February 14, 2008

Primarily Worried

As the campaigns wear on, it appears more likely that neither Clinton nor Obama will get the required number of pledged delegates (2025) needed to win the Democratic nomination.

Obama supporters are worried about two looming possibilities.

Florida and Michigan

Will Clinton push to have the excluded delegates from Michigan and Florida counted? These states were stripped of their delegates when they violated the party's wishes and decided to hold their primaries early. The votes counted there are tainted by the knowledge that they would be ignored, which kept some people at home. No campaigning (technically) happened in those states, and Clinton was the majority choice in both places.

Of course, the present situation reveals the stupidity of deciding not to vote because you think your vote doesn't count. You are so infrequently asked for your official opinion on anything that it behooves you to be counted. On that basis, I would almost agree that those delegates should be counted, because some people did make the effort to vote, and if some stayed home it's their own damn fault. A hell of a way to choose a president, but there you are.

The reason I cannot support the counting of those delegates, however, is that the candidates agreed not to campaign in those states. Clinton clearly had enormous name recognition, which Obama has been working against in what has been an uphill but ultimately surmountable battle. So, people in those states voted without the candidates having benefit of campaigning there, at the specific request of the DNC. Counting them now would be equivalent to the DNC just saying "screw the voting, we pick Hillary" because they created the situation.

Superdelegates

Apart from the Florida and Michigan situations (BTW, thanks, Democratic Committees of Florida and Michigan) there is the role of superdelegates. President Clinton has been lobbying these Democratic movers and shakers very heavily. If they break for Hillary, they could erase his lead in the pledged delegates and hand the nomination to Hillary.

In the past I've told people there's no way the superdelegates would go against a lead in pledged delegates. My reasoning was that this would cause a suicidal division in the party, and perhaps professional repercussions for the superdelegates themselves. But I've worried on and off that I was wrong, and had to be reassured by folks like Brian Igo. If the lead in pledged delegates is ignored, with the whole country watching, the DNC may as well hand the presidency to McCain. If Hillary is the most popular candidate, I think she could win. But if she uses the superdelegates, the echoes of 2000 will be far too strong. Disillusionment will reign in the ranks of progressive democrats.

Earlier, I worried that the DNC might consider Senator Obama unelectable. The last couple of weeks have erased that worry. I think he's more electable than Senator Clinton. The DNC won't be able to make that case, if that's what they think as well.

What Is It Good For?

Which leads me to wonder, what the heck are the superdelegates for if not to break close races like this? It is just outdated? Nowadays, the whole world is watching the numbers, and with superdelegates apparently unpledged and seemingly uncounted by the news media, they can only swoop in at the end to either support the popular candidate or tell the majority of voting democrats that they have their heads up their asses -- it's our party and you can cry if you want to.

This is why I was hoping for a more clear lead. The more obvious the lead, the less the chance of shenanigans.

Am I still just worried about something that's never going to happen? The New York Times today acknowledged that these possibilities are being considered. Clinton aides are already working up a story for the superdelegates going against the vote count, saying that caucuses shouldn't be given the same respect and the same weight as a popular vote; of course, Obama had a lot of support in states with caucuses.

What do you think? If Clinton comes out ahead in delegates, this problem goes away. But assuming that Obama is the popular pledged delegate leader when this process is over, what then? If you're a Clinton supporter, what would you like to see happen? Let the superdelegates decide? how do people in caucus states feel about having their caucuses disrespected compared to the primaries in other states?

Posted by James at February 14, 2008 9:31 AM
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Comments

I heard that Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan. If those votes are counted for anything it will be a travesty.

Posted by: Mike at February 14, 2008 10:00 AM

I think the superdelegates' votes are as valid as anyone elses', or at least their validity isn't any less now than usual. Although I might not like the way they could sway things, I actually think it would be more of a travesty if all those Clinton-loving supers switched to Obama just because we like him better, just as I think it's a travesty for anyone else to vote for someone only because "everyone else is doing it."

