The Chicago Tribune bemoans the lack of a powerful Democratic party elder who can end the Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton contest. Where are the Clark Cliffords, the Sam Rayburns, the W. Averell Harrimans who advised presidents and stepped in to marshal party disputes? Instead, Democrats have the likes of Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Howard Dean and, well, Bill Clinton.

The Tribune makes some good points about the democratization of the primary process and how that has helped to end the days of kingmakers. But the article doesn’t mention what I think may be the most important truth: superdelegates are the modern kingmakers, the elder statesmen, the grand poohbahs. It’s just that the power which used to rest with a few party insiders now rests with 793 of them. It’s diffuse power, but it’s still there. A decision will be made without significant chaos. It’ll just take a few more months.

And is that really so bad? I don’t get these breathless concerns that the Democratic primary process might actually extend through the entire primary season. Jeez, we wouldn’t want too much democracy, would we? Obama and Clinton are tough enough to handle this, even if it occasionally gets a little nasty. So what if one or both of them sustain some damage in the process, they’re still taking the focus far off John McCain and keeping the news outlets talking about Democratic themes and Democratic policies. I think a vibrant race is good for the party; you can’t buy this kind of nonstop coverage.

Then, when it’s time for someone to step aside, the superdelegates, with their kingmaker power, will decide who wins, the convention will happen and the party will refit the hatchets with McCain’s name. It’s not pure democracy but it’s a lot more democratic than a Sam Rayburn type telling one of the candidates to step aside. Democrats should stop hoping for a quick, brokered end to this race and start embracing the limelight Obama and Clinton are generating.

Politics Democrats Shouldn’t Worry About Length of Campaign