Superdelegate. Phoebe Crane of Indiana is one, and calls it "an unfortunate use of the term."
"You think of people flying around in capes or something and we really don't have any more powers," she said.
For me, that conjures up a vision of the 1960s cartoon "Underdog" with Wally Cox's voice declaring: "There's no need to fear, Underdog is here!" Is it a coincidence Underdog wears a blue cape? For those of you old enough to know who Underdog is, let alone Wally Cox, you will understand the significance of a woman and a black vying for the Commander in Chief job. And you will understand the power now entrusted to 796 people, not all of whom are committed to a candidate as is Crane.
Either way, their vote will mark an incredible milestone in the civil rights movement over the last 40 years for rights of the many underdogs, such as women and blacks.
"It's hard to believe 'little old me' to be in this position," she said of becoming a superdelegate by virtue of her membership in the Democratic National Committee. She has been a lifelong Democrat, having worked for the Bobby Kennedy campaign in the late '60s, and also supporting state candidates such as Senator Evan Bayh. She also actively supported Bill Clinton, making it little surprise that she is an unwavering supporter of Hillary Clinton.
When asked what she would do if Hillary didn't have enough delegates to win the nomination or if DNC Chairman Howard Dean brokered a deal with superdelegates, she answered: "I have thought long and hard about that, and that will be a bridge I'll cross when I get to it." Crane is well aware that the one power superdelegates do possess is that of changing their minds.
"We are free to change our vote at any time rather than a delegate who is elected and sent to the convention," she said.
While Crane spent most of her time as a stay-at-home mom, she wasn't exactly sitting at home "baking cookies," a comment that got then-presidential-candidate's-wife Hillary in a little hot water in 1992. Born in Chicago, she did undergraduate work at Hanover College in Indiana and earned a Master's degree at Rhode Island College, Providence, RI. She taught handicapped children and also in a day care center in Uptown in Chicago. She has done various types of volunteer work in Indianapolis. Crane has been married to Steve Crane for 39 years and with three grown sons ages 32, 29 and 26, she qualifies as a bonafide Baby Boomer.
Crane said she hasn't been contacted directly by any of the campaigns.
"I think there has been a policy, I'm not entirely sure, but there has been a policy on both sides with Clinton and Obama that they are not going to try to contact committed delegates," she said. "That doesn't mean there may not be others who try to contact us. I get lots of e-mails from individual citizens who have been trying to persuade me."
Scott Brennan, a superdelegate from Des Moines, Iowa, has had a slightly different experience. Born in 1962, he also qualifies as a Boomer, but has been much more committed to staying neutral until the very end. That makes him fair game. Shortly after Iowa Governor Chet Culver endorsed Senator Obama earlier this month, Brennan got a call from him encouraging his support. The Des Moines Register reported a few days later that when Brennan came home from a business trip, there was a voice-mail message from former President Bill Clinton's office asking for his support for Hillary.
Brennan is state chairman for the Iowa Democratic Party and like Crane, he is college educated, with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Grinnell College. From 1987 to 1990, he served as an aide to Senator Tom Harkin in Washington, D.C. Brennan earned a J.D. degree from the University of Iowa in 1993 and was admitted to the Iowa Bar the following year. He, too, is married and has two children.
While he is too young to remember the civil rights marches of the '60s, he demonstrates the spirit of them by having proposed a resolution shortly after becoming Democratic State Chair to assure that the 2008 presidential caucuses would be conducted in a fair and objective way. His committed neutrality can be seen as evidence that he walks the walk.
Of course this election year has provided unprecedented fodder for late-night comedians and amateur filmmakers, thanks to YouTube. The 2008 Democratic Convention Watch site has this amusing piece on "A Day in the Life of a Superdelegate" showing a very average guy super-sizing his way through the day while being hounded by the candidates. Only Obama-supporter Scarlett Johansson gets through in the end.
And the fractured-news of The Onion has come out with a mock news report that looks like it isn't a mock news report of the winner of the 2008 presidential election being leaked out prematurely. That's right. And the prediction is John McCain as our next president, with 48 percent of the vote. A man on the street declares McCain was going to get his meaningless vote anyway. In spite of the software glitch, the PR flak is really sorry and vows to safeguard the illusion of democracy. "This country is based on the fantasy that this government is the voice of the people," he says.
Fortunately, there are many of us, the superdelegates included it seems, that still believe in this experiment of democracy begun with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Judging from the diversity of the superdelegates who may very well be the deciding factor in who our next president is, that decision seems in good hands.
"What's mostly exciting is that we're going to have a Democrat in the White House," Crane said, "and that we're going to have huge changes coming. I cannot wait.
"It can't come soon enough."
Underdog is on his way.
This piece was produced as part of OffTheBus's Superdelegate Investigation. Click here to read more superdelegate profiles.
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