that would make it unlikely for any Democrat to win, she has lost it.

The SuperDuper delegates should run through the scenarios in their own minds of a Democratic party united now, getting its act together for the fall election, and beginning a decade or two rule for progressive politics. We will be able to run against George Bush for two generations---and the Republicans know it!

But, that will not happen if they sit idly by, knowing the hard reality, and do nothing. Right now, they want others to do something.

The question for the SuperDuper delegates is leadership. It is tough, but they were not elected to make easy decisions, or to allow events to play themselves out so that they would not have to make the decisions. If that is all they do, why do we need them? Why would we follow them?

It is their job, as leaders, to recognize likely outcomes, weigh chances vs. alternatives, and to take action before mutually destructive behavior occurs. Show they can make some uncomfortable, but necessary, decisions.

Or do Democratic Party leaders become forever that 19th century European leader who said, "I can't talk to you now, there go my followers"?