Un-Poisoning The Well

With the superdelegate endorsements coming in fast, it’s looking like even a lackluster showing tonight in Montana and South Dakota will be enough to push Obama over the delegate threshold. All eyes now seem to be on Hillary Clinton. I don’t know if she’ll concede or not, but it would be nice if she at least started the process of unifying the party by cutting out all of her bullshit rhetoric that’s had the effect of subtly implying that Barack Obama’s victory is somehow illegitimate.

Hasn’t that been the whole point of Clinton’s campaign over the past few months? There was the insistence that caucuses are “undemocratic” and that Obama’s wins were in small states that “don’t count” and the insistence that Obama was trying to “disenfranchise” voters in Florida and Michigan and finally their long-standing obsession with the popular vote. The clear impression here is that Barack Obama may have technically won the nomination, but that Hillary Clinton is the true choice of the American people.

Which is a load of crap. If caucuses didn’t count, the Obama campaign would have diverted their organizational energy into other contests. If the small states didn’t count, they would have concentrated their resources in large states like Clinton did. If Michigan counted, Obama wouldn’t have removed his name from the ballot like many of his fellow candidates. And if the popular vote was the metric by which the Democratic party chose its nominee, both candidates would have completely ignored sparsely populated states (like SD & MT). Obama’s campaign has been about accruing delegates wherever he can get them, not winning the race according to some hypothetical rules that come out of the Clinton campaign.

By insisting that there’s something unfair about the way the Democratic party is choosing its nominee, Clinton has undermined Obama’s victory and has done more to weaken the party going into the convention than McCain could dream of. While I happen to agree with many of the points the Clintons make (caucuses are undemocratic, popular vote better metric than delegates), the relative unfairness of these particular points is trumped by something that’s even more unfair, changing the rules mid-game. In order to make her case to undeclared superdelegates, Clinton has exploited some of the legitimate grievances that some have about the nominating process (grievances that she only seems to have found religion on when their outcomes prove to be politically expedient), and in the process has fanned the flames of division within her party.

So if Hillary is truly serious about bringing the party together, it’s not enough to simply concede the race, but to reiterate to her supporters that the Democratic nomination is decided by delegate count alone and, more importantly, that Barack Obama won a fair fight to gain the nomination. In other words, she needs to have the humility to put her party ahead of her own ambitions.