I have many things to be thankful for in my life. My relationship with Jesus Christ is by far the biggest. An amazing wife and three great kids are near the top of the list. Friends, being part of a vibrant church, a home to live in, and good health are up there as well. A cool job where I get to design the brains of the next generation fighter jet is down a bit from that. Quite a ways down the list from those things is the fact that I am not a Democrat “superdelegate”.
Right now these Democrat Party elites are between a rock and a hard place. Many are facing a conflict between voting for the person they feel would be the best president, the person who would be best for the party, the person who can actually win in November, and the desires of their constituents. Regardless of how they vote, they will tick off a significant portion of the people who they depend on to re-elect them.
The safest course of action would be to state that they will vote with the majority of their constituents. I think that most people would accept that reasoning.
But just for fun I am going to step into that horrible parallel reality where I am a Democrat superdelegate, one of the chosen few who have been bestowed by The Party with the power to overturn the will of the unwashed rabble who are too dumb to know what they really want. I would feel that it was my duty to cast my vote in a way which would advance my vision for what is best for America, which as a Democrat would mean advancing a Democrat agenda.
But that still doesn’t make it a simple question. I would have to weigh a number of issues: which candidate most closely matches my views? Which candidate would be effective at implementing the Party platform? Which candidate will unify and strengthen the Party? Which candidate has the broadest coattails to help elect Democrats to Congress? Which candidate can actually win the general election?
When I compare the candidates on the issues, there is very little difference. They are both toeing the Party line on taxes, health care, and so forth. Obama reminds us that Hillary voted for the war in Iraq and he didn’t, but he wasn’t even in the Senate five short years ago when that vote occurred. In hindsight, both candidates say they would have voted against the war, but we will never know how he would have voted based on the information and political reality of 2003.
In terms of the ability to effectively lead the nation, run the government, and implement Democrat policy, both candidates show a worrisome lack of experience. Neither has a significant track record of success. Obama is green, and not just behind the ears. He arrived on the national scene barely three years ago, and moving into the Senate office building is pretty much the biggest accomplishment on his resume. It is very telling that Hillary is portraying herself as the battle-scarred veteran in this contest. She has ridden her husband’s coattails all the way to her present position. Seven years in the Senate is more than three, and Hillary’s years as First Lady might count for something, but she is still far from confidence-inspiring. Hillary has an edge here, but not much of one.
After this brutal nomination process, the ability to unify the Party and the nation will be important. A few months ago, I would have said that Obama was the one who could do that, as Hillary is a polarizing figure, and Barack seemed to be floating above the mire of politics. Lately, however, he has come crashing to the ground as revelations of his views, his history, and the people he has aligned himself with have contradicted his image as a uniter who transcends political and racial divisions. It would be hard to say that Hillary now has an advantage here, but it is no longer a clear-cut win for Obama. I have heard speculation about Al Gore being the solution, but that would disenfranchise all the voters, not just half. Those people who were excited about the prospect of a black man or a woman as the candidate would all be disappointed if the party elites delivered another fat white guy – especially one who already lost once.
In terms of coattails, there is a stark difference between the candidates. Bill Clinton has been networking for decades, long before he was President, and Hillary used her time as First Lady to expand her own network of political alliances as well as to plug into the network which Bill had already established. Obama, Mr. Johnny-come-lately, can’t come close to matching Hillary’s ability to carry more Democrats into office across the country.
Overriding all of these considerations is the crucial question: who can beat John McCain on November 4? It doesn’t do any good to have the best possible person for the job if he can’t get elected. The polls right now show Hillary having an edge in the matchup against John McCain. In key battleground states, Hillary has a clear advantage. Moreover, the momentum is clearly moving in Hillary’s direction. Barack Obama peaked on Super Tuesday, and has pretty much stalled out since then. Meanwhile, Hillary is surging. Of the ten most populous states, which combined account for half of the nation’s population, Hillary won seven. Nearly a third of Hillary’s supporters say that they would vote for McCain over Obama. Voters nationwide are experiencing “buyer’s remorse” as they begin to see exactly what kind of person Barack Obama really is, and wonder if he can be elected President, and more importantly, if they really want him to be President. I would have to conclude that Hillary is electable and Obama is not.
In the real world where I would never dream of promoting Hillary Clinton, my loyalty is not for sale. But as a Democrat Party Elite, I would be accustomed to the gravy train and all of the perks which my prominent position entitle me to. Knowing what I know about both candidates, I would have to conclude that Hillary would be in a position to offer better swag to thank me for my support. Of course that is negotiable, and I would be open to hear Obama’s offer.
Shortly after Super Tuesday, Obama seemed to be on the roll, and the case could be made that superdelegates who voted for him were expressing the will of the majority of their party. Since then, several key factors have shifted, and I believe that if, heaven forbid, I was a Democrat superdelegate, I would have to vote for Hillary.