Archive for the ‘Primaries’ Category
The DNC reached a compromise today (May 31st) on Florida and Michigan. It is fair and prudent. The Clinton camp appears satisfied with 50/50 split in Florida, but unhappy about the resolution in Michigan. From the Clinton camp:
“We strongly object to the Committee’s decision to undercut its own rules in seating Michigan’s delegates without reflecting the votes of the people of Michigan.
The Committee awarded to Senator Obama not only the delegates won by Uncommitted, but four of the delegates won by Senator Clinton. This decision violates the bedrock principles of our democracy and our Party.
We reserve the right to challenge this decision before the Credentials Committee and appeal for a fair allocation of Michigan’s delegates that actually reflect the votes as they were cast.” [emphasis added] http://demconwatch.blogspot.com/
Are we really supposed to believe that Hillary Clinton, after stating publicly that the election in Michigan would not count–an election in which her opponent was not on the ballot–is now in a position to claim that the decision of the DNC has undermined democracy? Does she really believe this? Is she actually outraged?
I believe that there is outrage in Hillary’s Camp, as irrational as it may seem at first. Just listen to some of the reports about what went on at the DNC meeting. And I also believe that Bill and Hillary may actually be outraged. The DNC’s decision results in four more delegates for Obama than Hillary would have awarded him. In terms of the delegate count, four delegates can’t be the source of the outrage. The practical consequences are nil and genuine outrage over principle is suspect. So if there is outrage, what is its source? Here is my hypothesis.
Hillary’s Camp has been playing the metrics game for several months now, inventing new metrics at every turn. But the one that she has grown most attached to is the so-called “popular vote.” The fact that this is mythical is irrelevant to the Clintons. (Any statistician or pollster worth his or her salt will tell you that you can’t combine votes from caucus and primary states, for the former simply have many fewer “voters” involved. It is a classic case of apples and oranges. If you did combine them, the citizens of the caucus states could claim that they were being disenfranchised. Further, the primaries had different rules, some allowed independents to participate, some even allowed Republicans to cross over, while others were solely for Democrats.)
The problem with the DNC’s Michigan decision is that it undermines the plausibility of counting Michigan’s votes in a popular vote total. According to the DNC, giving Obama the “uncommitted” votes is an inadequate solution to the Michigan problem. No one knows for sure how the vote would have gone. So it simply took the request of the Clinton Camp, and the request of the Obama Camp, and split the difference, awarding Obama four “additional” delegates. This is meant to make a statement. It shows that the state’s popular vote is not to be construed as decisive or legitimate, for the delegate count does not match the “popular vote” (which in fact is non-existent since Obama wasn’t on the ballot). The compromise was one over delegates, and the way that the delegates were handled signaled that Michigan’s popular vote should not be counted.
The outrage from the Clinton Camp is real, but to be more exact, it is really fury at the DNC for undermining its case about the popular vote. It is not clear how she wants to use the latter at this point, but whether it is for posterity, for the VP slot, or for her next run for the presidency, the popular vote total remains very important to the Clintons. The problem, however, is obvious. By insisting on this false metric, they are undermining Obama. They are making it appear that she somehow won the election, as did Gore, and then had it taken away from her by an unfair system. But the analogy to Florida in 2000 is specious. Hillary and her Camp will have to take responsibility for any damage done to Obama’s chances by continuing to “strongly object” to the DNC’s reasonable compromise.
Trying to do my small part to help begin to unify the Democratic Party, I had promised myself that I would halt criticism of Clinton in print and on the Web. There is, after all, so much to be said about McCain and Co. But this evening I find myself unable to carry through on this pledge. There are two significant reasons.
First, I have grown increasingly concerned that Senator Clinton’s continual references to the so-called popular vote may end up damaging Senator Obama’s candidacy. It has the potential to do so by delegitimizing his victory, that is, by making it appear that he didn’t win the nomination cleanly because more people voted for Hillary. Certainly Clinton is entitled to remain in the race through all of the caucuses and primaries, and if she must, until the convention. However, even though it is clear that Obama’s (increasing) delegate lead will give him the nomination, the Clintons have continued to appeal to the notion that she is entitled to it because she has won more votes. It’s of course not evident that she has won more votes, except according to the most contrived mathematical formulas (e.g., leaving Obama without any votes in Michigan). But on a more basic level, the national popular vote is a myth, or I should say, a mythical beast. It is a chimera. You cannot generate a national popular vote from contests that have included caucuses (which cannot produce nearly as many votes as primaries), contests that have permitted independents to vote, as well as states that have permitted Republican crossovers, etc. It isn’t necessary for the Clintons to make the popular vote argument to see the election through to the end, which is one of Hillary’s proclaimed reasons for staying in the race. The argument is shortsighted if you care about a Democratic victory in November. One can only speculate as to why the Clintons have chosen this course, but it isn’t for the good of the Party.
