If the future of the Democratic Party is in a “multicultural” generation of young Americans, as party chairman Howard Dean told gatherers at a fundraiser Tuesday, why are Democrats now in danger of having their candidate selected by the whim of a few hundred white guys?

That’s the finding of a February Politico study: Of the 795 superdelegates that could have a major influence on a narrowly pided 2008 Democratic primary, almost half are white males, while only 28 percent of the primary electorate belongs to this group.

Let me be clear that I don’t suspect there is a backroom “good ol’ boys” oligarchy running the Democratic Party — Mr. Dean may exaggerate when he says our nation’s youth has “no future” in the Republican Party, but at least measured by delegate counts, young Democrats certainly have a better chance of representing their party than their Republican counterparts.

But the extreme disconnect between the superdelegates and those they supposedly represent points to how poorly the party lives up to its name in the nomination process. What is needed is not quotas, nor binding superdelegates to the majority of votes, but the total rejection of a reactionary process that does nothing to inspire young people to get involved.

Democratic superdelegates were put in place in 1982 to give back more control to party leaders, backpedaling on the lessons learned from the 1968 primary, in which the nomination of Hubert Humphrey over the strongly anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy led to rioting. Humphrey’s loss in the general election showed veteran party leaders that maybe picking the safe candidate isn’t the answer, and they might as well bow to Democratic voters at large. But when this failed to bring a Democratic reign either, the party cried foul and brought in the superdelegates.

But it’s unclear how this helped anyone, as the process was changed yet again in 1988, allowing Democrats in Congress to choose 80 percent of superdelegates members. Thus, the votes go to established party leaders and their friends, who not surprisingly favor party leaders and their friends in casting their delegate votes.

Case in point: This year, while superdelegates are slowly moving toward delegate leader Sen. Barack Obama, elder stateswoman Sen. Hillary Clinton still holds the lead. Even in Madison’s 2nd Congressional District, where voters favored Mr. Obama by a 2-1 margin, Rep. Tammy Baldwin remains committed to Ms. Clinton.

Mr. Dean has repeatedly warned that a brokered convention would be disastrous for a party that desperately needs to show it can be a unified force, after failing to make good on its optimistic promises upon gaining control of Congress. If Democrats cannot swiftly select and back a nominee, a repeat of the 1968 election could be at hand, and the surge of youth optimism in politics could collapse in a moment.

Tuesday, Mr. Dean said the Democratic candidates offer a vision of the changing face of America. “When you look at the candidates on our side who stood up and debated, people under 30 … looked at that lineup of our candidates and said, ‘That looks like us in 20 years,’” Mr. Dean said. He contrasted this with the Republican Party, which he said looks straight out of “1950s television.”

Let’s hope come Aug. 25, young Democrats don’t see a repeat of 1968, where the lasting image was not of a leader breaking down barriers for American politics, but of disenfranchised youth breaking down police barricades.

Tim Williams ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in English.