I should say first off I don't have a dog in the hunt. I support neither Obama nor Clinton in this nomination race and couldn't tell you now whether I'd vote for either of them next November. I've stated long ago that both of those candidates have plenty of supporters, so I'll be supporting the voters this year, since they don't have nearly enough support.
With that said, this morning's meeting in the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee (RBC) has been an interesting one to watch. All sides in the unfortunate matters of fighting over how to seat (or not) the delegations from Florida and Michigan at this year's national convention have argued smartly for their various cases.
But where the DNC's RBC is concerned --- no matter which candidate the various members of the committee may already be on record as supporting in general --- there should be only one consideration in their ultimate decision: what will be best for the party itself and whichever candidate ends up being their nominee.
Everyone at today's meeting spoke in general consensus that party unity is key. If that's truly their belief, then every side in the dispute needs to place unification first as the top priority for any final rulings on whether and how to seat the MI and FL delegations at the Democratic Convention.
To that end, the version for those with short attention spans: The party must agree to the Florida compromise which nets a 19 delegate advantage for Clinton while giving delegates at the convention a 50% vote. They must also agree to the Michigan state party's compromise of awarding the Michigan delegates 69/59 in Clinton's favor with a 50% vote at the convention.
And while it's not necessarily germane to the decisions being made by the DNC RBC today, Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida should be made Barack Obama's Vice Presidential nominee.
For the longer explanation of the above, please read on...
BLAME NEW HAMPSHIRE...
While initially I was willing to hold the Democratic parties of both states responsible for having violated the party's rules by holding their primaries earlier than deemed allowable by the DNC, both have been, at this point, punished enough by the loss of campaign money, campaign appearances by the candidates, and the opportunity of party loyalists to offer their say in the decision of who will be the party's nominee.
Rules of a political party are not laws. Voting in a private party's nominating election is not the same as voting in a state or federal election. Adjusting those rules mid-game, should the party so choose, is their prerogative. Nominations of private political parties are not the equivalent of a plurality rule voting in an election to determine seating for local, state or federal office.
By the rules of both parties, nominating elections are decidedly unfair. (Keep in mind that the Republicans have decided to only give 50% voting strength to delegates from FL and MI as well, but few discuss that --- not even Republicans --- when they opportunistically try to paint the DNC as anti-democracy or anti-voter in light of the messes they must now clean up in FL and MI). The DNC's rules, from the start, are not like the one person/one vote principles (followed or otherwise) in local, state and federal office elections. The Dems have chosen to give disproportionate power to a handful of hand-selected party insiders known as Super Delegates. Those Super Delegates can --- both legally, and as per party rules --- swing any nomination they wish against the preferences of the voters, and in favor of whomever they prefer.
It's unfair, but it's their party. Even if the rest of us are stuck with it until we do something about it.
So while the Dems should have worked out this mess long ago, they had little idea that they'd be in this place now. They thought they'd be where the Republicans are today: with a consensus nominee having emerged, without the need for anyone to adjudicate, or even notice, that the process was decidedly unfair to the party voters of MI or FL.
Where the DNC had found that states who ran early primaries --- in defiance of a party directive that would punish those states by not having their delegates seated at the national convention --- there also exist party rules and provisions that allow them to vote around that previous directive and change it.
The Dems have already done so. In defiance of party directives, New Hampshire's SoS Bill Gardner unilaterally moved his state's primary to a date earlier than allowed by the DNC calendar. The party voted to give his state a "waiver" to do so, since one of the premises for the calendar they adopted in the first place was to allow Iowa and New Hampshire their privileged "first in the nation" privilege to hold the first caucus and primary.
That delicate privilege has already been under challenge, as the DNC had previously convened a commission to examine whether other states might be brought into the nomination process earlier in the calendar, so as to make that process nominally more fair and diverse to the rest of the voters who don't happen to live in Iowa or New Hampshire.
New Hampshire would have none of it, and the suggested plan to hold another caucus or two after Iowa's and prior to New Hampshire's primary was almost single-handedly defied by NH SoS Gardner, who took his state's privileged position and proceeded to squander it in a horribly run election, which failed to protect the right of citizens to properly oversee and verify the results of what should have been a transparent and secure process. The NH Primary, finally, was anything but transparent or secure.
As Dennis Bright, a senior campaign representative for Dennis Kucinich's told me early on, after the anomalous results came in from the NH Primary --- where Obama declined his right, for a mere $2000, to have every ballot counted for accuracy --- New Hampshire no longer deserves their privileged status.
