Many of my fellow Democrats are way too uptight about the presidential nomination possibly being decided in a smoke-filled room in Denver this August. Except for the smoke, which is bad for everybody's health, that would be the best thing that could happen to the party and its candidate.
Think back four years. John Kerry and John Edwards were battling it out for the nomination. Both were doing well in the polls. The emphasis was on Democratic ideas. George Bush couldn't get a word in edgewise. Those were the days.
Then Kerry sewed up the nomination, and the entire right-wing smear machine kicked in. They took a certified war hero, put him up against a guy whose dad bought his way out of Vietnam and painted the war hero as cowardly and soft on terrorism.
Sure, there will be some pushing and shoving between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but it's the kind of rivalry that happens between brothers and sisters. I guarantee you that sewing up the nomination won't put an end to the attacks. It will just mean that the attacks will be coming from John McCain and his surrogates.
The attacks, in other words, will be meaner, harder and more vicious.
Right now, there's a check on how hard Obama and Clinton can go after each other. If one goes too far, rank-and-file Democrats will snap back to the other side (just ask Geraldine Ferraro). Keeping the nomination in doubt keeps the right-wing smear-mongers at bay.
And just think about the pure drama of a convention that actually means something!
The media have all but stopped covering national conventions because they've become boring set pieces, devoid of any real decisions or controversies. I went to the Democratic National Convention in 2004, and, besides getting some really good seafood in Boston, the point of my being there was to fill out the backdrop for a few speeches.
Conventions have become places where nothing ever happens.
Like it or not, we live in a reality television world. What would make better reality TV than a real fight for the nomination? A contested convention would draw tens of millions of viewers and create real excitement.
I have no concerns that the superdelegates will pick the wrong candidate. I'm with Obama, who is likely to win the most popular votes cast in the primaries as well as the greatest number of delegates selected by primary and caucuses.
The superdelegates are mostly politicians in their own right, many of whom are also on the ballot this fall. In the end, they'll make the best practical political choice.
In all likelihood, that will be Barack Obama. He's more electable, carries less baggage than Clinton and is less toxic to the GOP base.
And if something does come up between now and then that casts that into question, we can have a real discussion of who will make the best candidate based on what we know in August. I'll be happy to support whomever comes out of that process. So will most Democrats.
Going into their first conventions, no one was sure that Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy would be their party's nominee. To some extent those conventions were decided by insiders amid all kinds of give and take.
I, for one, kind of like the way those nomination processes turned out.
So let the Democratic summer begin.
Dave Cieslewicz is mayor of Madison.