Phil Bredesen’s idea for a Democratic party “superdelegate primary” in early June, first offered up in a New York Times op-ed
last week, is getting more national play in the form of a Politico.com feature
today. Given the likelihood that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama will reach a majority and win the nomination with pledged delegates after the primaries end, Bredesen proposes that the 795 party superdelegates gather all in one place to hear from from Clinton and Obama and then, in Bredesen’s words, “literally call the roll” to choose a nominee and end the process.
Doing so would would cut short a summer of internecine bloodletting and avert what Bredesen calls “a divided and exhausted Democratic Party.” But it’s still a bad idea because it highlights exactly the kind of image of a smoke-filled room of insiders that the party should be striving to avoid. Bredesen is under the spurious illusion that admitting this concern somehow negates it:
“[DNC Chair Howard Dean is] afraid that such a convocation…would present negative publicity for the party: the graybeards gathering in a back room to do it—smoke-filled room, all this kind of stuff. My retort to that is: You’re going to have that anyway. The superdelegates are going to decide the thing. Better to happen in June.”
What superdelegates should do to end the nomination contest and avert a summer of unlove is not meet and vote as public spectacle, but rather signal privately but without subtlety to one of the candidates (most likely she who must not be obeyed) that it’s over. If even a small group of influential superdelegates
sends this message, the targeted candidate will be handed a dignified opportunity to withdraw gracefully. Bredesen would like to think that his superdelegate primary will be quick and efficient—a low-key gathering at a hotel near the airport in a big city to do some fast business and move on. Yeah, right. It’s far more likely to be a full-on media circus covering a highly visible bloodsport that will both diminish the integrity of the party’s popular vote and put backroom politics on national display.