"The Audacity of Hopelessness" is the superdelegate structure's whole point

David Brooks becomes the latest voice remarking about the futility of Hillary Clinton’s efforts to best Barack Obama in the Democratic primary race. He puts her chances at no more than five percent at convincing enough superdelegates to switch from Obama in Denver so that she can win the nomination, let alone the near-impossibility of overtaking Obama among pledged delegates. Yet Hillary will destroy the party in order to pursue the nomination to the bitter end, according to Brooks:

Let’s take a look at what she’s going to put her party through for the sake of that 5 percent chance: The Democratic Party is probably going to have to endure another three months of daily sniping. For another three months, we’ll have the Carvilles likening the Obamaites to Judas and former generals accusing Clintonites of McCarthyism. For three months, we’ll have the daily round of résumé padding and sulfurous conference calls. We’ll have campaign aides blurting “blue dress” and only-because-he’s-black references as they let slip their private contempt.

For three more months (maybe more!) the campaign will proceed along in its Verdun-like pattern. There will be a steady rifle fire of character assassination from the underlings, interrupted by the occasional firestorm of artillery when the contest touches upon race, gender or patriotism. The policy debates between the two have been long exhausted, so the only way to get the public really engaged is by poking some raw national wound.

For the sake of that 5 percent, this will be the sourest spring. About a fifth of Clinton and Obama supporters now say they wouldn’t vote for the other candidate in the general election. Meanwhile, on the other side, voters get an unobstructed view of the Republican nominee. John McCain’s approval ratings have soared 11 points. He is now viewed positively by 67 percent of Americans. A month ago, McCain was losing to Obama among independents by double digits in a general election matchup. Now McCain has a lead among this group.

For three more months, Clinton is likely to hurt Obama even more against McCain, without hurting him against herself. And all this is happening so she can preserve that 5 percent chance.

I used to believe that we couldn’t be rid of the Clintons soon enough. David Brooks has convinced me otherwise. Now I believe that we need to be rid of the Clintons no sooner than the end of August — and no later, either.

I’m only being slightly facetious in that statement. Some people believe that Republicans would fare better against Hillary than Barack Obama, but I’d question that assumption. She has pulled Obama into an old-fashioned, bitter mudslinging contest with apparent ease. In doing so, she has tarnished Obama’s only credential, his gee-whiz nice-guy approach to politics, and forced his team to respond with increasing bitterness and resentment. McCain has a lot more experience running campaigns but a shorter fuse, and she may find it even easier to do the same in a general election.

Beyond that, the Hillary-must-quit contingent seem to forget one thing: she’s still winning states, and people still want to vote for her. Obama hasn’t won the nomination, nor will he win it in the primaries. Why should she quit under those circumstances? By all indications, Hillary will likely win almost all of the upcoming contests, with just North Carolina as a potential exception.

The same people who dreamed up the superdelegate structure and who made it impossible for the primaries to select between two evenly-matched candidates want to be let off of the hook for the disaster they created. Their apologists now want Hillary to recognize the futility of her campaign without acknowledging that their party deliberately created a system which encourages the continuance of futile campaigns. Otherwise, why have superdelegates at all? Hillary is the Democratic Party’s very undemocratic primary system’s chickens coming home to roost.