The Democratic Party should bring the presidential nomination battle to a conclusion as soon as possible. The fairest, most decisive way to do that is to move its convention from the end of August to the end of June.
Why? Although Sen. Barack Obama won impressively in North Carolina and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton just managed to hang on in Indiana, the back and forth between them could last through the final primary on June 3. Unless Senator Obama reaches the 2,025 delegates needed to win outright, the bitter campaign just might continue into the summer, with deleterious results for the eventual nominee. It is far better for the party to end with finality the potential for mischief and dirty tricks in this nominating contest, from both within and outside the party.
Arithmetic is against her, but Senator Clinton so far shows no inclination to bow out. As she said when claiming victory in Indiana Tuesday night, "it's full speed on to the White House." While that may be hyperbole, there is a plausible rationale for her to soldier on. She has strong grass-roots support, isn't that far behind in delegates, and can still try to lay moral and procedural claim to those unseated delegates in Michigan and Florida.
Moving the convention to June 28-July 1 allows each candidate to compete in remaining primaries yet avoids self-destructively extending the battle. It also allows the Democrats to end with a patriotic flourish, as the convention concludes just before July 4.
Instead, some are now urging uncommitted superdelegates to settle the matter. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has suggested that a conclave of superdelegates convene. However, the best way to heal wounds would be for the party as a whole to decide and force the losing candidate into an early call for unity. This would give the loser's supporters time to recuperate and be brought on board. And it would avoid the appearance that a cabal of party leaders illegitimately decided the issue through backroom deals.
An earlier convention would also force the remaining 270 or so uncommitted superdelegates to decide sooner rather than later, stripping them of undue influence. It could produce a presumptive nominee by late May.
Such a move, of course, could be a logistical nightmare, and it would be a sharp break with tradition. However, Denver's Pepsi Center – the convention site – is available for late June. And logistical problems pale next to the possibility of forfeiting the presidency because of continued internecine strife. The late August convention is an anachronism and a heavy albatross around the party's neck.
Meanwhile, as Democrats spend fortunes to pick a nominee, Sen. John McCain's so-called Straight Talk Express rumbles along. Stretching out an unsettled Democratic contest merely gives him a free pass – and a major fundraising advantage – to reprise classic Republican dirty tricks by painting his opponents as weak on national security.
Times have changed and so has the primary calendar. For many years, most delegates have been chosen by the voters. But the date of the convention is just where it's always been, months after the last polls close. It's time for the Democratic National Committee and chairman Howard Dean to show leadership. Move the convention to late June and put the party in the best position to end the tragic foreign and domestic legacy of George W. Bush. Let the roll call begin!