It's like when someone misses what would have been the "winning" goal in some sports event. Often this person is blamed for losing the game. Sorry, no, it's no more that person's fault than every other team member who failed to score that one extra goal. Somehow, if you're the last person to be in possession of the ball, people want to pin the entire loss on you, even though the other players had their chance too.

So I won't blame the superdelegates if Obama loses because they cast the votes they've been saying they would cast all along. I'll blame anyone who finds themselves now wishing they voted differently before. Or I won't blame anyone, as long as it appears that the votes were counted accurately.

Anyway, if I'm not mistaken, isn't it still possible that the weird Texas primary/caucus thing could still tip the scale beyond the superdelegates' influence?

Posted by: Julie at February 14, 2008 10:34 AM
I think the superdelegates' votes are as valid as anyone elses', or at least their validity isn't any less now than usual.

They're supervalid, and that's the problem. And with that power does come the knowledge that they can go against the popular vote. And that there will be consequences to the party. If that makes their votes less valid naturally, then it's a natural consequence of the system.

What good is power if you don't use it? That's an interesting question. Is it power if you can't use it, or if the cost is prohibitive?

Posted by: James at February 14, 2008 10:58 AM

Beyond the superdelegates influence? Probably not. Hillary Clinton needs to win between 57-60% of the remaining delegates to catch up to Obama's total, not counting superdelegates.

Tallying the popular vote makes more sense than this antiquated nonsense.

Posted by: Mike at February 14, 2008 10:58 AM

If party hackery (seating the Michigan and Florida delgates, party hack superdelegates annointing Clinton) decides the nominee rather than actual voting, then the Democratic party will have clearly said they don't want my vote - and they will never get it, in any election, ever again.

Hillary would sooner destroy the party than give up her power within it. Remember, she and Bill were part of the original DLC - who's sole mission it was to moe the party to the right and isolate and marginalize progressives. She's not going to see her life's work go up in flames just because Democratic voters are actually, you know, progressive.

Posted by: David Grenier at February 14, 2008 11:51 AM

moveon.org has a petition that they're trying to get published in USA today, you can sign it (I did):
http://pol.moveon.org/superdelegates/o.pl?id=12133-4049770-C3Iwxp&t=314

The petition is for the superdelegates to support the will of the people.

I heard James Carvill interviewed on Larry King (I actually heard it on "Larry King last night," on the radio this morning:

Larry King: "James, if Hillary loses Texas or Ohio, is it over?"

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, CLINTON SUPPORTER: "Yes. Simply put. I think that..."

People started laughing then... it's just the way he talks, I wish I could link to a video of it, it was funny.

But, well, I hope so. And I hope she loses one of those states. I really want it to be clear, because the threat of Florida and Michigan is very upsetting. If Obama's in the lead in regular delegates and the superdelegates put Hillary as the candidate, I might write in Obama and screw this country for another four years.

Posted by: Maggie at February 14, 2008 1:23 PM

It would seem to me that there is a simple solution for the Florida and Michigan primaries. Have them again. Say in a month, so that both campaigns have a chance to get there.

If they want to count them they absolutely have to have them vote again to give eberybody who didn't think it would count a chance to vote.

Oh and they should hang the dingbats that lost them their delegates in the 1st place.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at February 14, 2008 1:29 PM

I signed the petition. I usually don't follow up on those MoveOn notices, but this one I feel strongly about.

Posted by: James at February 14, 2008 1:49 PM

I don't think the SDs are "as valid" because each gives a single person power equivalent to a major city or more. How many delegates did North Dakota have? 13? So, the Governor of New Jersey is as important in deciding this thing as 1/13th of North Dakota? I don't think so. I might argue that he is less valid.

Posted by: briwei at February 14, 2008 2:11 PM

When I asked about Texas, I was asking if the result could tip it far enough in Obama's favor to render the superdelegates irrelevant. I'm quite aware that it could allow Clinton to even up the popular vote, but that's not what I want.

Edwards also has some regular delegates who haven't committed yet. It's only a few, but with the race so tight, an Obama endorsement from Edwards would be helpful.

