The American people are the ultimate – and enviable – victors in the hard-fought Democratic nomination process, says Alan Wolfe:
After last week’s Indiana and North Carolina primaries, Obama has all but won the nomination — but democracy has been the real winner of the process. According to the Associated Press, 3.5 million newly registered voters appeared during the 2008 primaries, including unusually large numbers of women and African Americans.
Turnout reached historic highs in many Democratic primaries; indeed, more Democrats turned out this week in both North Carolina and Indiana than voted for Sen. John F. Kerry in those states in 2004. Both Clinton and Obama raised more money during a single month than most candidates in previous elections raised during the entire primary season. Moreover, the bulk of that money came from small donors; in fact, 1.5 million individuals, an unprecedented number, contributed to the Obama campaign. By every measure of individual interest in politics, this campaign has grabbed the public’s attention.
Even two major factors that should have made the contest less democratic somehow wound up helping. The first is the role of those unelected "superdelegates." Despite Obama’s convincing win in North Carolina and impressive performance in Indiana, neither candidate can win at the convention in Denver by racking up a majority of the primary and caucus voters; afraid of contests like the one we have just been having, party officials created a process in which they would have a major voice in deciding a close race. But even though the final choice rests in the hands of office holders and party professionals, few expect the superdelegates to override the choice of the voters; in fact, some high-profile Clinton supporters defected to Obama to respond to the will of constituents. To act as an independent agent would be to ignore the views of the citizens — something that most superdelegates are simply not prepared to do.
That’s the best reason for Mrs. Clinton to stay in the race until the very end, although the fact that she would make a better president doesn’t hurt either.