Steven Grossman, a former Chairman of the DNC and a current Clinton supporter, recently sent a letter to the other superdelegates urging them to decline acting as “mindless tabulators of primaries and caucuses won, or popular votes amassed.” In other words, Grossman is urging the “supers” not to support Obama, even if he continues to lead among pledged delegates and popular votes, and, instead, to exercise their own independent judgment — in other words, to support Clinton.
In making his case (at great length), Grossman waxes poetic, or at least waxes saccharin, about the sacred trust the party has placed in THE SUPERS (comic book action series to follow):
But super delegates were not selected by the national party to be either potted plants or rubber stamps. We were selected because under party rules that have been in place for a generation, our party concluded that we had demonstrated the ability to act as stewards of the national party–and of the national interest. By dint of our experience in the community and our public service, we were adjudged fit to fulfill a moral responsibility to act in the best interest of the country as we saw it–and to be strong enough to withstand the criticisms of those who might object to the political impact of the independent conclusions we reached.
Here’s my response: fine, oh ye great stewards of the national party, then how about doing your job. And, no, Mr. Grossman, that doesn’t mean using highfalutin words to try to convince other supers to disregard the will of the party, in order to help your preferred candidate. A steward, in the sense you’re using the word, means a fiduciary:
One, such as an agent of a principal or a company director, that stands in a special relation of trust, confidence, or responsibility in certain obligations to others.
So, if Grossman is right that superdelegates are stewards — fiduciaries owing a special trust to the Democratic Party — I’d say it’s past time for them to get their asses in gear, wouldn’t you? The party, after all, is facing a bit of a crisis right now: the campaign is getting nasty — really nasty — with increasing numbers of Democrats threatening not to support the other candidate if he or she wins.
One of the two candidates — it happens to be the one you support, Mr. Grossman, Hillary Clinton — has let it be known that since she has little chance of catching up in pledged delegates, her fallback strategy is to throw the “kitchen sink” at her opponent in negative campaigning with the goal of damaging him so badly that he’ll no longer be a viable candidate. Then — or so the plan goes — the supers will rally around her, putting her over the top at the convention.
Meanwhile, Obama is under increasing pressure to strike back at Clinton: to prove he’s “man enough” to play in the big leagues. This, of course, will set off an ever increasing cycle of attacks and counter attacks leading to even more rage among the candidates’ supporters (anyone who doubts this isn’t paying attention to what’s going on right now), ultimately damaging the Democratic Party’s chances in November.
Supposedly, if things remain unsettled by mid-spring (which they almost certainly will), DNC Chairman, Howard Dean, plans to get the candidates together to work out a resolution to the campaign, but that’s pie in the sky. Both these people desperately want to be president, and at the end of the day Dean has no power to make either of them give up.
No, there’s one group and only one group of Democrats who still has the power to prevent an apocalypse within the Democratic Party — yup, our ever faithful stewards — the superdelegates.
So just exactly what is an uncommitted super supposed to do (assuming they’re not prepared right now, in mass, to give the nomination to one of the two candidates)? Here’s a suggestion: try laying down some “rules” for the ongoing campaign.
One important example involves the issue of race: if the modern Democratic Party stands for anything, it stands for racial justice. Clearly, race baiting should be a death penalty offense for anyone seeking the Democratic nomination. Yet, there’s no question Clinton surrogates have been walking far too close to that line (and that’s putting it generously).
The superdelegates have the power to stop this in its tracks. All that’s needed is for a fair number of them to let it be known, from this point forward, if either campaign tries to play off of racial or gender prejudices, the superdelegates in question will refuse to support that candidate — period.
Take it to the bank: if this happened, all of the “oh so unintentional” race baiting we’ve been seeing so far in this campaign would disappear quicker than a dewdrop buried in the core of a red giant star.
But if superdelegates are really serious about their supposed role as stewards of the Democratic Party, there’s another, far more explosive, “rule” they should “adopt.” Actually, it’s more like a threat.
It’s time they start using the “d” word — dark horse.
You want to see a modicum of civility return to this campaign lickety-split? Then watch what happens if a large number of superdelegates declare their intention, in the event Clinton and Obama conduct their campaigns in a way that destroys the ability of the party to go into the general election reasonably united, to throw their support to a third person on the first ballot.
The unspoken name would be Al Gore, of course, but it should remain unspoken. This would be a threat to achieve good behavior, not the start of a new campaign.
What should be spoken, though — and spoken loudly — is the willingness of these supers to seriously consider denying either candidate a first ballot victory under such circumstances. Rest assured that both campaigns would well understand the very real risk were this to happen that the convention might eventually settle on a third person — someone unblemished by the bitterness of the nomination battle — to carry on to November.
Will any of this happen? Probably not. But if the superdelegates are serious about fulfilling the role of stewards of the party, it’s something they ought to be thinking about.