"It's ludicrous," Bright said of the cost being charged to the Kucinich campaign to count the state's paper ballots, since Gardner refused to do so on anything but the very same Diebold optical-scan systems which have been shown time and again to be easily hacked (watch it yourself right here) and otherwise prone to simple error.
"New Hampshire has the privilege of being the first in the nation. This election brings in $3 billion dollars to the economy, so you'd think a measly 70k would be part of the cost of doing business," he said. And he's right. If NH won't count every ballot transparently, they certainly do not deserve either the billions of dollars or the privilege they gain from their special status.
What is happening today in the DNC's meeting is not democracy. It is party politics. The nomination process itself, for both major parties, is built on party politics. It's their party after all. While there are democratic (small "d") procedures nominally built in to the process, and when elections are held, all votes should be counted, the fact is that both the DNC and RNC decided in advance they were not going to. They proceeded with a process known to be flawed and they didn't care. All pretenses that this is a fight for a mythical "popular vote" are just that: pretense, not reality.
So with all of those thoughts in mind, along with consideration of the impassioned arguments made by party reps from both MI and FL and the supporters of the candidates from each state at today's meeting, here is the way I'd recommend the DNC RBC proceed in regard to this ridiculous matter, such that it might be best for both the party and the voters.
THE FLORIDA FOLDEROL...
There seems to be (largely) consensus here. That's good. A plan has been forwarded that will give the pledged delegates a 50% vote each, and the super delegates a full vote. The result will be an advantage of 19 pledged delegates to Clinton. She and her supporters should take happily take it.
That's close enough to "fair" in that both candidates were on the FL ballot, neither campaigned there and Clinton received more votes, reportedly, than Obama.
Obama takes a small delegate hit that won't effect his overall claim to having won more pledged delegates nationally than Clinton, and Clinton can claim the somewhat-misleading talking point prize of having "won the popular vote" nationally if she insists.
Although that prize disrespects the states that chose to hold caucuses, rather than primaries, for the sake of party unity, if she wants that prize, Obama and his supporters should allow her to have it to do with as she pleases.
I'll note that while many have called for Clinton to step down long ago, since it had become largely impossible for her to win the majority of delegates and thus the nomination, short of a sudden landslide of super delegates declaring support for her, the nomination race itself will have been won (if all proceeds as it seems like it will) by Obama, though by hardly anything representing a landslide.
It was a very close, hard fought race on both sides, where Obama was successfully able to edge out Clinton. While her behavior during the race was, at times, was remarkably ill-considered, nonetheless she garnered a tremendous amount of support and her second place finish will have been very closely won.
Obama supporters need to recognize that fact. The compromise plan, which seems to have the support of most sides, as well as a majority of the RBC, is a good one. Or as best as you'll be able to get without destroying the DNC.
Additionally...Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), who argued brilliantly for both Obama and the voters of the state of Florida, should be named Barack Obama's Vice-Presidential running mate.
He has been one of the few members of Congress who has truly fought on behalf of the people, the Constitution and the voters over the past decade of chaos and coup, and as a favorite son of Florida, he could help deliver the Sunshine State for the Democrats this year in a way that only the naming of Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist as Veep on the Republican ticket could potentially counter.
Wexler is also Jewish and ardently pro-Israel which, needless to say, will come in handy in both Florida and the rest of the country as the filthy Republican attempts to swiftboat Obama as "a secret time-traveling Nazi Muslim", which has already begun and which, you can bet your bottom dollar, will increase 10-fold in intensity between now and November 4th.
Finally, Wexler is also among the few names that I can think of who appropriately matches the "Change" promise that Obama has been running on for so long.
Wexler for Veep, obviously, is not up to either the DNC or its RBC. It's up to Obama. But I think the move would be a very smart one with consideration to both the general election and the all-important party unity that is needed right now in order to win the state of Florida this year.
THE MICHIGAN MESS...
The case here is a much more difficult one to adjudicate fairly. In fact, there is no outcome that can be seen as fully fair. The best that can be had is for a baby split that accommodates the needs of both candidates and their supporters close to equally. Neither candidate will like it, but too bad and too late. It's the best they're going to get, and it's the best for the party.
While Obama had removed his name from the ballot, since the primary in MI --- as even Clinton admitted many moons ago --- "wouldn't count," and since he arguably was hoping to curry favor in Iowa and New Hampshire by doing so, it's equally important to a Democratic victory in November to move towards party unity in Michigan as it is in Florida.
