Tuesday, February 19, 2008

FL, MI, and and Leadership: My Last (I hope) Obama Post

by Ken Houghton

Dr. Black summarizes the issue:
As I've written before my biggest problem with Clinton isn't Clinton - I like her! - it's some of the people she surrounds herself with. Aren't they supposed to be the ones who know what they're doing?

Given Tom's recent posts, especially this one, I suspect he has no problem with that summary. (It appears that Hilzoy is in the ABC camp. Not absolutely certain about Scott. Patrick is an optimist. YMMV.)

But the consensus claim is that Obama works to solve issues, reaches across, finds compromises, all that noise. The "miracle" of a unanimous vote in the Illinois Senate is frequently invoked.

So while his wife continues to do her best Sherry Palmer imitation*, and Obama continues to win states (the two today coming as a surprise to no one, save possibly Barkley at Econospeak), it becomes clear that he could actually show his ability to lead.

I raised the issue last night at Brad DeLong's place. The current situation is that Democratic voters in Florida and Michigan are going to get less of a say in the selection of a candidate than Republican cross-overs in Iowa and Wisconsin are. And Obama supporters are happy with this. The most they will talk about is "do-overs." Scott trivializes them as "straw polls." (Campaign slogan: "1.7 million Floridians don't count")

Now, it's possible that a Democrat wins the White House without winning Michigan and Florida—but it's not the way to bet. And no sane Democrat should want to p*ss off people who actually went out in the mild of January in Michigan to vote.

But Hilzoy and Scott and a lot of other people—probably the same people who were righteously piqued that John Kerry gave up the fight for Ohio—are getting on their high horses about not seating FL and MI delegates because they broke DNC rules.

The irony is so thick that one has to laugh. Hillary Clinton fights for the rights of the voters in two states to have their votes counted, and this is evil.

And Barack H. Obama has a chance to lead. If he does it quickly.

The speech runs something like this:
"My fellow Democrats,

"Through no fault of their own, the voters of Florida and Michigan have been disenfranchised. Local Democratic Party organizers decided—in direct contravention of the national rules—to hold primaries at a time when they were told not to do so.

"Neither John Edwards nor my current opponent campaigned in either state, save to attend a victory celebration after the ballots were cast.

"But the people of those states—more than 2.1 million Democrats—voted.

"And now our choices are to disenfranchise them, to pretend they did not participate in the process, or to welcome them.

"I join now with my opponent in welcoming them, in asking that the delegates from the great states of Florida and Michigan be seated with the representatives of the forty-eight other states and the District of Columbia. It is not the fault of the voters that they voluntarily participated in the primary process.

"It is, however, the fault of their leaders that those primaries were held when they were held.

"Accordingly, I can for the so-called superdelegates from those states not to be seated for the first round of voting.

"Order and discipline must be maintained in the Democratic Party. And it is the responsibility of the party's leaders—not its voters—to ensure that irregularities do not occur.

"The leaders of Florida and Michigan are good people. Jennifer Granholm, Bob Graham, and the other Democrats who care deeply about their state had the best of intentions when they moved their primaries. But they were warned, and did not heed that warning.

"It is on them—not the voters—that the consequences must fall.

"So today I join my opponent in urging that the elected delegates from those two states be given their rightful place at and during the Convention, and that the punishment should fall where it belongs—upon the party leaders who deliberately disrupted their citizen's legitimate exercise of their democratic rights.

I will do everything in my power to ensure that the elected delegates from the states of Florida and Michigan are seated. The people's votes should not be "

Note the breakdowns: Obama loses virtually nothing by doing that, especially if Edwards's Florida delegates vote his way. (He's at a slight disadvantage in Michigan, but that could be balanced by 35% of the delegates being "uncommitted"—and therefore his for the taking if he supports them.)

But he has to do it while we can all still pretend it "makes a difference"—before Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas mark the official end of the "race."

Y'all keep telling me that Obama is a "leader," and that he finds solutions. Right now, he's got a great chance to prove it: within his own party, making certain that voters are not disenfranchised.

Obama has been conspicuously silent about the voters of two large, fairly populous states who were disenfranchised not by some Grand Republican Conspiracy, but rather by his own party. Let's see him lead.

If he does, this will certainly be my last Obama post. When he doesn't—or if he waits until the nomination is clearly his and then throws those voters (including nearly 570,000 in Florida who voted for him, and nearly 250,000 in Michigan who indicated a willingness or desire to do so) a bone—then I can be forgiven for posting the next Sherry Palmer* Michelle Obama slagging of any possibility that the Democratic process will not elect her husband.

*To be clear, I've only seen the first season of 24, and am thinking of the Sherry Palmer who kept manipulating her husband and his staff. I've heard she came back in later seasons, but cannot speak to them.

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I have to disagree with this post. As a Michigan Democrat, I am annoyed at my state party leaders, but not for the reasons most widely discussed. The moving up of our primary's date was not simply a ploy for more primary dollars and attention - to which I am somewhat sympathetic, though I believe Michigan and Florida are both too large to have very early primaries.

Rather, the move was engineered by loyal Clinton supporters (principally, Governor Granholm, Senator Stabenow, and DNC member Debbie Dingell (also the wife of the influential Congressman Dingell, my representative)). These party members ought to be rebuked for rolling the dice with the state's primary in order to cement their chosen candidate's early lead in the state.

It's not a useful test of anything to win a state where your opponent can't campaign. Clinton's 'wins' in Michigan and Florida are meaningless and should be regarded as such. Winning an election in which your opponents are not allowed to campaign is a worthless skill come November. I did not vote, nor did many of my friends and colleagues, because we believed our votes would not count. Others voted in the Republican primary for strategic reasons.

Simply put, the state-level Democrats should be punished, deviations from the system should be punished (although the system still needs further reform, no doubt). It's not fair to change the rules in the middle of the game.

And as for the argument that Michigan and Florida are essentials states in the November general election... Does anyone really believe that MI and Fl independents care whether or not the state delegates are seated at the convention? Honestly?

I think Obama's made the right decision on this one, and I believe Clinton's continued insistence on calling for the seating of these two delegations has angered a number of party officials who have seen it for what it is - a desperate ploy by a candidate who never before thought she was in serious danger of losing the campaign.
Thanks for the comment, Dan. I agree that the Clinton move reeks of desperation. (So did Clinton's Potemkin victory speech in FL, even in advance of the real tanking of her campaign.) On NPR this morning, they Played the Tape of HRC's flip-flop regarding abiding by the DNC rules.

The underlying conceptual problem, as Dan mentions, is that the situation just about ensured -- between the lack of campaigning and the preannounced sanctions -- that the FL and MI results can't be regarded as good measurements of the electorate's intent, no matter how many votes may have been cast.

The Ohio analogy is inapt, too, if not totally backwards. It's HRC who's now in the after-the-fact rule-rewriting business since it suits her immediate political needs.
I'm not sure why you say I'm ABC. I support Obama, mostly for policy reasons (esp. foreign policy.) Recently, I have become worried about what Clinton's campaign says about her as a manager. But I have also been pretty consistent about thinking that Clinton would be a decent President, that we could do a lot worse, and that the reason I support Obama isn't because I find her unbearable, but because I think he's a lot better.
BTW, Ken, while you may notice that I haven't exercised any prior or (yet) posterior restraint on you, I have to say that I think the Sherry Palmer analogy is somewhere between hyperbolic and defamatory, and also assumes stuff you can't possibly know. So, I suggest you lay off it in future
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