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Can The Superdelegates Afford To Say No To Clinton?

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This primary is not a symbol of the progress America is making in terms of gender or race; it's not a personal battle between Clinton and Obama; it's not a popularity contest. The stakes are too high for that.

It's about deciding who can save America and the rest of the world from having another Republican President.

It's about stopping neoconservatism in its tracks. It's about calming rather than exacerbating the geo-political threats that confront us all, from the streets of New York or London, to the mountains of Afghanistan. It's quite literally about the future of this planet.

This decision, with its overwhelming consequences for America and the rest of the world, must be made on the basis of who can beat John McCain in the fall and win the White House back for the Democrats. That is the solemn and awesome responsibility facing the superdelegates.

Their choice is stark and difficult. Barack Obama has captured the media's, and thus the public's imagination. He has fought a brilliant campaign. He has won more states, more pledged delegates, and more positive headlines than his opponent. But his path to victory in November looks unfamiliar and precarious to Democrats who are too used to losing general elections.

Meanwhile, there stands Hillary Clinton. Yes, she is behind in pledged delegates, she has taken a pummeling in the media, and she has been counted out of this race by many of the pundits. But crucially she is also holding in her hands a tried and tested electoral map that leads the Democrats through Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and right back up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.

Now that the entirely laudable sentiment that "we are not a collection of Red States and Blue States, [but] the United States of America" has been superseded by urgent calculations about what color the map will actually turn in November, the superdelegates must be given a free rein to make this monumental decision in the interests of the party, and of the country: they must pick a candidate who they know can win.

The main obstacle in Clinton's path is now the potent argument that for superdelegates to award her the nomination, they would have to vote against the pledged delegate totals, and in doing so, would "overturn the will of the people."

It is vital that this argument is seen for the myth that it is.

It's an argument based on the premise that the pledged delegates do indeed represent "the will of the people." And that is an Obama campaign talking point, designed to make his victory appear inevitable, and the remaining unaffiliated superdelegates feel as though supporting Clinton would look anti-democratic, as though a Clinton victory would be seen as "stealing the nomination" from Senator Obama.

The irony is that this talking point grows louder the more actual votes Hillary wins, and the nearer she gets to a lead in the popular vote.

Let's take Texas as an example of how flawed the pledged delegate metric really is. We all know that Hillary Clinton won the Lone Star State. It was her second great comeback -- a big win that surprised the pundits and confirmed she was back in the game, right? Wrong. It was, in fact, Barack Obama who won Texas. 100,000 more people voted for Hillary, but, thanks to the caucus, Obama netted 5 more pledged delegates than she did.

Look me in the eye and tell me those delegates represent "the will of the people" of Texas.

Now let's turn to Idaho. Obama won Idaho by 13,000 votes, and picked up an estimated 12 delegates. Over in Pennsylvania, Clinton picked up the exact same number of delegates -- 12 -- but won the state by a margin of 200,000 votes. Which means that within the delegate system 13,000 voters in Idaho equal 200,000 voters in Pennsylvania.

We can all agree that pledged delegates constitute part of the "rules" of this primary, but let's not pretend they are an accurate measure of "the will of the people".

The result of the arcane, over-complicated and often counter-intuitive delegate system is that after months of voting, millions of dollars spent, and a carbon footprint of horrendous proportions, "the will of the people" will remain at worst undecipherable, and at best, disputable.

So it is that the Clinton campaign talks about the popular vote as their metric of choice. This angers Obama's supporters, who complain that she is trying to "change the rules" mid-race. But that misses the point. She is merely using the popular vote as an argument for the superdelegates. Because, like it or not, the same rules that have Obama with an insurmountable pledged delegate lead also prevent him from winning without the superdelegates.

All this now rests in their hands. They have a responsibility to make this decision based on electability in November, and to free themselves from the enormous pressure they are under to ratify a pledged delegate count that emphatically does not represent the "will of the people."

The choice is agonizing. But there is only one candidate offering a tried and tested path to a Democratic White House. There is only one safe bet for the party, and the American people at this critical time in our history.

With the stakes this high, can the superdelegates really say no to Hillary Clinton?