February 8, 2008

Is the light at the end of the tunnel the headlight on an oncoming locomotive?

I'd intended to write a thorough post re-visiting the topic of super-delegates and the real chance that the Dem nomination might head right into the weeds if something doesn't develop soon, but constant interruptions and other matters delayed it until now, so I had to do a quick and dirty unedited version, though it ended up massively long, as usual. Bear with me, or, if you prefer, just skip the thing.

It's long been observed, with a fair degree of truth, that the Democratic party is adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Now that distinct possibility is looming with both the prospect of the primary being decided by a group of elected officials and big wigs cutting deals madly and essentially invalidating the votes of millions of previously energized and optomistic Democrats, Independents, and many Republicans who have placed their palpable desire for a new direction after so many years of waiting on either Hillary or Obama.

There was much more news about this topic today, including Dem Party head Howard Dean's reported stance that he doesn't want to allow the race to go to the convention, and if it appeared that's where things were heading, he would instead try (how?) to negotiate something with Clinton and Obama. What this would be seems clear... convincing one or the other to step aside in exchange, it's presumed, for some juicy plum or other. But seriously, what are the chances of either of them accepting such an ultimatum? Zilch, in my opinion.

Then there's Dean's kicking the ball down the street when questioned about the other very troubling development, namely, Clinton's stated desire to try to somehow ensure that the Florida delegates are seated at the convention, flagrantly ignoring the party edict that both she and the other candidates had previously agreed to.

To me this is simply reprehensible, a cheap attempt at a dirty move. Unless there's more to it than is apparent, I can't believe she'd try to pull such a stunt, and it decidedly lowers my opinion of her and her campaign.

Then in response to this willful attempt by Clinton to foment a true crisis in order to try to grub some delegates she has reason to believe will go to her, Dean punted the ball by observing that he'd have nothing to do with that, and that it would instead by up to a panel of party hacks on the credentialing committee to make a decision.

Some were then suggesting that Dean or others are suggesting essentially having "do-overs" in Michigan and Florida, the two states the party has sanctioned for breaking with party wishes and moving their primaries ahead on the calendar despite the promise that if they did, none of their delegation would be seated at the convention.

Now they appear to be considering lifting this punishment, creating the almost ludicrous scenario of the two states holding their primary elections AGAIN.

This is despite the fact that all candidates had pledged not to campaign in either state. Yet Hillary brazenly broke this pledge only after being defeated in S. Carolina, when she immediately flew to FL to make several campaign appearances, won the primary, and then crowed that she was going to ensure the FL delegates got seated.

If the two states do indeed hold their primaries again, Hillary can expect to benefit greatly, as she won both states on the "real" primary date, though both were SUPPOSED to be beauty contests with no delegates awarded, or at least allowed to vote at the convention.

Now that's all stood on it's head.

So much for that iron-clad punishment. If this occurs, it will appear that the party is unable, or unwilling, to stand up to Clinton at best, and will obviously create a firestorm over the apearance that the party leadership is giving an unfair edge to Clinton.

This of course would absolutely torpedo the fervent hopes for a party energized and firmly united behind Clinton, were this to put her over the top. A nightmare situation any way you slice it.

And that's not even getting to the perhaps larger headache, the increasing likelihood that the choice of Democratic presidential candidate will be decided by a relative handful of party insiders and elected officials, thus effectively invalidating the votes of millions of amped up, motivated Democrats, Independents, and even Republicans.

This will NOT play well with them, and as I noted in a previous comment on this topic, Dem consultant and former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazille has already flatly stated on CNN that if it gets to the point where the 800 some odd super-delegates decide who the nominee is to be, she'll immediately quit the party.

After the debacle of Florida and the Supreme Court in 2000, and the truly loathsome swift-boating of Kerry and the voting fraud in Ohio, and after having waited 8 excruciatingly long and painful years for a chance to put a new kind of Democrat in the White House, the Dems appear to be headed once again straight towards an incredible mess.

Their best laid plans didn't anticipate a dead heat or the chance that the nomination would be thrown to the super-delegates, and if it did, it didn't take into account the ramifications.

If this close and passionate contest goes down to a tie, a tie decided by party insiders and hacks, then expect some loud and long and justified howling from millions and millions of Dems as they have their high spirits for a new style of politics crushed by a decidedly old style manner of choosing a nominee... and one that disenfranchises them all and causes the very problem that the rule changes that created the super-delegate system was designed to avoid. Namely, to put more power in rank and file hands and move it away from party honchos.

Nancy Pelosi gave what I found to be a rather disingenuous defense of this system yesterday, suggesting that she'd have no problem with the super-delegates, of which she of course is one, deciding who the nominee will be.

