LOS ANGELES – Barack Obama is right.
Hillary Clinton should stay in the race for the presidency as long as she wants, meaning at least until someone wins. Which, it should be noted, hasn’t happened yet.
A few things to note.
First, the chorus of people calling for Hillary to withdraw is comprised exclusively of people who support her opponent.
Of course they have every right to voice their opinions, as they have, but telling her she should pull out because she’s 1 percent or 100 or so delegates behind. But given that their own candidate has yet to win, or persuade, a sufficient number of delegates to claim a majority, let’s not mistake such calls for a high-minded moral position.
It’s trying to win by default. I don’t blame Obama’s supporters for trying to win any way they can, but the pros in the press should not confuse this with anything other than the tactical move it is.
Second, imagine the positions were reversed.
Imagine for just a moment that Hillary was 1 percent or 100-something delegates ahead, but had yet to win or persuade the requisite 2024 required for victory. And imagine people like me were getting on our high horses and demanding that Obama get out of the race.
Do you have any idea what my email would look like? The names we’d be called? I do, and they wouldn’t be pretty.
Which brings me to my third point. The race will be over when it’s over. Not sooner and not later.
Over means one of the candidates can produce a list which includes the 2024 delegates who will be voting for him, or her, at the convention, a list that the media can then cross-check, as they will, and the other camp can dispute, if they can.
When I see such a list, and when somebody who has more staff members than I do can confirm that yes, they’ve checked the numbers on the pledged delegates and double checked individually with all the superdelegates and it in fact totals 2024, then I’ll be happy to add my congratulations to everyone else’s and get on the bus, and urge anyone else who isn’t on it to hop aboard.
For all the talk of a brokered convention, the reality is that two people are running, two people are collecting delegates, and people who have been elected as delegates have an obligation to choose between those two people.
They can do it sooner, as many have, or later, as some have chosen to do, but waiting until the convention itself does a disservice to the candidate they ultimately select, along with the one they don’t.
Television networks may benefit from fights at conventions, from real suspense instead of a well-orchestrated television show, but there is very ample evidence, and frankly, none to the contrary, to suggest that the party and the nominee do not benefit.
I polled this issue many times during my campaign days and the result was always the same: If you can’t run your party, that is, run your convention, why should you be chosen to run the country; if you can’t win the support of the party faithful, the die-hards who cover themselves with hats and buttons and balloons, you’re not going to win the support of the people at home watching.
There will be a time for the elders and the talking heads and whoever else has a pulpit to speak from to announce that the winner has won and the loser has lost and the race should be over.
That day will come, but it hasn’t come yet, and it is ultimately not a sign of strength but weakness to think that the only way your candidate can win is by default.
Fortunately, Senator Obama himself seems to know that. His supporters might do well to follow his lead.
Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California. She was Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the first woman President of the Harvard Law Review. She is a columnist for Creators Syndicate and has written for USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.
Estrich's books include the just published "Soulless," "The Case for Hillary Clinton," "How to Get Into Law School," "Sex & Power," "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women."
She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel, in addition to writing the "Blue Streak" column for FOXNews.com.