Shankar Vedantam, writing in the Washington Post, says yes. I say no. First, Vedentam:
The fault line in this dilemma -- the interests of a candidate pitted against the collective interest of his or her party -- shows up in many economic and political domains and is sometimes called the "tragedy of the commons." ... Pulling out of the race means giving up your dream -- when you think you are the better choice. Staying in risks collective disaster.The Democratic primary may share some of the same characteristics as a tragedy of the commons, but it's fundamentally not a tragedy of the commons. For a tragedy of the commons to occur, there must be unrestricted access to a finite resource. In this case, the finite resource is the Democratic nomination. It follows that if either Hillary or Obama's access to the nomination can be restricted, then the primary is not a tragedy of the commons. Can Hillary or Obama's access to the nomination be restricted? Yes. The superdelegates -- who by definition represent the party's interests -- can restrict either candidate's access to the nomination. At this point, neither candidate can realistically win enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination before the convention. But the superdelegates can hand the nomination to Obama today. To clinch the nomination, you need 2,024 delegates. Obama currently has 1,729 delegates, so he needs 295 more delegates to clinch the nomination. And it just so happens that there are currently 295 uncommitted superdelegates. (The superdelegates could also effectively hand the nomination to Hillary, but she'd still have to win a few more pledged delegates to make it official.) The superdelegates thus have control over access to the Democratic nomination. In fact, I suspect that the superdelegates' ability to hand one candidate the nomination and end the primary has kept Hillary and Obama's campaigns from being even more slash-and-burn than they've been already. Both campaigns are actively courting superdelegates, so neither campaign can do anything so damaging to the party that the superdelegates won't vote for them. I know it seems like the Democratic primary is so vicious that it's irreparably harming the party's chances in the fall, but just imagine how much worse it would be if neither campaign had to woo superdelegates who have a vested interest in the party's success.