Thursday, March 6, 2008

A brokered convention will not be a disaster

The battle for Pennsylvania has begun. Hillary Clinton can win that state. And why shouldn't she? This thing is far from over.

Some observers of Democratic Party politics are calling for Clinton to concede, because they say she cannot possibly get enough delegates to beat Obama. They say super delegates are just party bosses who will override the will of the voters. But this is an oversimplification of the process.

The will of the voters is not a monolithic sentiment. The primary system varies from state to state -- open, closed, semi-closed primaries and caucuses. It's apples and oranges and bananas, a cornucopia of circumstances that select delegates. Horse trading happens early on with endorsements and campaign appearances.

In addition, this is a close race; it is still a contest. The will of the voters who have voted is pretty closely split between Clinton and Obama. Choosing the winner affirms the will of a little more than half the voters. The other half, no matter who is chosen, are not affirmed and honored. They lose.

But then they can all reunite in support of the chosen candidate.

If things get ugly in the next few weeks, will supporters of the loser ditch the party in disgust and will this reflect poorly on the Democratic Party? Sure (to the first question), if they were independents who liked a particular candidate, but had no intention of getting involved in party politics. No ( to the second question). Why should good healthy conflict within the Democratic Party look bad? A lack of conflict would make it look like the GOP and frankly, that united front can seem eerie.

There will be a marked difference in the tenor of the conventions. The GOP, all in a row behind McCain can gather for an awesome pep rally and strategy session. If you're into that sort of thing, it will probably be a gas. The Dems, diverse and idealistic, can gather for a consensus building exercise in intergroup relations. Not as much fun as the GOP gathering, and for some too much like their day job.

If the super delegates choose the candidate who didn't win the so-called popular vote will the Dems look undemocratic? That depends on how the speeches go and what the process looks like. Because if there is a process with oratory, persuasion, principles and ideas, it could be a wonderful opportunity for the Dems to shine before the entire country. A dynamic exchange of ideas, a little horse trading, some good music and renewed cohesion could energize the party with the truly big tent.

A brokered convention would be historic. It doesn't have to be a disaster.