Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hillary and Florida. Hillary and Michigan.

If you've been following the progression of the primaries, you are no doubt aware of the controversial situations in Florida and Michigan. These two states decided to move their elections up ahead of Super Tuesday, the traditional day of reckoning for each party's aspiring presidential nominees. Because these actions were explicitly forbidden by the Democratic Party leadership, it was decided that the delegates from these two states would be stripped from the Democratic National Convention. The three front-runners for the party's nomination (Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards) agreed to help enforce this ruling by refusing to campaign in Michigan and Florida. Only candidate Mike Gravel continued to actively pursue the vote in these states.

At the time of the original ruling (last August) Hillary Clinton seemed to have no qualms about boycotting these two primaries. She went as far as to publicly state on public radio,"It's clear, this election they're having is not going to count for anything." This seems like a fairly unequivocal stance to me. In fact it is suggested that both Clinton and Obama did mount limited unofficial campaigns in Florida. And they both remained on the ballot in the "sunshine state". In Michigan Obama took his name off the ballot, while Clinton decided not to remove hers. It was clear that Clinton believed that she would triumph in Michigan, and she refused to cede the momentum that she thought the victory would bring her.

After Clinton won by handy margins in the disputed primaries, she seemed to hint at a fundamental change of attitude. After the victories, her campaign issued the following statement-"The people of Michigan and Florida have just as much of a right to have their voices heard as anyone else." Easy for her to say, of course... but the stance seemed to fall a bit short of calling for the delegates to be reinstated. Perhaps she had confidence that she would continue to pick up an overwhelming majority as the weeks passed. But that was not what fortune had in store for the Clinton camp. Now after losing in ten straight state elections, Clinton has changed her tune. There is talk that she will mount a lawsuit against the party if she doesn't get her way.

With the relative weakness of opposition coming from the GOP, this broiling conflict has the potential to sabotage Democratic efforts to win in November. Currently it appears that neither Obama nor Clinton will accumulate enough delegates to be automatically declared the victor before the Convention. Apparently the choice is going to come down to the "superdelegates"- those representatives of the party that are entrenched and therefore given the latitude to cast their votes as they choose, regardless of the preferences of the voters in the states. If Florida and Michigan delegates are allowed to participate in the convention, they could possibly muddle the process with unnecessary controversy.

The only outcome that will preclude such a controversy is a series of substantial Obama victories in the remaining primaries. If he is able to clear the difference that the inclusion of Florida and Michigan delegates would make for Clinton, then he is almost sure to be the unchallenged nominee at the Convention. On the other hand, if this isn't the case, then Michigan and Florida will have had undue influence in the ultimate outcome. In my opinion that would be a travesty of justice, since both the Democratic Party and the serious contenders for the presidency initially agreed that there should be no campaigns in those states. Democratic voters are already so disillusioned by the political process (after the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections) that any significant disagreement over procedural policy might be a fatal blow to a likely takeover of the executive branch.

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