She suggested that the rules are working just fine. The very reason the rules were changed, she suggested, were so that average Dems could caucus and vote without pressure or having to worry about the presence of party big-wigs and elected officials. To hear her tell it, this was simply to get the heavy-weights out of the process and allow average Dems to vote freely for who they preferred.

But she was pretty disingenuous when she stated that "the vast majority" of delegates are picked by the rank and file at caucuses and primaries. Not so.

As I understand it, the super-delegates make up a full 40% of all delegates. The remaining 60% representing regular delegates sure the hell don't represent any "vast majority".

If neither Obama or Clinton is able to break the clinch they're in within the next month or so, this could get real ugly, real fast folks. Offer your thoughts and observations about this looming nightmare here.

I'd also encourage you to revisit some recent threads and comments that touch on this topic as they contain info and links to pages explaining the somewhat complex delegate situation.


At 2/08/2008 7:08 AM, Anonymous Andrew said...

Dean thinking that he can negotiate with Clinton and Obama is about as stupid as thinking that the US can negotiate with Iran or other enemies. Enemies do not negotiate until they are beaten.

The Republicans indeed appear to have their 'secret weapon' working once again - it's the Democrat Party! (they just seem to implode when it comes to Presidential politics).

At 2/08/2008 12:12 PM, Blogger tiz said...

Count me in with Ms. Brazile. There was a good article in NYT magazine last weekend (apologies if it's been mentioned before) that talked about some of the dirty tricks that went on in 1984 when Mondale won on the backs of SDs over Gary Hart.

It's really sad when the other party, the one I believe doesn't give a rat's ass about normal people, is the one more representative of their people when choosing a POTUS candidate. Think about it - if the republicans had SDs make up a fifth of their delegates Romney would still be in the race.

At 2/08/2008 4:57 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

In the Dems defense, I'd only point out that the Republicans have mostly winner take all primaries in which if a candidate gets one more vote than another, they get ALL the delegates of the state.

I don't think that's in any way more of a representitive system that gives rank and file members a voice.

At least with proportional primaries, people's votes are truly represented at the convention.

That said, it would be a true disaster if things got down to being decided by these superdelegates. It may not be dirty dealing necessarily, but the APPEARANCE would be so bad, not to mention how it would pour ice cold water on all the gigantic enthusiasm and record breaking voter participation.

Talk about a come down.

And the clear fact is this: That if the super delgates come down and make Clinton the nominee, all hell will break lose.

If they decide on Obama, the situation won't be quite as nasty, but close.

Clinton already appears ready and willing to try to game the system and call in their establishment connections, and if she's the nominee after it going to the superdelegates, then people are going to go absolutely balistic and any hope of a united Democratic party going into the general (and bear in mind, there will be a VERY short time between the convention and the election) will be a pipe dream.

At 2/10/2008 2:17 PM, Anonymous nooncat said...

The history of how superdelegates came to be is an interesting one, and worth researching.

After the '68 convention, the Democratic Party made changes in the delegate selection process. The was based on the work of the McGovern-Fraser Committee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McGovern-Fraser_Commission). One of the outcomes of that committee was that delegate selection procedures had to be open, and party leaders couldn't select delegates behind closed doors anymore.

The party's argument against this was that it unfairly reduced the influence of office-holding party members. But (again, this bears more research) there's a strong suggestion that the higher-ups in the Democratic Party didn't want candidates that were too left-leaning. This, according to as-yet-unverified (by me, anyway) information, came to a head when McGovern received the nomination in '72. Party bigwigs supposedly had a fit, regarding McGovern too liberal to be the party's presidential candidate, and that this was the impetus to get the superdelegate ball rolling.

At 2/10/2008 5:07 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Thanks for that Nooncat,

I explained much the same thing when the topic was covered in this recent post.

Will these rules prove to be a massive example of good intentions coming back to haunt the Dems?

I certainly hope not, but things are heading straight for a situation where it seems inevitable that the current era of good feelings among Dems will be replaced by suspicion and rancor.

At 2/10/2008 9:43 PM, Anonymous nooncat said...

O redundant me! That's what I get for not thoroughly perusing your online salience. O redundant me!

At 2/11/2008 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the superdelegates are only 20% of the total (800 out of 4000 or so), but that doesn't make the issues you and others have raised any less significant.


At 2/12/2008 7:23 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...


I'm glad you brought that up. I had used the 40% figure due to hearing it used more than once by some talking head or another on TV.

But I did hear someone remark just yesterday that they represented only 20% (which makes more sense), and had planned to (and forgotten to) make the correction.

Thanks again.


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