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Tilting at Windmills

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May 31, 2008
By: Neil Sinhababu

THE DNC RULES....As the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets today to decide whether to strip Florida and Michigan of their delegates, it's important to remember why such strong punitive measures were needed in the first place.

There were good reasons for the DNC to add the states it added to the January primary calendar. In addition to the mostly white populations of Iowa and New Hampshire, labor unions and Hispanics in Nevada and blacks in South Carolina were included among the voters in the first four primaries. Including these states added to the diversity of the process.

The DNC also made a good move in excluding large states in the early contests. Large states are particularly expensive to compete in, and too many of them too early would turn the primary into a fundraising contest. As it was, comparatively underfunded candidates like John Edwards were able to seriously compete in early states and shape the debate.

Most importantly, keeping any other states from jumping in line was essential to keep the primary calendar from collapsing. What was to stop Vermont from deciding in summer 2007 to move their primary to December, and California from one-upping them into November, and New Mexico from giving their governor a boost by holding a surprise primary in mid-October? That kind of chaos wouldn't allow voters in the early states to seriously consider their vote.

So there were good reasons for the DNC to pick that particular basket of states early, and further good reasons to make sure their rules were followed. When Iowa and New Hampshire moved their primaries slightly earlier, none of the principles underlying the DNC's decision to schedule the primary calendar as they did (diversity, small states first, preventing surprise primaries in October) were violated. So the DNC didn't do anything.

But when Michigan and Florida jumped into January, the DNC had to enforce their rules or risk seeing the primary calendar collapse. So they penalized these states, and none of the candidates protested. As bad as it is for people in Michigan and Florida to not have their votes counted, this is the kind of punishment that has to be built into the process for it to make any sense. Without these constraints, there's no telling what kind of crazy things state party bosses might do with their primaries. The DNC has to act to preserve the integrity of the process.

Lots of people have written about how it's ridiculous for Hillary Clinton to accept the DNC's decision back in January, and only complain about them now that it's to her advantage. My point here isn't that -- if anything, it's a more controversial one. Howard Dean and the DNC made the right decision back then, and they'll be right to enforce their rules now.

Neil Sinhababu 5:26 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (80)

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Comments

All I can say is that your post represents yet more pontification by someone who is utterly ill-informed about the actual rules and actual facts. Ignorance must truly be bliss.

Posted by: Roman Berry on May 31, 2008 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

The problem was and always has been that New Hampshire and Iowa get 90 percent of the individual attention from the candidates in the pre-primary period. The New Hampshire voters are pampered and arrogant, and they still make lousy choices. (Look it up -- over the past 4 decades, New Hampshire Democrats pick somebody from an immediately adjacent state fully half the time when there is a contested election.) It's long since time that other states get to share in the attention; if the Democrats want to confine the first couple of votes to small states, then fine, let's have a drawing and let Oregon or South Carolina or some such have first shot. Or why not take into account that large states will determine a large part of the electoral college vote, and stop pretending that it is the 1840s. Even if the first primary were in California, the candidates would have plenty of time to travel around the state and talk to normal people.

You will notice that our politics ignores water distribution issues on the national level and supports ethanol and farm subsidies to an illogical degree because the other regions of the country are ignored for the year prior to the primary season.

So the DNC's problem was its cowardice all along in failing to reform the primary system, and particularly in failing to deal with Michigan's protest of several years ago. Michigan rightly pointed out that the primary system has been skewed against minority voters for many decades; so what reform did we get? Nevada and South Carolina. No urban industrial states need apply apparently.

Posted by: Bob G on May 31, 2008 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Bob G completely. I think a lot of outsiders do.

That said, the DNC got it right today. To suggest that Obama should have zero pledged delegates from Michigan is ridiculous and is the definition of disenfranchising voters. To suggest that primaries in which campaigns were not permitted should be fully recognized is likewise ridiculous.

The facts are that Clinton would have won Florida and Michigan would have been close and that is now reflected.

The Clinton campaign was hoping for the DNC to bail them out of their poorly run campaign. Instead, they should have competed in Kansas or Minnesota or Virginia. Instead, they should have raised concerns about these 2 states a year ago.

Obama will probably be the presumptive nominee on Tuesday. Let's beat the crap out of McCain.

Posted by: glutz78 on May 31, 2008 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

These three commenters some nerve! I appeal to Washington Monthly to discard these three illegitimate commenters and place my comment in First Post!

Posted by: absent observer on May 31, 2008 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

The DNC got it as close to "correct" as they could given the situation. Good for them holding to The Rules.

Let US move along.

Congrats to Shuttle noobie astronaut Ronald Garan BTW.

"We are accustomed to the new land yet attached to the old country" - anon

Posted by: daCascadian on May 31, 2008 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

The unethical werewolf doesn't mention how the open primary completely distorts the process and allows Republicans and harvard bred dipshits an unbelievable power to choose the democratic contender.

But since he luvs diversity for diversities sake since anything undiverse is unethical, well he luves him some DNC rules.

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on May 31, 2008 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

If a rule is made and there is absolutely no way to enforce it, is there really a "rule" at all?

Imagine if New Hampshire was required by the rules to hold their primary sometime else than "First in the Nation"? Does anyone think they would do that - even under the threat of 100% loss of delegates? Does anyone think that the candidates would refuse to campaign there, or that the press would ignore them?

