In a first for me, I find myself agreeing with Mark Steyn:
"The real story of the night, when you look at their rallies and their turn-out numbers, is that the Dems have two strong candidates either of whom could lead a united party to victory. Forget the gaseous platitudes: in Dem terms, their choice on Super Duper Tuesday was deciding which candidate was Super Duper and which was merely Super. Over on the GOP side, it was a choice between Weak & Divisive or Weaker & Unacceptable. Doesn't bode well for November.
Personally, I think the choice for Democrats is not exactly between Super Duper and merely Super; it's between Super and Perfectly Acceptable. Nonetheless, it's a much better choice to be faced with than the one Republicans have. And this is why I don't agree with Ed Morrissey's worries about "The Coming Meltdown For The Democrats":
"What happens if Obama comes to the convention -- and Hillary beats him with the superdelegates?
It could create a huge firestorm in Denver that could consume the party's oxygen for the next several years. The African-American vote would see this as a stolen nomination and could walk away from the Democrats. Rank-and-file voters, especially those who supported Obama's call for change in politics, would likely see this as smoke-filled-room maneuvering -- which is exactly what it would be. The bitterness would extend to the House and Senate members of the superdelegate assembly who backed Clinton over Obama, and it could threaten the Democrats' down-ticket races as well as their presidential election chances."
I think that the possibility of a "meltdown" for Democrats is pretty small. Yes, nominating Clinton if Obama came in ahead in terms of non-super-delegates would be "smoke-filled room maneuvering", but if neither candidate has won enough delegates to take the nomination outright, it's going to be "smoke-filled room maneuvering" either way. How this maneuvering goes over depends, I think, on two things. The first is what kind of maneuvering it is, and in particular whether it involves either side doing something that is patently unfair. To pick a deliberately implausible example: suppose that one side were to discover some implausible interpretation of the rules that meant that some large chunk of delegates pledged to the other side could not be seated. Suppose further that the person charged with interpreting the rules was a vocal supporter of the side doing the excluding, and that s/he ruled that the implausible interpretation was, in fact, the right one. Finally, suppose that the fact that those delegates were excluded from the convention made the difference: but for this exclusion, the person doing the excluding would not have won the nomination. In that case, there would be bitterness.
If it's just normal politicking, or if any unfairness is relatively minor, on the other hand, I don't think anyone would be bitter enough to stay home, or to fracture the party. For better or for worse (I choose "worse"), this is how the system works, and so long as neither side tries to bend the rules too far, I can't see that supporters of a losing candidate would move past disappointment into the kind of bitterness that keeps large numbers of people away from the polls.
The second factor that determines how "smoke-filled room maneuvering" goes over is how unacceptable the losing side thinks that the winner is. Here is where Mark Steyn's point becomes relevant: I really don't see that either Obama's or Clinton's supporters dislike the other enough that if their preferred candidate lost, they'd just stay home. (This might be true of some of Obama's supporters among independents, but not, I think, of his supporters in the Democratic base.) Since Captain Ed focussed on the possibility that Obama supporters might just revolt, I'll focus on that as well.
Consider the reasons why people tend to support Obama. One is that he's likely to do better in the general election. Wanting a Democrat to win in the general election is not likely to motivate anyone to sit the general election out. Another is Clinton's vote on the war. Again, I don't think that people who are moved by this argument will be inclined to sit out the general on this account: it's one thing to prefer someone who consistently opposed the war over someone who didn't, and quite another to sit out an election between someone whose opposition to the war has been equivocal and John McCain, who seems to think that we should put 150% of our available troops into Iraq and stay there forever. A third is that Obama promises change and a new kind of politics. Here again, while this argument might support Obama over Clinton, it also supports any Democrat, Clinton included, over any Republican with the possible exception of Ron Paul.
Basically, almost all of the arguments for preferring Obama to Clinton are also, even more strongly, arguments for preferring Clinton over any Republican who is even remotely likely to win the nomination. There are two exceptions to this. The first is visceral dislike of Hillary Clinton. I do not believe that this is a powerful force among Democrats; if not, it will not split the party apart, though it could well hurt us in the general election.
The second, which Captain Ed mentions, is a sense of betrayal among African-Americans. I suppose this might depress the African-American vote, but I have a hard time seeing large chunks of the African-American electorate just sitting the election out. For one thing, my sense is that the reason Obama is racking up such huge percentages among African-Americans is not that they don't like the Clintons; they just like Obama, and the thought that an African-American might actually be President, more. For another, I think that Captain Ed is underestimating African-Americans' commitment to the Democratic Party. I think it would be a mistake for Democrats to take African-American votes for granted, and that it would be tough on African-Americans if the party establishment were believed to have taken the nomination from him. That said, there are reasons why African-Americans disproportionately support Democrats over Republicans, and I do not think those reasons would be lost on African-Americans in the general election, especially given the sheer implausibility of any black candidate getting close enough to the Republican nomination that the party elite had to block him.
Fights get bitter when one or another alternative strikes large groups of people as unacceptable. If Clinton or Obama were running against George Wallace or Rick Santorum in the Democratic primaries, and if the party were to give Wallace or Santorum the nomination, bitterness would ensue. But that's not the situation we face. Likewise, fights turn bitter when significant numbers of people are sold on the idea that they have to have perfection or nothing at all. But while some Democrats might have bought into this in 2000, most of us have had that ridiculous idea beaten out of us over the last seven years. My sense is that most of us are not about to pick up our marbles and go home. We already know where that kind of thinking leads, and we don't like it.
The Republicans, of course, are another story entirely. She said, suppressing an evil grin.