Romney just endorsed McCain, no doubt hoping for a VP slot. If McCain lets him have that, he can kiss goodbye any hope of winning the general election, whether he's running against Clinton, Obama, or Britney Spears, because Romney just can't stop saying stupid things. Frankly, I'm not sure there's any running mate who can't hurt McCain in some big way.

On the other hand, any serious attempt from the Clinton campaign to get those MI and FL delegates without a revote (funded by whom??) will only prove every bad thing I've ever suspected of her. I don't know whether it would cost her the election or not, nor whether she'd be foolish enough to risk the ill will when it might be wiser to try again in four or eight years, no matter how entitled she might feel right now.

The only possible remedy, if the DNC hands her a win that many people strongly feel she doesn't deserve, would be to name Obama as her running mate (assuming he accepts). Would it be a killer ticket? Or is no ticket big enough for the both of them?

Posted by: Julie at February 14, 2008 3:41 PM

It's funny, I thought Clinton/Obama was a killer ticket after the debate before Super Tuesday. Now, because it seems as if she might not lose gracefully, I'm nurturing feelings of disgust. It's not fair -- she hasn't done anything yet. I still don't want her, but I shouldn't be disgusted yet. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

I don't know exactly what James Carville meant when he said she had to win both of those or pack it up and go home, but that makes it sound like superdelegates are irrelevant *if* Clinton doesn't clinch the March 4th primaries (I'm recalling the date, I could be off). I hope she doesn't stage some desperate embarrassing attempt to get Florida and Michigan delegates re-seated, because that will completely disgust me, and even a Clinton/Obama ticket would be hard to vote for under those circumstances. (Although it might be enough to prevent me from writing in Obama, which I swear I will do if Clinton gets the nomination in any way that feels unfair.) It does seem that the Democratic Party is very concerned about the feeling of unfairness that will result if the superdelegates have to choose and the choice isn't clear from the popular vote/regular delegates, I'm basing that on an article I read earlier today that I'm too lazy to go back into my history to find, so take that with a grain of salt if you wish. I can't remember from whom exactly the sentiments were quoted, but they're not stupid -- they know they'll be pooping upon a great many people if they choose unwisely. Even some of the superdelegates were uncomfortable with the process. Kennedy and Kerry are both superdelegates, and even though MA went to Clinton, they're voting for Obama. The whole thing is shady and weird.

Posted by: Maggie at February 14, 2008 4:51 PM

I am watching ABC news right now and it sounds as though, not surprisingly, she's going muy negativa on Obama in the remaining states. I predict (hopefully) that this will turn off still more people, and then the DNC will have to take the hint.

Posted by: Julie at February 14, 2008 6:54 PM

As far as the superdelegates go isn't that why they are there. To decide in a race that's too close to call in the primaries? I mean you make it sound like they will override the overwhelming choice of the people when the reality is that he's barely the majority choice (I have no idea what the percentage or delegate counts are at his point but it seems to be pretty close). So in effect the country is saying "we can't decide so we're leaving it up to you (the superdelegates)". I don't necessarily agree that's the right thing to do but that is the system in place. If so many people are concenrned about superdelegates than they should do everything they can to make sure Obama has a big lead going into the convention.

Maggie you're disgusted at Clinton even though she hasn't done anything "wrong"? Why is that? You say she might not lose gracefully , but she hasn't lost yet. She (or her campaign) have floated a few ideas out there. People do that all the time. It's when she acts on them that you ought to feel disgusted. Are you equally disgusted that Kennedy and Kerry are going to vote against the will of their state as superdelegates? If not than how can you be mad about some other superdelegate voting for Hillary if they are from a state where Obama won?

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at February 15, 2008 8:26 AM

One could argue that the intervention of the Supreme Court in 2000 was all part of the process, and that they were, in a way, deciding the election for an indecisive electorate.

It doesn't change how people felt about it for a long, long time.

No matter what the system is, people have strong feelings about democracy and the popular vote, and what's fair. It's an emotional subject.

Perhaps it's unfair, but often there are two sets of rules in life. The actual rules of the system, and what people think is fair. And if you "work the system" it comes at a price.