So long as the machinery of elections is controlled by the states, there cannot be any rule made by the party that has any teeth. The party has no power over the process of its own internal elections.

If the states would allow the parties to contract their elections machinery - using a voucher given to the parties once every four years that can only be used if signed off by both the national and state party chairs - that would put power and control into the hands of the party, and then the rules the parties make would mean something. And because both national and state officials would be required to sign off, there could be no rogue behavior on either level, because compromise would be a prerequisite to even holding the primary.

Posted by: Greg in FL on May 31, 2008 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

Why can we not come up with a system that rotates January primary dates? Why can't a list be made that fairly rotates January primaries among 20 states that are of smaller size and diverse populations?

Why does it always have to be New Hampshire and Iowa right up there in front? Where the hell is the democracy in that?

Posted by: arteclectic on May 31, 2008 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'll bet in four years the Republicans in Ohio and Pennslvania will try to challenge New Hampshire for first in the nation status :)

Instead of slapping the voters around the DNC should just commit to spend an extravagant amount of money to defeat the state politicians who break the rules. Wholesale primary reform would be better of course.

Posted by: B on May 31, 2008 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Why does it always have to be New Hampshire and Iowa right up there in front? Where the hell is the democracy in that?

The unethical werewolf blogging this says it makes it more diverse. Because that's the altar he worships at.

He's one of these elite people that laugh at the rest of us, all while claiming to know what we need better than we do, and ready to diagnose our psychological problems, but he does have that Harvard degree, so what do I know?

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on May 31, 2008 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

BMR, I do hope you're speaking metaphorically.

Posted by: absent observer on May 31, 2008 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

If I lived in Michigan or Florida, I'd be angry with these folks, in this order:

The state Democratic party leaders who decided to jump the rules; their actions "disenfranchised" voter sin those states. Although no one expected the campaign season to go as it did, can you imagine the importance of large states like Michigan and Florida having votied late in the season?

The DNC for establishing a set of rules that seemed designed to make some state party leaderships upset.

The Clinton campaign for accepting/supporting the rules then and now, and only because it benefits them, jumping ship.

The Obama campaign for not recognizing early on that the rules as adopted were likely to creats later controversy and for not dealing well with things now.

Posted by: Donald A. Coffin on May 31, 2008 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

The DNC needs to get together with the Repubs and change the primary data selection system. We have to get both parties to agree, as that is the preferred way to have primaries, vote once both parties at a time... Like arteclectic, we need some sort of selection method for the early primaries which is relatively fair, and does not permanently give too much influence to a couple of states. If the argument that early states should be smaller ones, then exclude the large ones from the early primary drawing.

Posted by: bigTom on May 31, 2008 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

I just posted a recap of the Rules and Bylaws meeting decisions here.

If anyone has an answer to my question at the end, I�d really appreciate it. Also, what are your thoughts on how this will play out between now and August (God help us all if it goes on longer than that).

Posted by: signsanssignified on May 31, 2008 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

How could it have mattered so much to the Mich/Fla Democratic leadership to have their primary so early? Did they not talk to Dean or Schumer or others or did they just ignore them?
The DNC did the right thing in having a session to determine a penalty for ignoring the DNC leadership and the national party's own rules.
This is another example of the fractious nature of the Democratic party (diversity!)and why petty squabbling will result in factions with reasons enough to vote against their candidate thereby rationalizing a vote for McCain.
Oh, well, 200+ years was a good run.

Posted by: Tom M on May 31, 2008 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

The DNC's delegate/superdelegate system stinks, as does the electoral college. 2008 could very well turn out like 2000, with Obama winning the popular vote and McCain winning the electoral vote. It sucks and it is antiquated, like McCain. Scrap it and scrap the two party system and go to instant run-off voting. It's pretty clear that the current system isn't working.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 31, 2008 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

Sinhababu:

Including these states added to the diversity of the process.

Just say no to affirmative action.

Posted by: Toby Petzold on May 31, 2008 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

bigTom, I was thinking what might work would be to draw the country into 4 quarters: North, South, East, West. Then from each division you pull out the big states that are expensive to campaign in, then pull out any states that don't want to go early. What is left becomes the "early primary" pool of smaller states where candidates can be competitive. Each division (quarter) gets to have 2 states that hold primaries prior to Super Tuesday. Which states get to go can be selected by drawing or by simple rotation. Penalty for jumping the rotation is 100% default.

The idea being to keep as many candidates as possible competitive prior to Super Tuesday.


Posted by: arteclectic on May 31, 2008 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

Those who complain about how broken the primary system is seem to think there is some system out there that is objectively right. What is it? Every state has some argument why it is so special that it deserves to go early and have a disproportionate influence. I suppose we could rotate among states, but that would mean that the state that goes 50th in line will have to wait 200 years to go first. Will that state think that is fair? I don't think so. In the end, any primary system is arbitrary, so I wish people would stop acting like it was some huge travesty of injustice that Florida and Michigan didn't get to go when they wanted. So I agree with Neil that the rules needed to be enforced because some regulation was better than none. (By the way, I'm not from nor have I ever lived in any of the early primary states.)
--RiMac

Posted by: RiMac on May 31, 2008 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Those who complain about how broken the primary system is seem to think there is some system out there that is objectively right. What is it? Every state has some argument why it is so special that it deserves to go early and have a disproportionate influence. I suppose we could rotate among states, but that would mean that the state that goes 50th in line will have to wait 200 years to go first. Will that state think that is fair? I don't think so. In the end, any primary system is arbitrary, so I wish people would stop acting like it was some huge travesty of injustice that Florida and Michigan didn't get to go when they wanted. So I agree with Neil that the rules needed to be enforced because some regulation was better than none. (By the way, I'm not from nor have I ever lived in any of the early primary states.)
--RiMac

Posted by: RiMac on May 31, 2008 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

That cluster f was all BS, they took the cowards way out and decided to try and make both camps happy with a 50/50 split. Tossing Michigan under the buss like that will not play well.