"Uncommitted" received some 40% of the vote in the MI primary, which was clearly a vote for Obama, and to a lesser extent Edwards (who now supports Obama, so can fairly "lend" what would have been his delegates over to the Obama side at this point).
The Clinton camp is arguing to apportion delegates 73/55, in her favor, taking what would have been her rightful number according to the reported election results. That, even though her name appeared on the ballot and his didn't.
Obama's team, in the person of former Edwards supporter Rep. John Bonior, argued for a 50/50 split between both candidates.
And finally, the MI state party, whose position was argued by Sen. Carl Levin, has come to a middle-ground compromise of 69/59 favoring Clinton, and giving the benefit of the doubt to Obama based on who Exit Polls reported voters were voting for, and on the enormous 30,000 or so write-in votes that were not counted under MI's bizarre rules, but which most likely went to Obama and/or Edwards.
To their discredit, a number of party operatives on the RBC, and certainly the majority of cable news talking heads, took the opportunity, once again, to declare that "Exit polls are not accurate." Even if they are accurate enough apparently, to be used by those same cable channels in helping to determine the winner in states well before votes are actually counted. (For the record, The BRAD BLOG believes Exit Polls are at least as accurate, if not more so, then most election results as counted on the wholly unreliable, wholly untransparent method of electronic voting and tabulation used in most states and counties across the country.)
But whether or not Exit Polls are accurate, and whether or not the decision to give Clinton what would amount to a 10 delegate bump (though halved to just 5 delegates if those votes are then counted at 50%, as Florida's likely will also be), Clinton will come out the "winner" here as well, in terms of both delegates gained and the popular-vote "win" she continues to hang her hat on.
Both Clinton and Obama should accept the MI state party's recommended, decidedly imperfect, middle-ground compromise and move forward.
Clinton will get the better of the deal, at least on paper. But Obama can best absorb such a "loss", and the edge to Clinton will subsequently give (or should subsequently give) her supporters an opportunity to show some love in return to Obama in exchange.
The DNC needs to come to agreements with the state parties in each state. That's the first step towards re-unifying the party. It's also the smartest thing the Dems can do at this point, as they hope for the best beyond this foolish, but classically-Democratic (large "D") tendency to grasp for defeat wherever and whenever it can be found within the jaws of victory.
A FINAL NOTE ON THE DNC AND TO SUPPORTERS OF OBAMA AND CLINTON...
We congratulate the DNC on the (largely) transparent process they've been playing out for all the world to see, as televised on national TV today. While the RBC has been late in coming back from their "lunch break", with speculation rampant that they are power-brokering behind closed doors, the process has decidedly not been one that took place in a "smoke filled room".
It's difficult to imagine an internecine Republican National Committee battle taking place quite as openly, and airing as much very wrinkled --- if not dirty --- laundry for the whole world to watch, discuss and complain about in the open.
Ultimately though, victory this fall will be up to the supporters of both Democratic candidates, and arguably more so on the backs of whichever candidate does not win the nomination.
That means, most likely, that Clinton supporters --- who, not without some justification, have argued that their woman would be more "electable" --- better be prepared to jump on the Obama bandwagon should things play out as they seem to be headed.
The same, of course, is true for Obama supporters should Clinton somehow manage to turn things upside down and walk away with the nomination.
Moreover, the party leaders in both states must lead the way --- big time --- in getting behind whoever the party's nominee will be. Though the state parties in both state's were not fully responsible for this mess (particularly, the Republican legislature in Florida had a huge hand in knee-capping the Dems down there by voting to move up the primary), but they have their fair share of culpability, and damned well better fight like hell for the nominee, no matter who it turns out to be.
The fact is, the Republican nominee --- in this case, John McCain, but whoever it might have been --- oughtn't even be a player in this year's contest. The Republicans, as I see it, have disqualified themselves from even the privilege to contend for the highest office in the land, given their reprehensible, unforgivable, wholly-illegal, completely extra-constitutional behavior of the last eight years.
Nonetheless, they are running someone for the job, which I'll concede remains their legal right. But after these last eight years, the Democrats should have been able to take the White House with no less than a 70/30 popular landslide this fall.
That should still be the case if the supporters of both Obama and Clinton come together as the writing solidifies on the wall, and work their asses off to make sure every American who wishes to cast a vote is able to do so, and to have that vote counted and counted accurately for the first time in a Presidential election in twelve years.
If you Democrats aren't able to pull that off, then you will have deserved whatever government you get. Even if it's headed by John McCain.
The trouble is, the rest of us don't deserve that. So you people better get your act together between now and November 4th. And hopefully sooner rather than later.