The Democratic race is not about who has the most delegates.
Or better put, it’s not about who has the most delegates in February or March or even June.
It would nice if it was, because then it would be clean and easy and set.
But this race isn’t clean and easy and set, and that reality, more than anything any pundit says, tells you that this race is not about delegate counting.
One or the other candidate at various times has wanted it to be, but that doesn’t make it so.
(Some folks are blowing a gasket right now, because they think I’m saying what I’m saying because I support Clinton, the campaign without the most delegates. So to those folks I ask only that you read on and worry about eviscerating my stance after you’ve heard what I — and to be fair, many voters — have to say.)
The problem with only counting delegates is that it ignores several very basic truths:
1. Many delegates, even pledged delegates, are NOT required to vote for the individual they supported on primary day;
2. Many delegates selected through a primary or caucus do NOT then go to the convention as delegates. They go state conventions where they all get together and hold their delegate selection out of the spotlight;
3. Neither Obama nor Clinton can win with pledged delegates. There simply aren’t enough left to push either candidate over the top.
4. Superdelegates can say whatever they want right now, but the reality is that they can change their minds tomorrow. And then again the next day. And the next day. They are not now and will never be committed to a single individual until after they have actually cast their ballot (and even then, they will likely lie about who they voted for if their choice didn’t win).
There has been a great deal written about this oddball algebraic approach to picking a nominee.
Two of the best pieces are at CQPolitics.com and PoliticalWire.com.
But the biggest reason to stop counting delegates at this stage is that delegates are not done being apportioned.
There are still races to be run and voters to vote and politicians to politic. To end that now would undermine the entire point of democracy.
Of course, if one candidate withdrew, it would simplify things enormously. But there were calls for Clinton to withdraw before Tuesday and look how that turned out. Democracy ran its course and the voters felt differently than party insiders.
Which gets us back to delegate counting and whether it really matters. The truth is that there is only about 100 delegates separating the two contestants. Obama supporters point to the pledged delegate lead, but that’s a self-fulfilling fallacy for the simple reason already mentioned that neither candidate can win this race on pledged delegates.
It’s impossible. So, superdelegates have to be counted and with them in the mix, the lead is not nearly enough to force anyone out.
And the validation for this point of view is simple — voters agree.
Voters in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Indiana and others want this race to continue.
Nobody can deny that voters are the ultimate trump card and when they share their views, any political party has to listen.
Because if those voters that haven’t had a chance to play a role in the most exciting nomination process in 50 years begin to feel disenfranchised, then they won’t show up come general election time, or worse, they’ll act on their “independent” tendencies and go for McCain. At the very least, they’ll be more open to his entreaties.
So, why the rush to end the fight?
One reason that folks always point to when asking for a quick end is the prospect of a brokered convention.
In that scenario, the two candidates go to the convention, there’s some horse trading and someone wins. It’s unpleasant and divisive.
But really, is it any different that what would happen if superdelegates decide this race now?
A brokered convention is nothing compared to the fallout that would result from superdelegates short-circuiting a democratic process.
Forcing the only viable minority or woman presidential candidate ever from the race is infinitely more unpleasant than a brokered convention.
All of which gets back to the basic truth that letting democracy run its course is not a bad idea.
Of course, democrats still, as a party, have to deal with the fact that there is a system in place that at the end of the day short-circuits the democratic process.
But simply pulling the plug early just compounds the problem by further reducing the importance of democracy to the process.
If it was my candidate with the delegate lead, I might very well be on the other side of this debate.
But if that were the case, then there would also be somebody else writing what I’m writing right now.
And that person would be right.
Because at the end of the day, democracy isn’t about saving the party or preserving a candidate’s stature or ensuring that fundraising dollars are focused on a single individual.
Democracy is about voters voting.
And at the end of the day, you are never right when you are the one trying to stop the vote.
Michael Hale is a former journalist and political hack who is more convinced than ever that voters should be left to their own devices. Read his blog at www.north60hale.blogspot.com