Todays meeting was all about laws and rules and a couple of arguments clearly hit on that well. The rest of the arguments were all emotional plees and coulda shoulda wouldas that were handily debated out of relavance.

They should have gave Hillary Michigan to show support for the rules and Florida to be split.

Obama would have still maintained the lead with a reduced margin and Hillary would not have much of a case to make she was royally screwed.

Once agian I am feeling my party the Dems are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Posted by: Chomot on May 31, 2008 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

As far as a good first state rotation solution, this is easy to resolve.

5 states in 10 sepate super tusedays changed every election year on a rotational basis and those five in play are balanced demographically amoung the 10 events.

This would pretty much elimate any individual state preferance.

The fact that Iowa and NH are always first is BS and I do belive that one positive outcome of todays cluster F will be that enough attention has been given to that fact that reform will be demanded.

Posted by: Chomot on May 31, 2008 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

I watched 'the whole thing' today. Fascinating. Carl Levin certainly explained Michigan's decision to my satisfaction. NH was supposed to have been scheduled after SC and NV. Instead NH asked for and received a waiver from the DNC for rescheduling its primary in its usual place after Iowa. Michigan also asked for a waiver but did not receive one. Is that fair?

Anyway, an absolutely fascinating day of TV with the meeting and coverage by Matthews and crew. A political junkie's cup of tea. Did anyone catch Ickes? Just freaking amazing...

Posted by: nepeta on May 31, 2008 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2008/05/hastings-boycot.html
Hastings boycotting Democratic convention | Naked Politics

Posted by: Bad Moon Rising on May 31, 2008 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

"The fact that Iowa and NH are always first is BS and I do belive that one positive outcome of todays cluster F will be that enough attention has been given to that fact that reform will be demanded."

Chomat: Yep, Iowa and NH always being first gives them an unfair advantage in choosing the nominee. Someone today said that the winner of Iowa and NH has become the Dem nominee in every single primary but one in the past 60 years. The biggest problem, as someone mentioned upthread, is coming up with a preferred solution that the Republicans would agree with. Coordinated Rep and Dem primaries are obviously big money savers.

Posted by: nepeta on May 31, 2008 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

This looks to be about the dumbest post ever on this site

first of all, MI and FL got what they wanted, so they'll likely do it again. The republicans, at least, paid them a lot of attention, and in any normal election year, that would have been far better than they would otherwise have done.

So what do you propose to do when they call the dnc's bluff again?

Do you really think the arbitrary enforcement of a "rule" that Iowa and New Hampshire go first justified disenfranchising 8 million voters? That seems like shooting someone for jaywalking.

Today was really messy because there was no good remedy for the mess the DNC made. Imagine if the delegate spread would have been determined by this -- the democratic party would have imploded. Was that risk worth penalizing MI and FL for going to January? Heck, they still weren't ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire.

You better have a real good reason to deny someone the right to vote, and there was none here.

Posted by: pj on May 31, 2008 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Bad Moon Rising,

Here's Josh Marshall's response to those who feel like Hastings. I agree with Josh completely.

"Who's Disenfranchised?

As both campaigns prepare to make their case for what to do about Florida and Michigan before the Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC), I wanted to focus your attention on an issue that has gotten too little attention.

The Clinton campaign argues that if the delegates from these non-sanctioned primaries are not seated hundreds of thousand of voters in Florida and Michigan will be disenfranchised.

The other side argues that it is wrong to change the rules of the nomination process after the fact in order to advantage one candidate over another. The latter is an argument I agree with -- but there's no question it lacks the emotive impact of the disenfranchisement argument.

What doesn't get mentioned, however, is this: it was widely reported and understood in both Florida and Michigan that the results of these primaries would not be counted. And based on that knowledge, large numbers of voters in both states simply didn't participate.

If the DNC were now to turn around and decide to make these contests count after all, these non-participating voters would be disenfranchised no less than the people who did turn out would be if the DNC sticks to the rules and doesn't seat any of the delegates. The simple fact is that large numbers of people, acting on accurate knowledge and in good faith, decided that there wasn't a real primary being held in their state on the day in question and on that basis decided not to participate.

Now, the question is, How can we really know how many people didn't show up because they were told it wasn't a real election? There is of course no way to arrive at a direct answer, at least no practical one. But this post by Eric Kleefeld, which builds on a statistical analysis by Gregory P. Nini and Glenn Hurowitz, makes a very strong case that as many as one million voters in Florida and probably more than a half million voters in Michigan did not vote who otherwise would have if they had not believed that the results would not be counted."


Posted by: nepeta on May 31, 2008 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

EL OH EL. The DNC didn't pick Iowa and New Hampshire! They *always* go first, because they think it is their right. And it is not! I'm happy with the addition of Nevada this year, but pretending Iowa and NH and SC were selected to go first is a bunch of baloney. Hopefully by the next primary, we'll have a process that makes sense and doesn't hand voters in Iowa and NH more than ten times the electoral power of voters from other states because of some antiquated tradition.

