The Democrats' ultimate nightmare is that the delegate selection process ends in a virtual tie after Clinton has regained momentum in, say, two of the last three large primaries -- Texas and Ohio (March 4) then Pennsylvania (April 22). Speaker Nancy Pelosi is surely right that delegates selected in defiance of party rules -- Michigan's and Florida's -- should not be dispositive. So superdelegates -- party dignitaries, most of them elected officials -- would have to be. What ethic should guide their decisions? Should each of them vote as did their state or congressional district? Or for the candidate who won the most votes nationally? Or should they think like Edmund Burke?
On Nov. 3, 1774, Burke, an intellectual founder of modern conservatism, delivered a thank-you address to people who, upon hearing it, perhaps wished they had not done what he was thanking them for. They had elected him to represent them in the House of Commons. He told them he was duty-bound to represent the national interest, as he understood that. He said he owed them not obedience but his independent judgment of the public good -- independent of "local prejudices" or "local purposes."
Burkean superdelegates among the Democrats? What fun.
Nothing, however, will assuage Clinton supporters' sense of injustice if the upstart Obama supplants her. Their, and her, sense of entitlement is encapsulated in her constant invocations of her "35 years" of "experience." Well.
She is 60. She left Yale Law School at age 25. Evidently she considers everything she has done since school, from her years at Little Rock's Rose law firm to her good fortune with cattle futures, as presidentially relevant experience.
The president who came to office with the most glittering array of experiences had served 10 years in the House of Representatives, then became minister to Russia, then served 10 years in the Senate, then four years as secretary of state (during a war that enlarged the nation by 33 percent), then was minister to Britain. Then, in 1856, James Buchanan was elected president and in just one term secured a strong claim to the rank as America's worst president. Abraham Lincoln, the inexperienced former one-term congressman, had an easy act to follow.