That said, I think we do need to give Sen. Clinton some slack here. She should go ahead and lobby the superdelegates and let them make their decision. It's just that, if they do hand her the election, she might face a different sort of electorate than she imagined.

Posted by: James at February 15, 2008 9:40 AM

I would argue the problem people had with the 2000 election is exactly the opposite. The rules were circumvented by going to the supreme court.

I agree that if the superdelegates reverse the poular vote it will leave a bitter taste in peoples mouths.

I'd like to know how much of all of this is real and how much is the media creating a frenzy.

Daily I get more and more annoyed with the media, wait I should make that "THE MEDIA", becoming part of every story. I have no idea what information to trust at this point.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at February 15, 2008 10:14 AM

Bob,

I'm upset by the way the whole thing is going. I think the entire contest should be a simple majority vote of people, not superpeople. I'm upset that two states of voters were disenfranchised, but I'm equally upset that the vote that took place might count, since it took place under such shady circumstances. It's like telling a team their playing record won't count toward the playoffs, the team doesn't play their first string, and then counting it anyway. Maybe everything should be described using a sports metaphor. There's one thing about sports, and that is we've figured out how to create rules we think are fair. One option I've read about for Florida and Michigan is to replace those votes with a caucus, and let the state's voices be heard, but that's not the same as a vote, so that bothers me. I'm afraid they won't come up with a solution that feels fair.

Why? Because nothing this country has done in terms of political process has felt fair in the last eight years (except states now finally decided to get rid of EVM without a paper trail), and I don't trust it to start feeling fair, especially since the Democratic party has become the mini Republican party. To me, Clinton is the representative of miniPub, and Obama is a true progressive Democrat.

As far as being concerned about Clinton, I think it's a reasonable concern. I did say that I didn't think my feeling of disgust was fair, but if you really want me to analyze where it's coming from, it's because she's an insider who really hasn't done anything (who hopes to "learn from her mistakes," grand), and she comes across as pandering and false. I'm very concerned about a party that would ignore the delegate vote, count votes that were cast under shady circumstances, and then allow "superdelegates" to decide the vote to make it valid. I think the party is concerned too, I'm not making all this crap up, and I hope it won't happen. I hope that she doesn't have enough political power in the party to make it ugly.

She's got a lot of political influence for a person who hasn't actually done any more than Obama has, and what she's done hasn't worked. I'll say it for a third time, I don't think the "I've learned from my mistakes" experience is the kind we need. I think we need somebody to take this country in a progressive direction and make people feel good about it. Democrats needs to take back their progressive ideals, and stop bending their obsequious asses to the Republicans because they're bullies. They've been bending over for so long,they think it's the only option. I see her in the opposite role, "let's keep bending over" role. So I don't like her, I'm not convinced she has "experience," which is her main critique of Obama, and I'm worried that she will get voted in by the insiders because she's more of the same.

As far as Massachusetts superdelegates voting against the will of the state, I think "shady and weird" pretty much said it all, I'm not sure what part of that is confusing. I don't like the idea of superdelegates. The only possible reason they couldn't decide from the regular vote is because they don't use a simple majority vote. The idea that insiders are choosing is very, very disturbing to me. They don't necessarily know better.

So I hope that makes my concern clear -- that it will be very close (but not too close to call, right now Obama has a 100 delegate lead, I believe), and so Clinton will work to get the original Florida and Michigan votes counted, which I can't believe anybody feels is fair, and combined with the superdelegates, that will put her over the top. That might be satisfying to people who want Clinton, but I can't believe anybody would feel that it's fair. Look at what happened the last time superdelegates decided -- Mondale. They have no frackin' idea what they're doing.

Maggie

Posted by: Maggie at February 15, 2008 10:44 AM

Maggie,

That's exactly how I feel about Clinton - I've just been too lazy to put it into words. I still think she would be a very satisfactory president, but mostly because of her poise and her connections. I've noticed that she's very good at attaching her name to impressive projects, but in terms of ever doing anything... I don't know. Even her rhetoric is pretty bland and uninspiring - disappointing, given that talk is so cheap.