The second reason can be called the anti-mensch factor. Instead of stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for her comments regarding RFK’s assassination, Hillary has come up with two lame strategies and one despicable one for explaining them away. The lame strategies involve trying to justify her comments by saying that 1) Teddy Kennedy had been on her mind, and 2) all she had meant to do was suggest a time line for long campaigns. I won’t comment on the first, except to say that her comments were a strange way to reveal caring and concern. Regarding the second, the time line argument simply doesn’t hold up. There is absolutely no reason why Bobby Kennedy’s assassination needed to be invoked as a marker. There are many other ways to talk about extended nominating contests. And if for some reason she had wanted to mention Bobby, all she had to do was say that he won the California primary in June. (This is not to say that she wasn’t thinking about a time line. The issue is about the role of the marker, RFK’s assassination, that she chose to use.)
But now I come to the despicable reason. Zachary A. Goldfarb reported on May 25th, in The Washington Post, the following. “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign accused Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign of fanning a controversy over her describing the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy late in the 1968 Democratic primary as one reason she is continuing to run for the presidency. ‘The Obama campaign … tried to take these words out of context,’ Clinton campaign chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ ‘She was making a point merely about the time line.’” [emphasis added] http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-talk/2008/05/clinton_camp_stokes_rfk_flap_b.html?nav=rss_email/components
As noted, the time line argument doesn’t work. And it is virtually inconceivable that some very bright Clinton people do not understand the flaw in their own argument. It’s just too obvious. So it is disingenuous for Clinton to claim that Obama took her words out of context if her own claim about ‘the context’ is justifiably suspect. Further, the reaction to Hillary’s words were viral. They were all over the web within hours if not minutes. In addition, you had papers like The Daily News and The New York Post running banner headlines about Hillary’s “killer gaffe.” McAuliffe’s words were meant to suggest that the Obama people were somehow responsible for the “attacks” on Hillary. It is inconceivable that the Obama organization, even if it had wanted to fan the flames, could have been so successful. There was genuine outrage. I can tell you as someone who lived through the assassinations of the sixties, the outrage was totally comprehensible. It didn’t need any “fanning” from the Obama organization.
But there is more.
According to Goldfarb, “Asked if Clinton has personally called Obama to apologize for the reference, McAuliffe said she has not, ‘nor should she.’ He added, ‘Let’s be clear. This had nothing to with Senator Obama or his campaign.’”
Obama, the first African-American candidate with a real chance of winning the White House, has had to receive secret service protection since last May, long before the other candidates (excepting Hillary as the spouse of a former President). This protection is necessary due to a very real concern, namely, that someone might try to shoot and kill him. As a black American he is uniquely vulnerable. And the Clinton campaign can’t see a reason for a phone call. Why? Because of how they read the politics: if we apologize, then we admit that she may have done or said something wrong. Political calculation trumps basic decency. (The irony, of course, is that they have the politics wrong. How they are handling this will cost them support, especially among Boomers who lived through the sixties.)
As a final note, I watched HBO’s new movie, “Recount,” this evening. I have heard that Hillary has already noted that the movie supports her claims about Florida and Michigan. Nonsense on stilts. The situations are totally different, and a slogan such as, “count all the votes,” had a totally different meaning in Florida in 2000 than it does in Michigan and Florida in 2008. But right now I am just hoping that I don’t feel compelled to write something more about Hillary Clinton.
“ABC News’ Sarah Amos reports: Former President Bill Clinton today [May, 24th] continued to reiterate the importance of counting the votes in Florida and Michigan, saying that once they do ‘neither candidate can get a majority just from pledged delegates.’
Speaking to a crowd of more than 1,000 at Montana State University, Clinton enthusiastically took to the stage and began by asking the crowd, ‘Aren’t you glad Montana matters?’ ” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/24/bill-clinton-once-fl-and_n_103438.html#postComment
Although there hasn’t been a great deal of publicity surrounding Bill’s latest activities on the campaign trail, the Aboulafia Blog has attained this exclusive rendering of “Bill on the Trail” by a not so local artist.
“It’s Over: Clinton Won’t be the Democratic Presidential or VP Candidate (and Boomers will make sure)”
Hillary’s most consistent supporters have been folks over 50, especially women over 50. With her statement about RFK’s assassination, and her bizarre “apologetic” explanation (namely, I was thinking about Teddy and so I mentioned Bobby’s assassination), she has lost a substantial number of these supporters. I will not say all. I will not say those closest to her. But I will say, a very significant number. Most importantly, in terms of the race, many superdelegates in this age cohort, who may have been leaning her way, will be looking around for the nearest Exit sign. Ditto for those who were in favor of placing her in the VP slot.