Posted by: Caitlin on May 31, 2008 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Couldn't agree with you more.

And yes, I would agree with you if it were Obama trailing. You can't move the goalposts mid-game. That's what Republicans do when they're losing.

Posted by: chuck on May 31, 2008 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

A few random thoughts from a MI resident who knows exactly where to put the blame for this clusterf**k (hint: their names are Granholm and Levin):

Yes, it's BS that NH and IA get all of the early attention, leading to endless ethanol subsidies or unelectable nominees from MA. Having said that, I don't think you can come up with some platonic ideal of a primary system that will rotate the early states and only advantage small states and satisfy all of the regional interests of the country.

One example is when Bob G mentions water distribution issues. Now, I don't know exactly what he's referring to, but to someone from the Great Lakes, that sounds an awful lot like candidates pandering to the Southwest by promising to build a pipeline to drain the Great Lakes for the benefit of CA, TX, and AZ. And under any system that privileges small states, the Great Lakes states are left out, because none of them is small. But then residents of other sections can point out that early primaries in, e.g., MI, OH, PA would deteriorate into panderfests with all of the candidates competing to show how they would return manufacturing to its 50's and 60's heyday (clearly impossible - these states need to figure out what they do next - but there's a large political market here for politicians who want to turn back the clock).

I suppose this is a long-winded way of saying I don't envy those who try to schedule the early primaries.

In the end, I think the DNC got this one about right (wait for a resolution until it kind of doesn't matter, come up with a resolution that doesn't really change anything, and while they're at it cut the voting strength in half).

Posted by: Don K on May 31, 2008 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not cognizant of all the facts, but in retrospect, it seems very dubious to me that the Rules Commitment should have considered disallowing votes as their means of enforcing discipline. It seems these are decisions that are clearly made by the elected officials in the state. It seems to me that at the very least they should have never considered not seating delegates that were elected by the people. Now if they want to not allow Carl Levin to be a superdelegate, heck, that would probable be more effective in cutting this crap out anyway.

Posted by: Chad Peterson on May 31, 2008 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Did y'all miss the part about the Republican controlled legislature in Florida would have pushed the date up regardless of what the Dems did? The Florida Rethug Legislatue screwed over the Dems because they had the votes to push anything through. And of course ole Charlie boy couldn't wait to sign it. The Dems just went along for the ride. That may have been stupid, but the outcome would have been the same.

Try getting your facts straight folks.

Posted by: GatorAide on June 1, 2008 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

Why not just have the primaries all on the same day?

This isn't rocket science, people.

Why is NH first? Tradition? Why not bring back the King if tradition is so important?


Posted by: GR on June 1, 2008 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

Did y'all miss the part about the Republican controlled legislature in Florida would have pushed the date up regardless of what the Dems did? The Florida Rethug Legislatue screwed over the Dems because they had the votes to push anything through

The vote to move up the primary was something like 107-0.

Posted by: Kolohe on June 1, 2008 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know about the rest of you guys but I'm just way too fucking dumb to screen my own presidential candidates for myself. Thankfully, IA and NH are always there to help me out. I should probably send them a Wal-Mart gift card or something.

Posted by: steve-O on June 1, 2008 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

"The vote to move up the primary was something like 107-0."

Good point. They should have assumed those fifty democrats voted for Hillary and removed them from the other million votes she got in Florida.

Posted by: asdf on June 1, 2008 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

My story is that it was Obama's big win in Wisconsin that gave him the lead he needed to prevail, and I'm sticking to it. Who knew that February 19th would be the key primary day in advance? No one, of course. But... was it Obama's win in Iowa? Or Hillary Clinton's win in New Hampshire? Or Ohio?

So many what-ifs, so little time...

And thanks to GatorAide for pointing out something that we should know about how the GOP was the party trying to screw (AGAIN) with the process in Florida.

Posted by: David W. on June 1, 2008 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

Kolohe, the reason why the Dems in FL went along was because the GOP tossed in some other legislation that was important to them. I'm too tired to look it up in detail, but that's the gist of it.

Posted by: David W. on June 1, 2008 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

I made the point earlier that NH and Iowa were never elected to go first; they just took it. NH holds onto its status because its voters will go against any candidate who dares to question the NH monopoly. That having been said, the DNC did about the best that it could on this particular day.

But that is because the DNC and the candidates were unfair to all the other states from the very beginning. As much as I like Obama as a candidate, I was seriously disappointed that he played into the Iowa/NH game by refusing to campaign in Michigan and Florida. It's long since time that somebody not only called the NH bluff, but won.

And if Hillary is so devoted to voters' rights, why didn't she make those stirring speeches when it could have made a difference, namely when her surrogates were flushing Florida and Michigan down the drain? Oh, right -- that would have annoyed the New Hampshire voters, so she couldn't play that game.

The proper solution (which I have never seen published anywhere else) is that Michigan should be given the right to hold the first primary for the next two elections. That would allow a racially diverse, industrial state to have influence and would right the wrong that was created when the DNC took the cowardly approach to Michigan's challenge of three years ago.

I agree that something would have to be done to prevent NH from pushing its primary back yet again. If enough delegations from enough states say that it's time for a change, then the party could prevail upon candidates to avoid New Hampshire (in the event that NH tries an end run), just as they avoided Michigan and Florida this time. That is what New Hampshire fears -- no longer being the belle of the ball.