Most of her "ambition" in recent years has been in terms of her own career. She struck me as much more sincerely progressive 16 years ago.

That young law school graduate who went around knocking on doors in New Bedford in 1973 to find out why some kids weren't going to school - I don't know if that person still exists any more.

Posted by: Julie at February 15, 2008 1:09 PM

There's a good article related to this anti-Hillary feeling written by the author of Prozac nation on the editorial page of today's Wall Street Journal. I don't think they let you read it online without subscribing but it might be worth a buck. There are a couple of other really good op eds in there. Including one from Newt Gingrich who essentially says that Florida and Michagan have to revote if anyone is going to accept the nomination whoever it is. Who'd-a-thunk I'd agree with that dirtbag about something.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at February 15, 2008 1:19 PM

Shall we have dueling editorials? Maureen Dowd wrote about Hillary hate yesterday in the NYT. Dowd tells me that it's okay to hate Hillary for what she is, and that doesn't make me a misogynist. ;-)

But I don't hate Hillary! I will be disgusted if she does what I'm afraid she's going to do -- fight for something unfair, and yesterday when I read that (I realized that the article I read is the one James links to in this post), I definitely shuddered. I'm getting over it because I realize now that the article was really saying that the Democratic party is not going to agree to something that people feel is fundamentally unfair. So I'm past that little adrenaline rush of terror. But I like her. And I'll vote for her if she gets the nomination fair and square -- absolutely! I just don't like her as much as Obama, and if she gets the nomination in a way that I feel is unfair, I'll write in Obama. I'll encourage other people to do the same. I'm for ripping apart the Democratic party if they can't live what they preach.

Now Wurtzel brings up interesting issues about women and power. It is a favorite subject of my father's -- that women seem to think they need to take on masculine attributes to lead, but women would be better off leading in their own way. Women have strengths that men lack. Women can be very successful leaders. Maybe we're not ready for that yet here in the US, and maybe a woman like Hillary Clinton is a necessary step in the right direction. But she's not what I want.

The way Wurtzel describes Obama love is true of how I feel -- I recognize it, I even started a blog post on it, but I won't bother. I'll just describe it here. I've never felt this way before. In my whole life, I've never trusted and liked a leader! It's a part of our culture that's been completely alien to me. I recognize the irrationality of the feeling, but I also recognize that: 1. People don't do things for rational reasons, so a person with that much vision and charisma truly is an amazing force; 2. The feeling is based on a basic ethical alignment with Obama and agreement with his opinions on matters that I disagree with many people (around me) on, such as religion, abortion, and the social obligation of government. So it's not like I abandoned myself in favor of this guy I don't know, just because he talks purdy. I like this guy I don't know because I agree with the way he votes on issues that are important to me, and he talks purdy.

I don't blame Hillary Clinton for giving Bush the power to start the Iraq war, because I do understand that there was a certain amount of faith that he wouldn't misuse his power. But it shows her ideals aren't in alignment with mine -- my ideals at the time. I actively campaigned against Senator Kerry for doing the same, when he was up for re-election to the Senate. I also protested the war with signs, candles, letters, and fliers at various times -- one protest was on Route 6, two days before we firebombed Iraq. Some people had values that aligned with mine. Hillary didn't and Obama did.

Maggie

Posted by: Maggie at February 15, 2008 3:19 PM

Pundits and editorials are amusing, and sometimes they're even informative when they draw your attention to something that you can then delve into on your own. But I don't need to read an editorial to find out why I prefer one person or another. I'm even less interested in someone else's theory (i.e., guess) as to why I have that preference. :-)

However, I do find it intriguing that there's so much discussion as to whether women should feel guilty for not preferring Clinton, or whether blacks should feel guilty for not preferring Obama. It's sad, now that the shoe's no longer on the white male foot, that some people think it's actually wrong NOT to base their choice on sexism or racism!

Posted by: Julie at February 15, 2008 4:21 PM

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