For Democratic leaders, it’s time to pick a side and stand by it

Eighteen months after the campaign for their nomination started, Democrats around the country and the state are starting to get antsy.

  • Wednesday, May 14, 2008 12:00am
  • Opinion

Eighteen months after the campaign for their nomination started, Democrats around the country and the state are starting to get antsy.

Since Sen. Barack Obama’s runaway victory in the North Carolina primary and Sen. Hillary Clinton’s inability to run away with the Indiana vote, even the punidtry and talking heads that dominate editorial pages and Sunday morning talk shows have started discussing the end game for the Democrats.

Two weeks ago, for example, Washington State Democratic Party Chairman Dan Pelz issued a statement urging the state’s “superdelegates” to pick sides and help end what is becoming a bloody battle between titans.

“It’s time for us to end this,” Pelz told the New York Daily News following Clinton’s win in the Pennsylvanian primary. “The candidates are tearing each other apart, and it’s not good for the party. I think we need to have a candidate.”

However, in true Washingtonian fashion, Pelz himself refuses to pick a side, responding to a reporter’s question this way:

“He does not think it’s fair for the chair of the state party to take sides while we’re still in the progress of choosing delegates.”

Actually, Pelz had a spokesperson issue that statement, rather than actually responding to the reporter himself.

But that sounds about right to me and helps to explain why we can’t seem to get anything even remotely controversial or difficult passed in this state: Our leadership is scared to take a stand for fear of it either being unpopular or turning out to be wrong. Instead they punt everything back to the voters.

I suppose it is understandable to want to wait before declaring your loyalty to a candidate. After all, aligning oneself with one candidate can potentially have political repercussions.

Decided earlier?

But one would have to think that each of the Washington state superdelegates – made up of elected officials and party leaders – cast a ballot in the Washington Democratic Caucus back in February. Surely they made a decision then and isn’t their role as both voters and superdelegates to pick the candidate they think can best do the job?

For whom did you vote on Feb. 22, Mr. Pelz? Then isn’t that candidate your choice?

Since last week, superdelegates from around the country have started finally falling into place. Most finally seem convinced that Obama has secured the vast majority of pledged delegates (through votes and caucuses), though the Washington undecideds – including the party chairman who is urging them to make a decision – are not among the names finally picking sides.

And as it has been pointed out, superdelegates can change their mind any times, so unlike the Kentucky Derby (in which Hillary compared herself to, Eight Bells, the filly that raced hard, but came in second to Big Brown and then had to be euthanized on the track), it’s OK to switch up your bet at the finish line.

But then again, in my time in Washington, this seems to be a chronic problem. Leaders in this state continually find new and unusual ways to punt, to get out of making decisions.

Few officials in this state want to stick their neck out on any kind of controversial issue.

We elect people to make those hard choices. Please make them. If we don’t likethem, we’ll let you know in November. That’s how the system is supposed to work.

So please, we’re finally almost done with this thing for the year, please Mr. Pelz, stop telling your people to pick a side and pick one yourself.

You are in a leadership position, please lead.

Brian Beckley can be reached at 253-826-3260, ext. 5052, or brian.beckley@sumnerreporter.com.

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