Posted by: Bob G on June 1, 2008 at 4:23 AM | PERMALINK

Bob G

Saying the DNC did the best that they could today is probably correct -- there weren't any good options -- ignores the thrust of the post, which is Sinhababu saying that this huge mess was necessary and worthwhile. The DNC didn't have to protect NH and Iowa's prerogative at all, and certainly shouldn't have stripped the citizens of Florida and New Hampshire of their voting rights as a means of enforcing discipline.

It's not even close to a resolved issue. It will come up again in 2016 (hopefully not 2012), and handling it this way again would be really stupid, yet Sinhababu thinks what they did was right.

They should learn two things from this (i) don't deny citizens of their voting rights as a means of enforcing discipline against party leaders, and (ii) let the states fight it out to see who goes first.

Once the Iowa-NH duopoly is broken one cycle, then we'll have a decent system.

Posted by: pj on June 1, 2008 at 7:03 AM | PERMALINK

I'm disgusted with the entire, dishonest method for electing the Amurrikkan Preznit and for one, am gonna reorganize my sock drawer.

Maybe this sideshow seems meaningful to you folks, but once Cheney nukes Iran, the banks crash the economy, martial law is declared and the show-elections are canceled, maybe we can get down to the very serious business of restoring the Republic.

Till then, sign me,

"gone fishin'"

Posted by: on June 1, 2008 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

If Dems decide in future to change the primary, how about making the race SHORTER? How about the presidential campaign being shorter? (I know both parties would have to agree on that)? It is just insane that you have to campaign this long.

What do they do in England-- campaign 6 weeks or something?

This is just nuts, here, the seemingly endless slog to become President. So of course only millionaires need apply.

Posted by: Clem on June 1, 2008 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

If Dems decide in future to change the primary, how about making the race SHORTER? How about the presidential campaign being shorter? (I know both parties would have to agree on that)? It is just insane that you have to campaign this long.

What do they do in England-- campaign 6 weeks or something?

This is just nuts, here, the seemingly endless slog to become President. So of course only millionaires need apply.

Posted by: Clem on June 1, 2008 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

This election cycle alone demonstrates the irrational stupidity of Florida and Michigan Democrats and their decision to move up their states' primaries. If they had stood pat, they could very well have decided the election. They forced THEMSELVES into irrelevancy this time around.

Posted by: Quinn on June 1, 2008 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

I'm continually amazed at the ignorance of people who have no idea HOW the Florida primary came to be held in January (against the DNC rules)...they make blanket statements about DEMS moving their primary with no knowledge of the facts on the ground...it doesn't do much to change the dynamics of the mess that has evolved during this primary season BUT does illustrate much about how we get the candidates and officials we do AND why many deserve them!!!

Posted by: Dancer on June 1, 2008 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

> Why can we not come up with a system that
> rotates January primary dates?

"January" primaries? How about moving the first primary back to March 14th, or even April 14th, which would create a much more reasonable schedule?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 1, 2008 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

New Hampshire has only been important since 1952; not exactly ancient history or unshakable tradition:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_hampshire_primary

I still can't get over the bald-faced hypocrisy of the Clinton camp. They were willing to throw Michigan and Florida out the window last year, when they DIDN'T THINK THEY'D NEED THOSE STATES. She was the inevitable nominee. Now they are desperately fighting for every vote (Puerto Rico?) and so the rules have changed.

Posted by: Speed on June 1, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

As the Rules Committee arguments make clear, the nominating system is fubar. While there is no perfect system out there, we can do better. My solution would be a rotating series of regional primaries ( Northeast, Southeast, Western and Pacific). You would have five regional primaries, each a month apart, starting in March and finishing in July, with the convention in August.

Would this perfect? Nope, but at least would not have Iowa and NH always going first, as if its their God given right and there wouldn't be queue jumping. Who goes first would continue to have disproportionate impact, but everyone will share in it equally. Hey, under my system you would be able to experience the schadenfreude of Iowa and NH voting LAST, sometime.

Posted by: stonetools on June 1, 2008 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK
There were good reasons for the DNC to add the states it added to the January primary calendar.

No, there weren't. There aren't even any good reasons for the DNC to manage a primary calendar in the first place, unless it is to guarantee a direct national vote for the Democratic nomination during a common period with consistent rules.

But, nevertheless, there were good reasons to put teeth into the rules, because the rules were agreed before the elections were held, everyone knew them, and the candidates had agreed to them. Allowing candidates to benefit from changing their mind afterwards is unfair, and promotes deception and dishonest. Even the half-loaf that has been given to Hillary (even though it, in effect, puts another nail in the coffin of her candidacy, because little short of a full vote for the disputed delegates would give her a chance) rewards that dishonesty and deception and encourages it in the future.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 1, 2008 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

After the staged "protests" in Florida it occurred to me that many of the Clinton advisers are graduates of the same political school as the Rove gang. Harold Ickes and Lanny Davis are two examples of the "extremism in the attainment of victory is no vice" approach to politics. It wouldn't matter if Clinton were running for dog catcher or if they were running against Jesus, to lose is an anathema. Such a narrow view of reality is a detriment to a balanced government.

