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Watch out for Spring Break, Democrats

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On March 11th, Spring Break begins. That's the day when that deepest of Deep South states, Mississippi, holds its primary. There are no more votes in the Democratic race for six whole weeks, until April 22nd, when Pennsylvania chimes in. (The Republicans do have a caucus in the Virgin Islands during that period, but their race will probably already be decided by then.) After that, there's a vote every week or two. Seven more states still have to weigh in, with the Democratic race ending in Puerto Rico on June 7th.

Currently, by most counts, Obama leads Clinton by around 60 delegates. The way the polls are looking now in the upcoming states, that margin will probably be closer when Spring Break begins. More likely than not Obama will still be ahead, but either way it will be very close.

And then -- six weeks without a vote. Can you imagine? Think about how the endless punditry and horseracing festers after only a few days without a fresh result. Six weeks ought to be enough for the professional blabs on T.V. to have their mouths fall off, exposing the vacuums inside their heads. We can only hope.

It could get pretty ugly. You think the battle for the superdelegates is intense now? Wait until that's the ONLY battle running.

But don't forget -- this is BEFORE all the voters get their say.  Now, it's one thing when somebody runs away with the nomination, and some states don't get to influence the outcome.  That's too bad, but at least it makes sense.  But it makes no sense at all to say, in the rare case where a race is close enough and exciting enough that it's going to go all the way down to the wire, with every last state in the balance, that we STILL have to wrap it up early somehow.

Yet during Spring Break -- you mark my words -- the pressure within the Democratic Party to "resolve" this thing -- that is, to preempt the people and prevent the final eight states from having an impact -- will reach unbearable levels. Both candidates will be trying to stampede it in their favor. (I would say all three, but I don't see too much of an opening for a Mike Gravel stampede.) Some superdelegates will be talking about resolving this thing quickly, others will be holding out. The rival camps will be behaving about as well as drunken teenagers in Palm Springs. The corporate media will be in full blather mode, pollsters will be endlessly redoing upcoming states (mostly Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina), but no one will be voting. Just talking. And after a while, the talk will start to stink like a fetid swamp.

Above all, during Spring Break the nonsense about how a prolonged fight for the nomination will hurt the Democratic party will get overwhelming. And it IS nonsense. We haven't had down-to-the-convention nomination fights in a long time, but back when it used to happen regularly, it didn't hurt a party or its nominee. Otherwise, Polk, Pierce, Lincoln, Garfield, Wilson, Harding, and Eisenhower, among others, would never have been presidents.

The most modern example, Eisenhower, had to battle Robert Taft (son of President William Howard Taft) all the way to the end of the first ballot and beyond at the 1952 Republican convention. While the history books will tell you Eisenhower picked up the nomination on the first ballot, they don't always mention that he was actually a little short after all the states had voted. Then some delegates clamored to change their votes and put Eisenhower over the top. Technically this was still the first ballot. That's how close it was.

Taft was much more conservative than General Eisenhower, the hero of the Congressional right. It was a battle for the soul of the G.O.P. (Picture Newt Gingrich versus Colin Powell.) And the right-wingers lost. It was one of the closest, bitterest and most bruising head-to-head nomination contests in American history, much nastier than Clinton-Obama is so far. Eisenhower went on to win by a landslide in the general election, the first Republican presidential victory in 24 years.

So, no -- you don't need to wrap up a nomination fight quickly "for the good of the party." It's the party insiders who don't want to let the people get too uppity who get nervous when these things go on "too long." We the People don't need to be told when we have to make up our minds. We just need the right to have our votes count.

The fact remains, six weeks is a long time between votes. Spring break never lasted that long when I was in school. And the kids knew better than to campaign for student council during a vacation. But these guys don't know what a vacation is.

So get out your Easter eggs. It's gonna be a long, hot spring.

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Michael Lubin served on the first democratically elected governing board in the history of KPFA, the nation's oldest listener-sponsored radio station. There, he was a founding member of the pro-democracy listeners' (more...)

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