Published on TheHill.com on March 11, 2008.
Despite their apostasy in holding early primaries in defiance of the powers that be in the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Michigan and Florida both deserve to have do-over primaries. It is ludicrous to suggest that their current delegations should be seated and equally inappropriate to disenfranchise the nation’s fourth- and eighth-largest states. The obvious and only fair solution is to hold do-over primaries.
In Michigan, Sen. Barack Obama’s (Ill.) name did not even appear on the primary ballot. He obeyed the national rules and pulled out of the contests, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) chose to keep her name on the ballot. It is obviously unfair to take the results of a contest between Hillary and “uncommitted” as a fair measure of the relative strengths of the two candidates. In Florida, both did appear on the ballot, but the talk surrounding the primary emphasized how it would not count. The result was that the Democratic primary turnout was about the same size as that for the Republican primary, though Florida tradition has the Democratic primary drawing substantially more votes.
Clearly, large numbers of Floridians took the party at its word and did not vote.
To deny these states representation would also be totally unacceptable. What was their sin? The national committee was craven in bowing down to the pressure from the tiny and unrepresentative states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, which sought to prolong their time in the sun by monopolizing the early-primary selection process. They did so on the urging of the presidential candidates who were outdoing one another in currying favor with the voters of these states by ostentatiously backing their pretensions. But since when did the need to cotton to the desires of four states with a combined population of 10.6 million outrank the rights of two states with 27 million residents – 10 percent of America – to be represented in choosing their president?
Under the proportional representation system, which has made it almost impossible for any primary to be decisive, neither do-over will be likely to affect the final result in any major way. One candidate or the other will win by a few points – a big margin is unlikely -and the lead that will accrue in delegates is not likely to be decisive.
It is worth noting that the additional delegates Hillary won in the Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island primaries on March 4 have been totally offset by Obama’s victories in the Texas and Wyoming caucuses and the Vermont and Mississippi primaries. When all the votes in all the contests are finally counted, Obama can expect to maintain his lead in elected delegates of between 100 and 200 votes.
The superdelegates, honorifics who represent only themselves, do not dare defy the will of the electorate and deliver the nomination to Mrs. Clinton. If they do so, they will provoke exactly the same kind of reaction that destroyed the Democratic Party’s chances in the streets of Chicago in 1968. It took the party two and a half decades to recover its popularity among the baby boomer generation. If Hillary steals the nomination by manipulating the superdelegates, the party will alienate blacks and young people for decades. No superdelegate can permit this to happen.
But neither can the party sanction the violation of the process, which seating the rump delegations from Florida and Michigan would entail, nor can it deny representation to two such large states.
The Credentials Committee, composed of three members from each state and 25 named by DNC Chairman Howard Dean, will be pro-Obama. With Obama carrying about two-thirds of the states – and with Dean at odds with the Clintons – the committee cannot be expected to look favorably on Hillary’s efforts to steal the nomination. Without Florida or Michigan seated, the convention floor will doubtless sustain the committee. A new election might be the best deal Hillary can realistically hope for.