Posted by: MLD on June 1, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK
As the Rules Committee arguments make clear, the nominating system is fubar. While there is no perfect system out there

Sure there is. There is no constitutional mandate for state-by-state nominating elections. A perfect method would provide a common period and common qualification rules and allow all registered Democrats to vote during that period directly for the nominee of the party for the Presidency, using a suitable single-winner preference-based voting system, and the person with the most votes would be the nominee of the party.

There is no perfect, or even good, system that manages a schedule of state votes on different days such that selected (whether deliberately, randomly, or systematically) states set the agenda for the nation, that is true. But there is no mandate anywhere for the use of such a system.

The only good thing to say about the way Democrats presently choose a presidential nominee is that's its not nearly as broken a system as the Republicans use (and which Hillary Clinton has praised, apparently since if the Democrats used it, it would have worked to her benefit.)

Posted by: cmdicely on June 1, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

The DNC needs to get together with the Repubs and change the primary data selection system. We have to get both parties to agree, as that is the preferred way to have primaries, vote once both parties at a time... Like arteclectic, we need some sort of selection method for the early primaries which is relatively fair, and does not permanently give too much influence to a couple of states. If the argument that early states should be smaller ones, then exclude the large ones from the early primary drawing.

Posted by: bigTom on May 31, 2008 at 9:02 PM

I have no doubt in my mind that if the New Hampshire "first primary in the nation" regulation reached the U.S. Supreme Court, it would be ruled unconstitutional. I just wish some people from both parties had the guts to take this to court.

Posted by: Vincent on June 1, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

cmdicely wrote: "... a direct national vote for the Democratic nomination during a common period with consistent rules."

Hey, I kinda like the sound of that.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 1, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Hillary Clinton should run as an Independent Candidate for President.

Screw the Dumbocraps.

Posted by: Dumbocraps on June 1, 2008 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

The above comments just perfectly nailed my thoughts of why MI was tossed under the buss.

Any why if they would have given Hillary MI it would have gone a long way towared reconcilation.

Posted by: Arianie on June 1, 2008 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

which Hillary Clinton has praised, apparently since if the Democrats used it, it would have worked to her benefit.

really? I thought winner take all would have killed her in February.

Posted by: asdf on June 1, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

We were told on the local news that our delegates had been stripped and the primary would not count, a small price to pay to finally have a national presidential campaign pay attention (in four years) to a state that has been in economic turmoil since 1982. While we watched CNN interview some lady from Iowa who had talked to a presidential candidate up wards of 60 times over the years. National candidates can never seem to get north of Detroit suburbs in a campaign and it sickens Michiganders that they are being ignored and taken for granted.

We broke the rules and we do not care, sooner or later they are going to have to face us and preform lip service. We have been the hardest hit state from free trade and outsourcing our unemployment has led the nation for over two decades and they gots some splainin to do.

Our state Has Jennifer Granholm as our Governor and Debbie Stabenow as one of our senators. After watching all that crap yesterday I doubt I will ever support another woman for any elected office ever again.

Posted by: JoeSixPack on June 1, 2008 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Neil's points all stand. The DNC has a responsibility to prevent the primary season from descending into chaos, and the only way they can discipline wayward states is by refusing to seat delegates. If a state party wants its delegates to count they have to abide by DNC rules. Amidst all the complaining by Clinton supporters I have not heard anyone explain how the DNC can maintain an orderly process without the ability to refuse to seat delegates. OK, HRC doesn't like the sanctions; what is the alternative? As a candidate for President HRC has an obligation to explain how she would replace a system she is intent on tearing down. That she and her retainers refuse to do so indicates they are not serious about governance; they are only serious about power.

After eight years of Bush/Cheney I don't want another President focused only on power who slights serious issues of governance.

What is frustrating is that the first Clinton Administration took governance very seriously. I can only think that after years of watching the Republicans win through irresponsibility they decided to follow suit.

As a nation we don't need more scorched earth politics. We need government.

The DNC discliplines state committees who choose to break the rules to maintain order in the process. Likening this unfortunate necessity to the actions of Robert Mugabe is breathtakingly irresponsible.

Faced with this affront, the RBC committee yesterday made wise decisions. Their decisions favored HRC, which limits her credibility in sowing further discord. They did not seat the full delegations, which would have told the state committees they can break the rules with impunity.

BHO is not an ideal candidate. He has made mistakes and he has problems appealing to some important Democratic constituencies. I know all that. But he has never been shockingly irresponsible.

As a Democrat HRC has to respect the process. If she deeply opposed the sanctions levied on FL and MI there was a time and a place for her to make her objections known. Instead she signed off on them.

As a former HRC supporter it pains me to say that she can no longer be described as a loyal Democrat. She has put her own interests ahead of the interests of her party. That is beyond the pale.

I understand HRC may believe that BHO is unelectable, and that 'fact' justifies her actions. Mature people in hot pursuit of a goal understand that their own judgment is biased, and as a matter of humility they subordinate their actions to higher standards. The immature Bush fails to understand that no matter how righteous he feels in his GWOT he has to protect the Constitution. I see a similar lack of humility in HRC, a similar inability to hold herself accountable to processes and institutions that are larger than any one person.

Posted by: tomtom on June 1, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

From unnamed [June 1 11:51am]:

First, voters in MI were not told the primary would not count.

BULLSHIT!! Such blatant lies are usually reserved for the Bush administration.

