Can The Democrats Survive Election ’08?

Hi, readers! Editor Andrew here again. Don’t worry, I’m not here to talk about my penis – although it does deserve some more attention, the sweet thing.

I’m employing the first person today to discuss a topic that’s closer to my cold, dead heart: politics. This election has already changed the face of America. More and more young people are going out to vote, once disenfranchised groups have been brought into the fold and real potential looms on the horizon. Yes, it’s an optimistic time here in the United States. I can’t help but wonder, however, if all the emotion and passion will blow up in our national face, particularly on the Democratic side of the ideological divide.

The Republican party has been broken since day one. We had relatively liberal candidates like Rudy Giuliani going up against right wing wack-jobs like Duncan Hunter, both of whom have since faced the facts and dropped out. The race now largely belongs to John McCain, a man many social conservatives promise not to endorse. Just last week Evangelical leader James Dobson endorses McCain’s chief rival, Mike Huckabee. Clearly the Republicans are in trouble and their infighting may cost them the election, especially if the true conservatives keep their promise and refuse to participate with McCain on the ballot. Now, this is all common knowledge and really shouldn’t shock any of you – unless, of course, you simply haven’t been following American politics. And even then it should be pretty digestible – despite public appearances, the Republicans have never been the most united party.

So, yes, it’s the Democrats who are really worrying me right now. We have two stellar candidates from that party – Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a black man and a woman. As Anthony Appiah said to me the other day, this is something of which Democratic voters should be immensely proud. I know I am. Another interview subject, Degrassi‘s Adamo Ruggiero, whose interview will be going up later this week, told me he’s astounded – and envious – of the amount of political passion we Americans have for our presidential politics.

He’s right – it’s incredible to see people crying at Obama appearances or screaming with glee when they see Hillary Clinton, who has, in some ways, become the great American auntie. How will these politico’s respective supporters able to cope if their candidate loses? Will the party survive the coming storm? Consider this blurb from today’s NY Times:

With every delegate precious, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers also made it clear that they were prepared to take a number of potentially incendiary steps to build up Mrs. Clinton’s count. Top among these, her aides said, is pressing for Democrats to seat the disputed delegations from Florida and Michigan, who held their primaries in January in defiance of Democratic Party rules.

Mrs. Clinton won more votes than Mr. Obama in both states, though both candidates technically abided by pledges not to campaign actively there.

Mr. Obama’s aides reiterated their opposition to allowing Mrs. Clinton to claim a proportional share of the delegates from the voting in those states. The prospect of a fight over seating the Florida and Michigan delegations has already exposed deep divisions within the party.

Julian Bond, the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called for the delegates to be seated, saying failure to do so would amount to disenfranchising minority voters in those states. But on Wednesday, such a move was denounced by the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York, who said many people in those states did not go the polls because they assumed their votes would not count.

A number of key democratic leaders have publicly derided the superdelegate process. Longtime political operative Donna Brazile may be the most notable, telling the world – and her party – that she would leave the Democratic National Committee if the nomination comes down to the political elite. And imagine what such a decision would do to voters, many of whom lost faith after the ballot scandals of 2000 and 2004. Strategist Tad Devine put it well over at CNN:

If a perception develops that somehow this decision has been made not by voters participating in primaries or caucuses, but by politicians in some mythical backroom, I think that the public could react strongly against that.

The problem is [if] people perceive that voters have not made the decision — instead, insiders have made the decision — then all of these new people who are being attracted to the process, particularly the young people who are voting for the first time, will feel disenfranchised or in some way alienated.

All the optimism and progress made over the past few months would be in vain.

Let’s play hypothetical, though, and assume that the superdelegates do decide the Democratic nominee. Hillary Clinton currently has a lead in the privileged group and would likely get the nomination if it comes down to the wire. She would also likely get the nomination if the DNC counts Florida and Michigan, where Obama wasn’t even on the ballot. What would this do to Barack Obama’s supporters? Would they be willing to put aside months of wishful thinking and support Hillary Clinton? And what if Obama wins the nomination? Will the former First Lady’s voters – especially those motivated by her womanly ways – be content with backing Barack Obama?

None of these questions have answers, of course, but I think it’s best that all Democrats remember the real goal: the White House. Sure, your candidate matters, but not as much as party unity and certainly not as much as the America’s damaged collective.