Hillary Clinton, Superdelegates, and Playing with Fire

Will there be race riots if Barack Obama is denied the Democratic nomination?

Despite the continuing fallout over his association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the Illinois senator has won the most state primaries, the most votes and the most delegates. Polls have him running between one and four percentage points ahead of Clinton. Four centuries after the first blacks came to America in chains, the prospect of seeing one of their own become president is so close that African-Americans can taste it. Will they sit quietly at home and change the channel if white America dashes their hopes?

“One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race,” write Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen of “Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.”
But what if she does?

Stars, planets and a bunch of asteroids would have to fall into perfect alignment in order for Clinton to win the Democratic nomination. First, she’d need to win a landslide in the April 22 Pennsylvania primary. That could happen; a March 23 Quinnipiac poll had her pulling ahead, 53 to 41. She’d need a repeat performance in Indiana. But she’s running even with Obama there.

Never mind reality. What if she racks up a string of late-season primary wins?
Two arguments are at the center of the Clinton campaign’s last-ditch attempt to seduce the 800 unpledged delegates who will determine the nominee at the Democratic convention. The first plays to the raison d’être of the superdelegates, created in 1982 to steer the nomination away from a leading candidate in case he or she fumbles late in the nomination race, hurting the party’s chances of beating the Republican nominee in November.

“[Hillary] has the best chance to defeat John McCain,” Bill Clinton says. Why? Because she’s vetted. All the dirt has been dug up on her; the GOP won’t dredge up anything new. As for Obama, his friendships with Reverend Wright and a Chicago slumlord might represent the mere tip of a toxic Daley Machine sludge pile.

Clinton’s second argument is her novel promise to win the “primary popular vote,” a phrase no one heard of before. Obama leads by 700,000 out of 26 million votes cast; Hillary says she’ll close this gap in Pennsylvania.

“Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote–which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle–and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory,” continues the Politico. “An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.”

The Democratic Party probably won’t risk alienating its most reliable constituency. Probably.

But what if it does? Left-of-center insiders, mainstream Democrats and street activists alike, are quietly worrying that things could turn ugly. 1968 ugly. Maybe even worse.

“If party insiders fix the nomination against the will of the people–when the entire election is about repudiation of the old politics–it will be an act of monumental political disaster that historians will condemn for generations,” Brent Budowsky writes at Hillary Clinton would have a tough time uniting the Democratic vote against McCain, still coasting on the fumes of his pre-Bush rep as a straight-shooting maverick.

There would certainly be street protests in Denver. “I will, without doubt, march at the convention if there is even a remote chance on the nomination being stolen,” promises a typical poster at the liberal blog Daily Kos.

Blogger Al Giordano predicts: “It won’t be the chaotic street protest and battle with the cops that occurred in ’68: we’ve learned too much from that. It will be organized, Gandhian in its adherence to discipline and nonviolence, and more massive than anything maybe ever seen in the United States’ long history of social movements. If the party leaders choose to destroy democracy by denying the fair-and-square winner the nomination, democracy will then be duty bound to destroy the party…The big news is that, for the first time in decades, a black-white alliance from the street will be possible: Montgomery 1955 meets Seattle 1999 in Denver 2008.”

Street protests + rage = ?

No one knows whether angry Obama supporters would turn violent if their man is denied the Democratic nomination. But precedents count. The last time American progressives got worked up about anything was the invasion of Iraq. They marched by the millions. They kept things “Gandhian.” But non-violence failed: The media ignored them. And the war dragged on–longer, so far, than World War II.

More recently, on the international front, activists can’t ignore events in Tibet, where the passage of time has merely accelerated the oppression of the indigenous population at the hands of Chinese occupation troops. Ultimately, young Tibetans are finding violent resistance to be more effective–and more attractive to television cameras–than the Dalai Lama’s corporate-approved militant pacifism. If they keep Chinese cities burning through the summer Olympics, Tibetans could win their independence this year.

As they mull how to vote in the weeks ahead, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic superdelegates she’s wooing might want to ask themselves: How much would the U.S. miss a few cities?


21 Responses to “”

  1. Angelo Says:

    Unfortunately, the police have McDonaldized the process of shipping Ghandian protesters to massive temporary holding facilities on the outskirts of town (see You can bet the police are already spying on local organizers and going to punk concerts. (see this article).

    If you are an Obama supporter planning to protest, be sure to do your homework…
    Though they will treat you like wild rioters no matter what you do, they are betting you will be nonviolent. There are still ways to protest that they will not be ready for, but you have to start planning.

  2. Aggie Dude Says:

    I would have thought that Katrina could convince you of how much the US would miss a few cities….

    Not very much…

  3. The Reverend Mr. Smith Says:

    There won’t be any riots…Obama will win the nomination and Clinton will drag him down with her, basically continuing to produce commercials for McCain, who will inherit the Union in its current sorry state. She’ll then run in 2012 on the “see? I told you so” platform, where she’ll actually have a chance to win, which is far more important to her than her party or even the country.

  4. Sean C. Ledig Says:

    Your column paints a truly frightening scenario.

    This explains why conservatives, like Rush Limbaugh, are encouraging Repukes to change their registration to Democrat and vote for Hillary.

    In fact, Limbaugh calls it “Operation Chaos.” It sounds to me that is what he’s hoping for.