Second, Obama and three others voluntarily took theirs names off the ballot (they weren't asked or required to)

They voluntarily took their names off the ballot because they were told the primary would not count....also, you do realize that this second reason completely contradicts your first premise. Good work.

Third, as noted during the committee hearing, the ballot listing of "uncommitted" has a defined status as is treated the same as any other candidate on the ballot. That means you cannot take votes for "uncommitted" and assign them to someone else.

Yeah, and who cares? MI shouldn't count in any way, which makes the seating of ANY delegates completely ludicrous.

Once YOU start arguing to the change the rules after the fact, YOU have lost any ability to control which rules should be changed.

Hell, while we're changing rules, maybe the people in South Carolina should have their vote counted multiple times. Now, you might say that's not fair and it's against the rules. But YOU'VE shown that rules no longer matter apparently. So seat MI, seat FL, just count the SC vote, let's say, 100 times. Sure, no one knew ahead of time how valuable these SC votes were, but that's besides the point, and we're already changing rules anyway.

There is no reason why Clinton's voters should be punished by having their votes stripped, because of Obama's foolishness.

Now here is where I start to question your sanity. Clinton voters weren't stripped or punished because of Obama. They were stripped back in August of 2007 by the DNC. Complaining about it now is nonsense. And blaming Obama for it is just plain dumb.

All elections have flaws, some more serious than others, but they go forward and we abide by the results.

Except that in the case of MI and FL, everyone was told beforehand that the results were meaningless. Therefore, there's nothing to abide by.

Posted by: Joe on June 1, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

The entire idea of Iowa amd New Hampshire as any kind of indication of where the democratic party stands is ludicrous. As long as the DNC insists on pampering these two nut case states, the DNC will be irrelevant and the party will continue to launch electoral failures, like the one coming this November.

Posted by: rbe1 on June 1, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

rbe1:

There is another major Party in the US. It is called the Republican Party. The Republican Party also "pampers" NH and IA in the primary.

So is pampering IA and NH making the RNC irrelevant? Are you predicting a 3rd party win in November? Are you making any point at all?

Posted by: tomtom on June 1, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, the DNC needed to penalize states that held premature primaries, somehow. And it is disingenuous of Hillary supporters (like the repulsively aggressive Harold Ickes, as e.g. on MTP today) to act like Michigan voters are "disenfranchised" by giving a portion (majority!) of vote representation when Obama was just trying to follow rules. (What about the disenfranchising of all those voters who would have voted for Obama had there been a normal primary, eh?) Yet supporters of Florida and Michigan have a point: It is wrong to keep having first primaries in the same states like Iowa over and over. Iowa is a particularly bad choice because of the pressure from subsidy-sucking corn farmers to produce more wrongly-made ethanol and HFCS.

delver23

Posted by: Neil B. on June 1, 2008 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

***FLASH*** More bimbo eruptions for Bill Clinton!

Click here for details. This is a stark reminder of why we don’t need another freakin’ Clinton in the White House……

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 1, 2008 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

"I have not heard anyone explain how the DNC can maintain an orderly process without the ability to refuse to seat delegates."

Um, I think this year pretty much proves that they can't maintain an orderly process WITH that ability....so what exactly is the point?

Posted by: chaboard on June 1, 2008 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: No, there weren't. There aren't even any good reasons for the DNC to manage a primary calendar in the first place, unless it is to guarantee a direct national vote for the Democratic nomination during a common period with consistent rules.

Disagree. The ostensible goals for having a small number of early primaries is so this doesn't turn into an early run for the money. That required access by candidates who don't have early and large war chests. That required limiting the primaries to a small number of states. That required an attempt to ensure early states are somewhat representative.

Achieving those goals appears to require value judgments that defy simple calculations and etched-in-stone rules across election cycles. While modern campaigning and fundraising may have rendered those goals infeasible, and the ambiguity inherent in the current approach may cause more problems than it's worth, the goals (and underlying reasons) deserve consideration.

Posted by: has407 on June 1, 2008 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

Fools. I've heard a lot about the DNC doing right by upholding rules, and I've heard a lot about how it was not fair to begin with. Okay. But when you have Obama with a little under half the support of registered Democrats and Hillary with the other half you have to let by gones be by gones and seat Michigan and Florida. You see, if you don't, you get this legitimacy issue and you lose a strong portion of your base. This is common sense 101, and it should be a no brainer. In addition when you let people like Ickles and Brazille in on that decision (people who are by no means neutral) it further muddies the water. Our DNC is an absoulte failure. Remarkably short sighted and stupid. I promise you it will cement our failure in Novemeber. (Hey, but way to keep those rules!)

Posted by: Geoff on June 2, 2008 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

***FLASH*** More bimbo eruptions for Bill Clinton!
This is a stark reminder of why we don’t need another freakin’ Clinton in the White House……

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator

Why's that, he getting laid more than you?

Posted by: Tom M on June 2, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

***FLASH*** More bimbo eruptions for Bill Clinton!
This is a stark reminder of why we don’t need another freakin’ Clinton in the White House……

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator

Why's that, he getting laid more than you?

Posted by: Tom M on June 2, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's people were encouraging people to vote -- for "uncommitted". If he was just trying to follow the rules, why did he do that? He got cute with a strategy that backfired on him when voters of MI were successful in getting a hearing on counting their votes. That isn't the wonderful foresight everyone praises him for -- it is political inexperience. He broke the rules by campaigning for "uncommitted".

