Countdown to a Backstabbing

Countdown to a Backstabbing

Prediction is a messy business, not so much at the prospect of being completely wrong, but needing to find the right way to spin defeat to your advantage. But in this case, I'm going to throw caution to the wind and make a prediction: Hillary Clinton will be betrayed by members of her own party.

The source of this prophecy? An article in the New York Times ("For Democrats, Increased Fear of a Long Fight") has convinced me that Democrats have no stomach for a fight and would rather that Clinton either leave the stage or push her off, anything to get them out of the unseen, frightening spectacle of a person fighting for the nomination. The easy way out is to allow superdelegates the mental gymnastics of repeating the mantra "the will of the people" and jettison the very reason why these delegates were created in the first place: to lead.

Of course, the prospect of delegates coming to pay homage to Obama in the desire to avoid a fight has excited his campaign because it benefits them. What I think is most instructive is the willingness of the superdelegates not to lead, but rather be dictated to for the sole purpose of avoiding making a decision. Now, let us surmise that one of the qualities of a leader is the ability to make decisions that might be unpopular and generate discontent, but in the best analysis available, the choice is made even amidst wailing and gnashing of teeth. If the outcome of the decision bears out, grudging credit (at best) might be handed to the leader, although no one will admit to being wrong at all. I'm not suggesting that leaders are infallible, but a decision that might appear counter to general consensus can actually be the correct one.

It might be shocking to people (though it really shouldn't be) but the "will of the people" is a symbol of our democratic processes, not the everyday reality of it. The values of a democratic system are not established by the masses; that's done by leaders, and that's why we call them leaders and put them into positions of authority and power. In our system, we leave the decision-making to others because we don't have the time or the inclination for it. True, this is not carte blanche to leaders (who often think it is) to do as they like and defy voters at every turn: we know that the ones who do often need to find other employment after the next election. Rather, the reality of our system leaves choices to elected elites who make the decisions based on information that we don't always possess. We are not the ones who do that, otherwise we would be in office.

If I'm interpreting the Times article correctly, Democratic leaders want to shirk this responsibility and use the fig leaf of the "will of the people" as cover. Their purpose in the nomination process is to decide who can beat the Republican candidate in November, not to be cowed by hordes of people furiously performing "delegate math" and posting their conclusions on Web site comment boards. The choice to back either Clinton or Obama should be based on those leadership skills and insight, not on the desire to duck out of a fight because the heat is on. But I doubt that Democratic leaders will toughen their resolve at all; if their inability to stand up to President Bush in any indication, they'll more than likely cave into the "will of the people" because bloggers (who are not leaders but reactionaries) and comment board trolls demanded it so. If that is the case, then Hillary Clinton can expect to stride into the Forum one day (soon) and get ambushed.

Should the "will of the people" be thrown out altogether? Of course not: popular consensus is important to remain in a position of leadership to promote those values and ideas that leaders (and voters) consider important. As I mentioned, leaders need to be held accountable in a democratic system, and are not infallible. But that doesn't mean they're always wrong, either.