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ISSUE 121 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/21/2008

Democrats trudge forward

By Cody Venzke
Variety Editor

Friday, March 21, 2008

I had hoped that it would be like waking from a nightmare, a moment when it seems that everything had gone wrong, but none of it mattered. Or maybe better yet, I thought it would be the culmination of a very nice dream. With 10 wins in a row in the last few weeks of February, it seemed that Barack Obama had finally sealed the Democratic nomination after a prolonged campaign season. As the Illinois senator garnered delegates, endorsements and momentum, some of the pundits out there began to whisper of Hillary Clinton's demise. "It's do or die for the Clinton campaign," they touted. On the evening of March 3, it seemed that the end was indeed near.

But as we all know (or at least, as we all should know), things didn't quite turn out like that. There was no final decisive victory by Obama and no concession speech by Clinton. Although the March 4 Texas and Ohio nominating contests didn't reveal the name the presumptive Democratic nominee, it did reveal one thing -- we can't consider this thing over until it's actually over.

Perhaps I'm waxing a bit dramatic on this, but I'm not the only one. Over the past month, the pundits have cast the Democratic primary battle in a near-theatrical light. Now that Clinton has warded off a demise of apocalyptic proportions, Wolf Blitzer and his less-than-insightful compatriots have begun preaching a new gospel: Can Obama beat back the Hillary surge? To me, it all just seems like dramatics.

But that's not all. Now that John McCain has secured the Republican nomination, the national media incessantly suggests that the senior senator will pick the Democrats apart one-by-one as they continue to work their way through the primary process. Perhaps this does have some truth to it. Perhaps McCain will, after all, single-handedly refute the Democratic agenda and restore the Grand Old Party's standing with the American people.

Of course. It all makes perfect sense, since Clinton and Obama are still both in this thing, that McCain will inevitably win on Nov. 4. Because the Democrats can't make up their minds, the American people will no longer concern themselves with dull, unimportant issues like universal healthcare or ending the war in Iraq. We don't want that anymore! We want a party that can make up its mind! Right.

Along these same lines is the concern that having two nominees this late in the process will break the Democratic Party into warring factions. Some worry that the nomination battle will go all the way to the Democratic National Convention, where it will be decided by shifty superdelegates hiding out in back alleys. This would obviously devastate the party.

Unfortunately for the playwright pundits who would love to see some intense drama go down in Denver at the DNCC this August, it isn't going to happen. This is for the same reason that McCain will not dominate the vote this fall because he got a six-week head start: there's too much at stake. On the major issues -- the ones they'll be fighting for once they're comfortable in the Oval Office -- Clinton and Obama are virtually identical. Yes, they've sparred over the details of the healthcare plans, but such intricacies are moot once Congress gets its dirty little hands on anything -- details will be lost somewhere in the maze of filibusters and committee meetings on its way to a floor vote.

No, Clinton and Obama are similar enough that Democrats will truly rally behind the party's nominee. Trust me -- Democrats in Mississippi who don't have enough to pay for healthcare will not be voting for McCain this fall. Nor are New York liberals who wish to see the Iraq war come to a close going to throw their support behind the Republicans. There is far more on the table this year to unite the Democratic Party than divide it.

Finally, there has been much debate in the past few weeks over the question of superdelegates and the status of Florida and Michigan's pledged delegates. As you can find explained in almost any issue of the New York Times, superdelegates are leaders of the Democratic Party who have an important role in selecting the party's nominee. Because the voting in state primaries and caucuses is so close between Clinton and Obama, the superdelegates may actually end up picking the nominee this year, rather than just playing a role in the process. As mentioned earlier, this has caused some concern over the fairness of the process.

Likewise, there was a debacle after the 2004 election over which states would get to go first in the primary process for this election cycle. Everybody wanted to go first, but the Democratic National Committee decided that only four could go in January -- everybody else would have to crowd around Feb. 5. Naturally, somebody broke the rules -- in this case, it was Florida and Michigan -- and because they went earlier, the DNC stripped them over their representation at the National Convention this summer.

But again, with the race so close, it seems like that we might have to hold a revote in both Florida and Michigan just to find a Democratic nominee. And again, this has prompted a bit of a panic among some Democratic supporters that we need to figure this thing out now.

These doomsayers haven't learned the lesson of the election season: it's not over until it's over. The primary process has been established in order to pick each party's nominee. Even though we'd like a fast-food style campaign, it's not going to happen. Before we let the pundits prophesize the doom of the indecisive Dems, let the process play itself out. With 10, possibly 12, contests left between now and the close of the primaries, there's still much to be decided, and we just have to accept that. If this does go all the way to the convention floor, so be it. It's all part of a process that has been proven reliable, although imperfect. Politics are not supposed to be peaceful. Why should 2008 be any different?

Variety Editor Cody Venzke '10 is from Manly, Iowa. He majors in religion and economics.

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