Please...more like he took the rules on face value and removed his name off the ballot, assuming that the rules wouldn't be changed....silly him.

Then when faced with questions from his supporters in MI about what to do, his campaign recommended voting for uncommitted. This is hardly "campaigning for uncommitted". It was simply the realization that Hillary left her name on the ballot, obviously thinking she'd circumvent the rules later on, and his supporters wanted some direction about what to do.

If anything you could argue that Obama was naive to think that Hillary would follow the rules. But attacking him for assuming the rules would be followed is beyond ridiculous.

Posted by: Joe on June 2, 2008 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK
The ostensible goals for having a small number of early primaries is so this doesn't turn into an early run for the money.

Even granting, arguendo, that making a non-representative subset of the states into nomination gatekeepers is a cost worth the benefit of avoiding that effect, its pretty clear that however much that may have worked once, the elections are now very much an early run for money even with the non-representative gatekeepers. So, while that may be the ostensible purpose that notionally justifies the staggered primary structure, it does not appear to be a real and substantive benefit of that structure, much less a benefit that justifies the cost.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 2, 2008 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

All I can say is that your post represents yet more pontification by someone who is utterly ill-informed about the actual rules and actual facts. Ignorance must truly be bliss.

If that were true, then it wouldn't be all you can say, asswipe.

Posted by: truth machine on June 4, 2008 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's people were encouraging people to vote -- for "uncommitted". If he was just trying to follow the rules, why did he do that?

Why are so many Clinton supporters jackasses, liars, and just plain stupid? Markos, who is the one who was doing that encouraging, is not "Obama's people", and certainly not "he" -- the question "why did he do that" is retarded, when Obama did not do any such thing.

Posted by: truth machine on June 4, 2008 at 7:32 AM | PERMALINK

And speaking of Clinton supporters being jackasses, here's the really rich thing: these people have actly badly for months, engaging racism, sexist chauvinism (yes, sexism directed at Obama and men in general has been appalling and totally contrary to the principles of feminism), lies and misrepresentations, playing wedge politics with race, religion, and patriotism, and undermining the Democratic Party, progressive causes, humanity, and the planet by saying that McCain is "more experienced" (thanks, Hillary) or more patriotic (thanks, Bill) than Obama -- and because they've been called on it they whine about being "insulted", and take that as a justification for ... being the sort of jackasses that resulted in these justifiable "insults" in the first place! They talk about voting for McCain or refusing to vote for Obama. What pathetic spiteful children they are. Since when is it in the interests of feminism to bring back coathangers and back alley abortions, to disregard the rights and interests of children and women, to do the bidding of corporate lobbyists, to enable massive swindles like BCCI and Keating and Enron, to wage endless war? John McCain calls his wife a c*** and Hillary Clinton a bitch, and jokes that Chelsea was fathered by Janet Reno, but this is the person that Clinton supporters would vote for or enable? What a bunch of disgusting sick people. People say these folks are grieving, that we need to reach out and not create resentment ... I'm sorry, but I won't subscribe to that sort of blackmail and failure to hold people accountable. The burden is on them.

Posted by: truth machine on June 4, 2008 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

They voluntarily took their names off the ballot because they were told the primary would not count...

No, they took their names off the ballot because they were told not to participate. Clinton's notion of not participating, OTOH, was to leave her name on the ballot, saying that it didn't matter because the primary wouldn't count, and then later demanding all the delegates because hers was the only name on the ballot. And then she and her supporters have the gall to say that it's not fair to take four of those delegates away from her. What disgusting scum they are.

Third, as noted during the committee hearing, the ballot listing of "uncommitted" has a defined status as is treated the same as any other candidate on the ballot. That means you cannot take votes for "uncommitted" and assign them to someone else.

That is absolutely, completely, utterly false. That defined status only applies to legitimate votes. These votes were not legitimate, because the primary was against the rules; it was also de facto illegitimate because only one name was on the the ballot -- that's considered legitimate under dictatorship, but not here -- the people arguing otherwise are disgusting scum. Because the primary was not legitimate, the committee was charged, under rule 20.c.5, with crafting a delegation consistent with the state preferences -- which could not be determined solely from the vote count, because that was illegitimate and non-representative. And they did so, by taking polls into account. People claiming they couldn't do that are wrong. Some people claiming it, like Harold Ickes, know better, and thus are liars and scumbags.

Posted by: truth machine on June 4, 2008 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

I thought winner take all would have killed her in February.

How bizarre that anyone would have thought that, given the big state outcomes that she made so much of.

Posted by: truth machine on June 4, 2008 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

It is now time to unite the party. If the DNC does not explain why they came to the Michigan delegate count, 18 million Americans have been thrown under the bus!

Posted by: Julie O'Leary on June 4, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

It is now time to unite the party. If the DNC does not explain why they came to the Michigan delegate count, 18 million Americans have been thrown under the bus!

Posted by: Julie O'Leary on June 4, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

It is now time to unite the party. If the DNC does not explain why they came to the Michigan delegate count, 18 million Americans have been thrown under the bus!

Posted by: Julie O'Leary on June 4, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

All American Democrats need to know the DNC reasons for the Michigan delegate count decision.
We need to unite the party.

Posted by: Seattle Hillraisers on June 4, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

All American Democrats need to know the DNC reasons for the Michigan delegate count decision.
We need to unite the party.

Posted by: Seattle Hillraisers on June 4, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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