Archive for the ‘Media’ Category
There may be good reasons for Democratic superdelegates to hold off on making a decision between Senators Clinton and Obama, but the national popular vote is not one of them. Over fifty years ago Jean-Paul Sartre warned us about something he called “bad faith.” We are in “bad faith” when we are free to make a decision but convince ourselves that there is something preventing us from making this decision. For example, those who seek advice can be in bad faith. They say that they cannot decide until they get some good advice, knowing in advance what the advice will be.
How does this relate to the so-called popular vote? Well, if we can believe a lot of pollsters and journalists, the SUPERdelegates really want to know what the national popular vote is going to be before they can make up their minds. Until they know, they cannot choose between Clinton and Obama. But for anyone who has seen some of the (often well intentioned) attempts to calculate the national popular vote, it should be obvious that no such total will be available. There is no evil plot afoot. The simple reality is that states have chosen very different ways to select delegates. The first great divide is between caucus states and non-caucus states. And then there are the different ways in which the caucus states choose to select delegates. But although many have spent many hours focusing on the latter, these differences are really trivial. The bottom line is that any attempt to determine a national popular vote runs into the apples and oranges problem. Caucus states and primaries are different animals, and if you attempt to combine them into a national popular vote, you will short-change the caucus states. Why? Because every statistical model that seeks to create a national popular vote from these apples and oranges will be suspect and subject to abuse. The caucus system simply involves many fewer participants. One can complain that it is less democratic, although no candidate did so before Iowa. But the Democratic Party did not warn the citizens of caucus states that their systems would mean reduced representation, and this is just what it would mean if pollsters create statistical Rube Goldberg devices for calculating a national popular vote.
Pollsters and journalists are free to go through all of the statistical contortions that their patience will allow. They are free to create formulas, and then more formulas. However, they should know this: they are supporting the bad faith of some of the superdelegates. They are enabling people who have a responsibility to make a decision avoid a decision. They are giving them an excuse. They are telling superdelegates that there may be an Oz-like “metric” that can help them out of their alleged indecision. I say, let them fish or cut bait.
Democrats now find themselves in the position of having to slog through several more weeks of a contest that should be over. Why? In large measure because the Clintons have been able to play a new game, the metrics game, which includes the national popular vote as a “metric.” The very fact that we are talking about different “metrics” reflects the degree to which the Clinton campaign has managed to set the agenda. The notion of “a collective popular vote” in the nomination process is a myth that simply hasn’t been properly “vetted” by the Media. One has to ask why the Media hasn’t done a better job.
Please check out: “How Would Primaries Have Changed the Results in Caucus States?” by Gregory P. Nini and Glenn Hurowitz . http://www.dcourage.com/Caucus%20Study.pdf
[The latter's conclusion, "We wish to make three broad points. First, because voter turnout is lower in caucuses, the popular vote dramatically devalues the popular will of citizens of caucus states. Second, the size of the devaluation is large, given that about one-third of states have used caucuses and caucus turnout is only one-fifth of primary turnout. Finally, both the actual caucus results and the results of our hypothetical primaries suggest that were every state to have held primaries, Obama would have a larger lead in the current tally of the popular vote."]
This, and other blogs/articles like it, should be circulated. The issue should be discussed in the MSM asap.
Here is a hypothetical: Michigan holds a caucus in May and Florida a primary in June. At the convention Obama has a 135 pledged delegate lead (excluding superdelegates) and Clinton has a narrow lead of 25,000 in the national popular vote. Question: Is it legitimate for Clinton to argue that she should receive the nomination based on the popular vote? The answer, absolutely not. To do so would be to change the rules in the middle of the game and deny the citizens of the caucus states their voice at the convention.
There are apples and there are oranges. Typically we know the difference. We have primaries and we have caucuses. And we usually know the difference. Yet, somehow, we now appear to have something that is neither a caucus nor a primary. It is sometimes referred to as the (national) popular vote. The latter is created by totaling the votes from all of the caucuses and the primaries. It is a chimera, a mythical beast, a red-herring with wings, etc. But the folks in the caucus states stand to be, shall we say, disenfranchised by this chimera. Consider, if your state holds a caucus, your caucus will involve many fewer participants than in a primary. When the apples and oranges of primaries and caucuses are combined into one large national popular vote, your state will not be adequately represented. Had the members of caucus states realized this before they set up their systems, they might have reconsidered. But they, as the rest of us, were told that citizens voted for delegates (directly or indirectly).
I have not seen one note in the Media or the Press, not one small asterisk, warning the American people that combining the votes in caucus and non-caucus states is not only unfair to the caucus states, but may misrepresent the strengths of the candidates and undermine the present system. For better or worse, we currently have a delegate system, and we need to play by its rules. By accepting a popular vote lead as definitive, especially a slim national one, the Democrats are inviting chaos at their convention.
The DNC did not send out a warning: Caucuses may be hazardous to your representation. It must now step up to the plate and defend its delegate system.
“The Popular Vote Myth” UPDATE March 9, 2008
In my blog of March 5th I do not claim that superdelegates should automatically support the candidate with the greater number of delegates. I argue that Democrats at the convention should not be swayed by a so-called national vote that is biased against caucus states. One has to make a distinction between the so-called national vote, and the primaries and caucuses that take place within states. In the case of the latter, there are philosophical and prudential arguments for why these results should be considered by superdelegates, although I do not make these arguments in my blog. But this is a different matter than combining the total number of votes in all of the states. Combining votes in this fashion is akin to pretending that apples and oranges aren’t any different because both will do if I am hungry enough.
The issue is whether a so-called national popular vote undermines the representational nature of a delegate system that includes caucuses. It is a question about how we understand the “popular will” given the current system. It is a question about fairness and expectations. We need to discuss these matters now, and not in August.