Most of you reading this commentary will have heard what Hillary Clinton said yesterday afternoon, May 23rd, to the editorial board of South Dakota’s Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, in response to a question about staying in the race.
“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?” she said. “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.” The New York Times, May 24, 2008, Katharine Q Seelye reporting. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/24/us/politics/24clinton.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
And you may have heard Clinton’s “apology,” also reported by Seelye in the Times.
“ ‘The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy,’ referring to the recent diagnosis of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s brain tumor. She added, ‘And I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and in particular the Kennedy family was in any way offensive.’ ”
Members of the Democratic Party who experienced the trauma of the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King will understand that Clinton crossed a line yesterday. Many will agree with Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, an uncommitted superdelegate. Seelye reports that Clyburn “said through a spokeswoman that the comments were ‘beyond the pale.’ ” For those who remember Bobby lying in a pool of blood the night that he won the June California primary, little explanation is needed as to why prominent figures shouldn’t mention the assassinations of presidential candidates.
To say that Hillary was simply using RFK’s assassination as a time marker doesn’t cut it. There are simply too many other ways that Hillary could have talked about extended nominating contests. For example, she could have simply said, RFK won the California primary in June. “Oh, but Hillary would never wish the death of another candidate,” a supporter might reply. But it is not a question of her wishes, whether benighted or angelic. I leave it to the psychologists to analyze her motives. What I do know is that someone who lived through the sixties as an adolescent or adult should understand the dangers of invoking the assassination of a presidential candidate during a campaign, especially one in which the front-runner is an African-American. And Clinton not only invoked an assassination, she invoked the assassination of the brother of a Senator who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. How disturbing is this? Just ask yourself, could you have imagined this story before it happened?
Please don’t tell me that her words can be explained away entirely by ‘Hillary fatigue.’ First, because she was quite lucid when she was speaking, and, second, because she has raised the issue of assassination before, without using the term.
“NBC/NJ’s Mike Memoli notes that Clinton said something similar the day after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. ‘Sometimes you gotta calm people down a little bit. But if you look at successful presidential campaigns, my husband did not get the nomination until June of 1992,’ she said. ‘I remember tragically when Senator Kennedy won California near the end of that process.’ ” http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/05/23/1058940.aspx
Perhaps most tellingly, her “apology” showed little understanding of the seriousness of her “gaffe.” Yes, she should have apologized to the Kennedys, but she should also have taken responsibility for her remarks and made a sincere apology to the American people. She is going to lose support among influential boomers, support that she can’t afford to lose at this point.
This is the end of Hillary’s quest. Her judgment can no longer be trusted. Democrats will not take a chance on running her for president or VP. It is just awful that it had to end like this.
(As a side note, Hillary has been misleading audiences when she has claimed that Bill’s race ran into June. Technically it did because California hadn’t voted. But he had the nomination sewed up before California’s primary in June. The situation is not analogous to the current race.)
I have grown increasingly frustrated as the day has worn on. I keep seeing supporters, especially of Senator Clinton, referring to recent polls as evidence that she is more electable. The fact is that we don’t know who is more electable right now because there are simply too many variables, which will be cashed out in different ways in the months ahead. One thing is fairly certain, given the mixed and changing results in snapshot state and national polls, the Democrats would be foolish to select a candidate based on them.
Further, in spite of what we hear from the Clinton people, there is no such thing as a national popular vote. Too many apples and oranges. There are caucus and non-caucus states. There are states that have included independents and those that haven’t. Some have allowed party cross-overs and some have not. These election results can’t be combined into one figure, and especially not into a figure that will satisfy everyone. Bottom Line: if the Democrats back off from using the delegate count in nominating their candidate, and try to substitute a bogus national popular vote, they will be courting calamity. (Few believe that such a substitution will actually take place. But as long as people keep talking about a popular vote, it pushes closure off into the horizon.)
If one must have some numbers at this time, the odds are that the results from Intrade are probably more accurate than any snapshot poll. Of course Intrade isn’t always accurate and its traders change their minds. But it has a pretty good record. Interestingly, in the face of all of the current polls, as of 12:00 AM, May 23rd, the traders think that Obama is going to beat McCain. http://www.intrade.com/
Notice that there have been hundreds of thousands of trades, that is, “bets.”
The figures are in the following order: Bid, Ask, Last, Vol, Chge
Obama to win 2008 US Presidential Election 57.3, 57.4, 57.3, 157381, +0.9
McCain to win 2008 US Presidential Election 38.1, 38.3, 38.2, 202761, -1.8
Clinton to win 2008 US Presidential Election 5.8, 6.7, 6.8, 294285, +1.0
Hold the Presses. John McCain has begun considering VP candidates. From the New York Times, May 22nd, Adam Nagourney reporting, “Charlie Crist and Bobby Jindal, both governors, and Mitt Romney, a onetime rival for the nomination, are all set to meet with John McCain this weekend.” (Editorial sidebar: So this means that we might have “Mac and Crist in ’08,” which could do wonders for Mac with a certain demographic, or “Mac and Mitt in ’08,” for help with the baseball loving trucker vote. On the other hand, “Mac and Jindal in ’08,” no way. The Jindals make up too small a percentage of the electorate.)