    Of course, the Cheney/Bush regime would love some massive protests, non-violent or not. It would give them just the excuse to impose martial law and stay in power forever.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Ted Rall is advocating violence against the state. As such, I’ve forwarded this URL to the Dept. of Homeland Security.

  6. Edward Says:

    The reason the Democratic Party has super delegates is because the party establishment does not trust it’s voters. You libs think you’re high minded, deep thinking and so much more intelligent then the rest of us. Your party thinks you are too stupid to choose your leaders. So do I.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Good piece, and a good point. God I miss Edwards. I think Clinton and McCain ought to be on the same ticket, but Im still not terribly fond of Obama. Hes charismatic to be sure, but so vague. But you bring up another interesting point… Clinton surely feels entitled to the nomination… but does Obama now feel the same? How will the remainder of white america vote if the threat of black violence is hung over their heads? Will they cow to it or just vote Republican?

  8. Andy Says:

    Christ man, this is a bit premature. Burning cities!!! 70% of the population and a 100% of liberals oppose the Iraq war and I don’t see any burning cities. Black people are already resigned to the “fact” that white america won’t allow a black man to be president (okay one black person, my cousin, told me this last weekend.)

    Sorry, liberal Americans don’t get violent. Period. That’s a conservative thing.

  9. Andy Says:

    BTW: I am convinced that my cousin is wrong and that Obama will at least win the Democratic Primary. The super delegates won’t dare to overturn the will of the voters especially after all the fuss part members made when Bush stole the last two elections.

    The more interesting question is, “why is Hilary still running?”

    I think the answer is that she knows that Americans HATE LOSER nerds that are optimized by QUITERS. If she sticks it out ’til the end she gets to be the comeback kid if Obama loses the general election.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I think people are too scared to comment on this topic.

  11. Anonymous Says:


    I take issue with the following from your otherwise educational column, in which you quote another blogger, and then assert: “They kept things “Gandhian.” But non-violence failed: The media ignored them.”

    Gandhian nonviolence didn’t fail in this instance; it wasn’t even tried. Gandhian struggle seems to have become synonymous with, say, marching peacefully and not trashing storefront windows. But Gandhian nonviolence actually involves a lot more, including sustained civil disobedience, arrests and jail time on a massive scale, strikes and even a willingness to risk death (see “satyagraha”).

    It appears that Gandhi, like the police techniques Angelo refers to, has become McDonaldized. I hope in the future you will be careful to not contribute to this process.

    Thank you.


  12. Anonymous Says:

    If Obama loses the nomination, the candidate who would most benefit (besides McCain) is one of the potential Green Nominees, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. She is anti-war and voted against it. She has pushed for impeachment, unlike all the Democrats except Kucinich. She’s Black and Female, and ignored by the media. She’d agree with Wright.
    Finally, she could help build a viable third party, if she gets the nomination. (Of course, if Bob Barr gets the Libertarian nod, the chances of a greater third-party movement is even larger…)

  13. Sean C. Ledig Says:

    Testify Brother Bill!

    Thank you for clarifying what so many people don’t understand.

    Non-violence and/or pacifism does NOT mean avoidance of conflict. It just means that you won’t raise a hand to another human being.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi were both pacifists, but they didn’t shy away from conflict or trouble. In fact, they both put themselves in harm’s way many, many times and it eventually cost them their lives.

    I’m no pacifist, but I respect those few true pacifists out there. It takes incredible courage to live that way.

    But I have a big problem with so many people I’ve met who call themselves pacifists when really they’re chickenshit.

    And to the first Anonymous poster, you didn’t need to forward the URL to Homeland Security. I’m sure they already have it.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    This whole Obama momentum is very sick. Why should Clinton drop out now? If it is a race don’t we wait patiently till the end?

    Impatience, intimidation are the hallmarks this new generation of supporters. May be this is a sign, we are entering into more participation in electoral politics. Is it part of our global trading – when we export democracy out, we also import some violent aspects of democracy.

    I was expecting some gun shots in caucuses. We are not there yet. May be this is only anti-gun “liberal” race, not the other team’s.

    At least one possibility is just in case if a florida or ohio is repeated now, Obama supporters will not keep quiet – just in case their man gets nomination.

  15. Ted Rall Says:

    I didn’t vote for Obama and have serious reservations about him. But it’s clear that he’ll be the nominee. It’s just math.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    Obama wins the nomination.
    Obama loses to McCain by >10%.
    Nader is blamed for getting 3% of the vote.
    Clintons are vilified for sullying Obama’s character.
    Ted Rall gets 4 more years of great material.

    At least most of your votes counted. I live in Florida.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    I concede that 10% of our Presidents ought to be black. But shouldn’t 50% of them be female?

    Why don’t we expect gender riots when Clinton gets scoured by the press and Obama gets an easy ride?


  18. Anonymous Says:

    That said, Ted, will you vote for him in the general election, not vote at all, or vote republican with Nader?

    Mind you I’m in the same boat. I’m not that fond of him, but I’ll vote for him. However if Hillary gets it I’ll just stay home.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    We should all be rioting in the streets right now for what has transpired since 2000.
    Could this be the straw that breaks the proverbial camels back?
    I hope so.

  20. Angelo Says:

    anon, riots suck.

  21. Eric Xodik Says:

    If the self-centered narcissists who adorn Obama bumper stickers on their SUV’s are any indication of what his constituency is like…we know there will be a lot of bad drivers who don’t use turn signals and constantly talk on cell phones while they drive… hitting the streets of Denver demanding CHANGE and HOPE!

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