National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: The Inevitable Convention Fight

We knew this was going to happen. With Sen. Hillary Clinton’s double-digit victory in Pennsylvania Tuesday, there is now no conceivable way that the Democratic nomination is going to be wrapped up before the Democratic National Convention in Denver in late August.

It makes no difference whether it will be good for the Democratic Party to have the process extended to that point or not. It’s going to happen, and that’s that.

The more undecided so-called “super-delegates” feel pressured to get this over with sooner rather than later, the more they’re likely to get their dander up and stubbornly insist on their right to take their sweet time. And well they should. It’s a free country.

Why are people getting so upset at letting the political process play itself out the way that’s allowed for in this wonderful democracy?

What is happening is great for the American people and for the country. The Democratic campaigns are now attracting the attention of a prime time hit TV series and what could be better than for every political debate and speech to drive home points about the need for universal health care, economic revitalization and other critical issues that Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama talk about every day?

Party leaders are getting nervous and they shouldn’t be. Also, media pundits are getting tired and running out of things to say. When you’ve got to fill 24 hours a day with poignant commentary, you’d prefer a little more variety in what you cover, or otherwise you wind up repeating your limited knowledge too much. Even those who love the sound of their own voices the most get bored and caught in verbal loops. All the “what if” talk becomes tedious and irrelevant. There are no Brittany Spears or Paris Hiltons in this presidential campaign, after all. Bummer.

A friend with a condominium in downtown Denver told me that everyone who lives and works in the area around the Pepsi Center has already been notified by the local police that a tight security perimeter may be required, seriously limiting access during the Democratic convention, which runs from August 23 to 28.

Insofar as the nomination will still be up in the air, you can expect that MoveOn.org and other activist groups will be turning out the unwashed masses to subject that area to maybe the biggest mass demonstrations since the legendary Democratic convention of 1968 in Chicago.

If the “candidate of choice” of those demonstrators winds up being denied the nomination at the convention, it could get ugly, even as well as security has been improved at such events over the years. Fun, fun, fun.

It will all also be enhanced by the extent to which the recession has deepened by then, although it may be too soon for its full impact to be felt. Higher gas prices over the summer, more layoffs, and sharply rising food and basic goods prices could add a lot of edge to the demonstrations as well.

It appears that the best advice is to batten down the hatches. Unless the recession trend line somehow miraculously reversed fast, the impact of economic contraction and the rising oil and gas prices, just beginning to be felt in the pocketbooks of ordinary Americans now, will define the political landscape for the rest of the year, and potentially beyond.

The Obama campaign has been animated by a lot of teen spirit and color-balloon idealism up until recently, but Democratic voters are going to drive it with a lot of angst and anger as the economy begins to tip downward like a jumbo jet preparing to crash.

A chaotic Democratic convention, an economy in the ground, mass unrest, these are all on our horizon as virtually inevitable.

It should not be the task of responsible leaders to attempt aborting or suppressing this irreversible process, but to guide and manage it to the best eventual outcome.

One thing also seems clear. It is going to involve regime change in November. Because of the recession, a Democrat will win. So it is less important in the next couple months to try to dictate an early decision on which Democratic candidate becomes the nominee, than it is to lay the groundwork for navigating the process between the convention and the November election.