But this is not the really BIG news. A high placed, anonymous source, reports that Hillary Clinton has decided on her choice for VP. And it ain’t Barack.
First, the context. As reported on May 21st, from BOCA RATON, Florida, in Politico. “Hillary Clinton compared her effort to seat Florida and Michigan delegates to epic American struggles, including those to free the slaves and win the right to vote for blacks and women.[...]”
Hillary was quoted in Politico as claiming,
“This work to extend the franchise to all of our citizens is a core mission of the modern Democratic party,” she said. “From signing the Voting Rights Act and fighting racial discrimination at the ballot box to lowering the voting age so those old enough to fight and die in war would have the right to choose their commander in chief, to fighting for multi-lingual ballots so you can make your voice heard no matter what language you speak.”
Ah, there you have it. She is incensed about what has been done to the people of Michigan and Florida. Their citizens have been old enough to fight and die for their country, speaking in different tongues as they do so, but not old enough to have their votes counted for Hillary. And part of her anger stems (and this is one author’s psychoanalysis) from self-hatred, since she signed off (read: gave her word to the DNC) on not counting the votes in Florida and Michigan way back when. (When exactly? Sometime before she had beaten “Uncommitted” in Michigan.). So she must act to right this wrong, in part, to overcome her self-loathing.
What you have just read/heard is the part of the story that deals with morality and self-loathing. But there is more. There is Hillary as tactician.
As reported by Politico, she went on to say, “We know the road to a Democratic White House runs right through Florida and Michigan…”
Knowing that she needs Florida and Michigan to win against Obama and to win in November, Hillary has had to determine how best to secure these states. One answer, choose a VP from either state, perhaps one for the first term from Florida and one for the second from Michigan, and let the voters know asap that she plans to do so. But this, as it turns out, is insufficient to right the magnitude of the injustice.
To arrive at a solution (recall, “solutions” were once a feature of one of her slogans), she has drawn on hitherto unknown, but deeply held, skeleton in the closet, Communist sensibilities. Her solution is novel, seemingly impractical, but strikingly bold. (How bold? Bill may have been behind the idea.) She plans to make the People of Florida her VP. (Florida, in her mind, has suffered more than Michigan due to the 2000 election. See her recent and future comments–coming to web sites and blogs everywhere soon–about the movie “Recount.”) Yes, it’s true, the People of Florida will be her choice for VP if she should win the nomination. And my sources also tell me that a slogan has already been prepared: “Vote for Hillary and the State in 08.”
LATE WORD: Campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe, Comrade Terry, is denying rumors that there are plans afoot to change the name of Florida to the Florida Democratic Republic or the FDR.
[It’s the middle of the night—the usual time. A bedside phone rings in a rustic motel in a small town in Kentucky. Hillary Clinton answers.]
Genie: Is this Hillary Clinton?
HC: Yes…yes, I am.
Genie: I’m with Genie Local 9, a hard-working, white, American local of the Genie National Brotherhood. Getting involved in politics is against our rules. But every rule has an exception. We have been moved by your pleas to the Democratic Party Establishment to allow the voices of the good citizens of Michigan and Florida to be heard. We will grant your wish. The Florida and Michigan delegations will be seated based on the results of the outlawed primary elections.
HC: Wow, that’s just great! [Laughs, perhaps giggles.] Bill will be so tickled. He’s had a rough couple of weeks.
Genie: [In a deep, distant voice.] However, I must warn you, there is a catch. There is a limit to genie power. We cannot change the past. Your pledges and commitments to the DNC to discount the primaries in Michigan and Florida will stand. So when you are elected president, your name will carry the Barry Bond Asterisk. Every almanac and encyclopedia in the Land will mention that in order to receive these delegates, you went back on your word and misled the DNC, the other candidates, and the American people.
HC: Politicians do this stuff all of the time. Bill was just telling me the other day about his…..
Genie: Wait, there is more. My brothers and I can see into the future. Since you will be the first woman president, young girls and women–who will look to you as a role model–will know that you are The Asterisk President. They will know that you became president by, uh, cheating. And little girls all over the land will follow your lead. They will start by handing in schoolwork that is not their own.
HC: But they will know that I am a fighter, and fighters use what they can to win. So I say, yes, yes, I can do this.
Genie: OK. I will stay on the line. You don’t have to say “yes” again. I will count to ten. If you say nothing, I will take it that this is your wish.
[The sound of silence, and then, ever so softly, Hail to the Chief fades in.]
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.
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.