Posts Tagged ‘Primaries’
I was hoping that I would not find myself wasting time, energy, and pixels on another article criticizing Hilary Clinton. It’s enough already. I wanted to enjoy last night’s historic outcome of the Democratic presidential contest; a talented, African-American, progressive will now be heading the ticket of a major American Party. Wonderful Earth rocking news. It seems that America can still send a meaningful political “shot” around the world. But instead my excitement had to be mixed with disappointment and outrage. Hillary, there she goes again. Not only did she fail to concede graciously in order to help bring the Party together, but she invited comments from her supporters to her web site to tell her how to proceed. Of course she knows how they will respond. What extraordinary bad faith. And for what, two bits to pay off her bills or perhaps have some leverage for herself in the coming months. Further, she continued to make the same misleading claims about the popular vote that she has been making for weeks, namely, that she has won it. The fact is that there is no national popular vote. Or better still, there are hundreds of possible permutations in figuring out what the national popular vote might be. You simply can’t combine the apples and oranges of caucuses and primaries, as well as all of the different sorts of state primaries, including two that were considered non-contests, to come up with a solid figure. But I will let this one go. Hillary will say what she needs to say, especially that people should go to Hillary.com.
But I decided to write not only to vent. I want to see a solution to the Hillary problem, as does every Democrat who wants to win in November. I got a lead this morning (June 4th) from a blog on the Daily Kos, “A Dream Team?” by georgia 10. The writer quotes at length from an article that appeared in the on-line version of the Telegraph. Here are the passages quoted directly from the June 1st Telegraph.
The Obama camp, however, remains nervous about Mrs Clinton’s intentions and ambitions, and is preparing a face-saving package that will allow her to continue to play a role in health care reform, which has been her signature issue for more than a decade. Despite pressure from some Clinton allies, Mr Obama and his advisers do not wish to ask her to be his vice-presidential running mate. “They will talk to her,” one Democrat strategist close to senior figures in the Obama camp told The Sunday Telegraph. “They will give her the respect she deserves. She will get something to do with health care, a cabinet post or the chance to lead the legislation through the Senate.”
Another Democrat who has discussed strategy with friends in the Obama inner circle said that Mr Obama was openly considering asking Mrs Clinton to join his cabinet, alongside two other former presidential rivals: John Edwards, who is seen as a likely attorney general; and Joe Biden, who is a leading contender to become Secretary of State.
Mr Obama hinted at the plan last week. “One of my heroes is Abraham Lincoln,” he said. “Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his cabinet because whatever personal feelings there were, the issue was ‘how can we get this country through this time of crisis?’ And I think that has to be the approach that one takes.” [Emphasis added]
“Hillary Clinton to be offered dignified exit” By Tim Shipman http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/uselection2008/democrats/2058907/US-Elections-Hillary-Clinton-to-be-offered-dignified-exit.html
In some ways, of course, this is not news. The cabinet solution has been around for a while. But I was struck by Obama’s citing Lincoln. This article was written on June 1st. One could argue that Hillary has put herself further into the dog house with the Obama camp after last night’s speech. But Obama, in a Lincolnesque sort of way, might only see this as more reason for the cabinet option. She is a piece of work alright. But all the more reasons to give it a whirl and put her in a cabinet slot. It shows that 1) Obama is strong enough to deal with her and 2) magnanimous enough to extend a hand.
I will swallow hard. The logic is there. I hope Obama goes for it and finally ends the Hillmail. If she won’t settle for this, then Obama needs to methodically work around her. Most of those who voted for Hillary will not put up with her undermining the Party.
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.
Terry McAuliffe, Clinton’s campaign director, responded a little while ago to a direct question by Keith Olbermann regarding Hillary’s contradictory statements on Michigan. He declared that it is okay for Hillary to claim votes/delegates from Michigan, in spite of her earlier commitment to discount the election, because the other candidates made a political decision to take their names off the ballot. (So much for honoring the DNC’s request.) So it seems that her change of heart is their problem, not hers. Wow! (Btw, why did she stay on the ballot for an election that she claimed would not count?)
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.