A Warning to Our Superdelegates

After a week in which the Clinton campaign has sunk yet further into the gutter with its aggressive manipulation of Geraldine Ferraro's mad comments, the time feels about right to send a clear message to our superdelegates, specifically those whom we elect to public office. To start with, they need to understand that a growing number of us will not vote for Hillary Clinton in the fall. It is not only that we disagree with her on issues: some of us, perhaps, could get over her cynical support of the Iraq war in the name of party unity. What has put us over the edge is her scorched earth, morally corrupt campaign of race, religion and gender-baiting: power built on this premise is by definition depraved, and we want no part of it.

Probably more importantly for the superdelegates, they are not immune to our judgment, as a majority of them are elected officials. For progressive Democrats, in particular, it is increasingly unseemly for them to stand by as the Clinton campaign resorts to techniques that would have made Jesse Helms blush 20 years ago. It is no longer good enough for them to be undecided, or, far worse, to support Clinton's bid. Superdelegates are free to use their independent judgment, they like to say, and we are free to take that decision into account at the next opportunity, whether in a general election or, more likely, in a congressional or gubernatorial primary.

In New York, where it may have been understandable early on that a majority of the superdelegates would support Clinton, that time has passed. If it's good enough for civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a former staunch Clinton ally, to change his support to Barack Obama ("I want to be on the side of the people, I want to be on the side of history"), it's certainly good enough for Rep.s Gregory Meeks, Yvette Clarke, and Ed Towns to do so. If Jerry Nadler, Jose Serrano, Nydia Velazquez, Maurice Hinchey, Louise Slaughter and Carolyn Maloney are anywhere near as progressive as they like to say, they will reject the hateful rhetoric coming from the Clinton campaign and switch. As he is about to become Governor of New York, David Paterson now has a far more visible moral responsibility to do the right thing and disavow his support for Clinton, whether or not Rep. Charlie Rangel likes it. That would be one way for Paterson to distance himself from Gov Eliot Spitzer's appropriately tawdry Clintonian downfall.

Of course, it is not only in New York that pro-Clinton superdelegates' support hasn't wavered enough. In California alone, there are a dozen normally staunch left-wingers who continue to support Clinton. We expect Maxine Waters to earn her "most corrupt" in Congress badge by endorsing Iraq-warmongering Clinton while agitating for the Out of Iraq caucus. But Sen Barbara Boxer, Reps Lynn Woolsey, Doris Matsui, Diane Watson, Hilda Solis, Loretta Sanchez, Brad Sherman, and Laura Richardson? What is their excuse?

Florida is once again an electoral mess, and in no small part, this is due to the lack of leadership by its Congressional delegation, who had more than ample opportunity to make sure that its state abide by the DNC primary rules (as did Clinton, who has now changed her mind in a characteristically twisted last ditch effort). As it happens, a majority of Florida's Democratic members of Congress support Clinton, including all three African-American Representatives, Kendrick Meek, Corrine Brown and Alcee Hastings (they are not a particularly appealing group to begin with, and are not doing themselves any favors with this particular position), as well as Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a rising star who will only rise so far after severely alienating more than half the Democratic party.

Others' steadfast support for Clinton is even more baffling: Sen.s Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington; Reps Diane DeGette of Colorado, Norm Dicks of Washington, Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Donald Payne of New Jersey, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas; Govs John Baldacci of Maine, Martin O'Malley of Maryland, Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Ted Kulongoski of Oregon. These are all elected progressives who would normally be horrified at the prospect of an openly race-baiting campaign. But here they are, happily going along as the Clintons destroy everything they supposedly believe in.

Particular scorn is reserved for Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a perfect surrogate for Clinton in Ohio, who declared that she had "no problem" with Obama wearing "the native clothing [...] of his country." It is hard to tell if this came from a place of utter ignorance (Tubbs Jones is hardly the brightest bulb in Congress) or of cynicism, always the most likely explanation when dealing with the Clintons and their posse.

There are many others who bizarrely remain on the fence in the face of a coarsening campaign: what are they waiting for? For the Clintons to completely rend the Democratic Party for their own political and financial gain? The list of undecided superdelegates is far too long under the circumstances, and shockingly includes such liberal stalwarts as Reps Pete Stark, Mike Honda, Sam Farr, Lois Capps, Howard Berman, Henry Waxman, Bob Filner, Susan Davis of California, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Niki Tsongas, John Tierney, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Mel Watt of North Carolina, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Jim McDermott of Washington, Sens Tom Harkin of Iowa, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Carl Levin of Michigan, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin.

Then there are those who are seeking a promotion to the Senate: Reps Mark Udall of Colorado, Tom Allen of Maine and Tom Udall of New Mexico. Bet-hedging is over for them, and if they are interested in our votes and contributions, they know what to do.

And where are Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Bill Richardson, Jim Clyburn, Joe Biden? For that matter, where is John Edwards, not a superdelegate, but certainly a great influencer? It is no longer good enough for these leaders to send coded messages about their support for Obama: we need a full-throated endorsement and an equally loud denunciation of the vileness that is occurring.

None of these elected officials can go for long without being irremediably tainted by the growing stain that is the Clinton campaign. None of them is sheltered from our electoral judgment, whether it be this November or later. And it is time they knew it.

Highlighted names are linked to the relevant contact information. The full list of current superdelegate endorsements is here.