Thursday, February 21, 2008

should the Democrats just re-vote in Michigan and Florida?

A provocative and seemingly strong idea from Newt Gingrich in the WSJ...

The only drawbacks I can see are relatively modest:

1.) It undermines the party's rules and power. And if they go back on their decision, it will make it more difficult to hold the line in the future.

2.) Taxpayers would again be forced to pay for a major party's primary. The major parties, of course, don't care about this. And taxpayers haven't expressed any significant disgust at this. But taxpayers in those states would have to pay for a Democratic party mistake. Again, we do that all the time on much larger issues, so what's the big deal here?

Democrats are headed for a trainwreck in campaign '08 that threatens to produce a tainted Democratic presidential nominee and, worse, a divisive and delegitimized presidential contest.

Recall that when Michigan and Florida moved up their primaries in defiance of Democratic Party rules earlier this year, the party bosses decided to punish them by unseating their delegates. The Florida and Michigan primaries were turned into beauty contests.

At the time, it seemed like a good move since everyone assumed that the Michigan and Florida delegates wouldn't really matter in the nomination battle. The conventional wisdom was that one Democratic candidate would emerge early in the contest, and arrive at the convention with a comfortable margin of delegates for the nomination.

But the one constant in campaign '08 so far is that the conventional wisdom is wrong. Instead of a sprint, the Democratic race has turned into a slog. And it's now looking more and more likely that the Democratic presidential fight will not produce a clear and decisive winner.

So here's the run-away train careening toward the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August: If the delegate count of both campaigns is still close by the time of the convention, Florida and Michigan's combined 366 delegates will suddenly become very relevant. Instead of uniting behind a nominee, the party will be at war with itself over whether to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates. And Democrats know from hard experience that chaotic, contentious conventions and the nominees they produce (remember Chicago in 1968? San Francisco in 1972?) do not bode well for success in November....

The closeness of the delegate count has set off a furious race between Sens. Clinton and Obama for the superdelegates. But any attempt by either campaign to win with these party insiders what they couldn't win with the voting public would destroy not only the prospects of the "victorious" candidate, but the prospects of the Democratic Party itself.

So the Democrats are caught in a double-bind: Disenfranchising the voters in Michigan and Florida while allowing party insiders to pick the party's nominee has all the makings of a Democratic civil war.

You might think that as a Republican I don't have a dog in this fight, but I do. All of us do. A tainted or "stolen" Democratic nomination has the potential to delegitimize the election itself and its outcome. And tainted victories produce hobbled administrations. Much as I might have agreed with the outcome of the 2000 general election, the rancor and vitriol it produced created divisions among Americans where none naturally existed before, irreparably damaging the Bush administration....

Giving the Michigan and Florida delegates to Sen. Clinton -- particularly in light of reports that she bent the Democratic Party rules against campaigning in both states -- is a recipe for even more chaos.

On the other hand, leaving the Florida and Michigan delegates unseated runs the risk for the Democrats of alienating two big states they want and need to win in November.

The answer, for the integrity of the process, is a do-over: Hold the Michigan and Florida Democratic primaries again.

The voters -- not the party insiders -- have the moral authority to choose the nominee. Democratic voters in Michigan and Florida should get that chance. Then in November, we'll have a fair fight. And I'll be honest -- it may not help the chances for a Republican victory in the fall. But it will help something even more important: the integrity of our political process.


At February 21, 2008 at 9:11 PM , Blogger Chris Hedges said...

I'd rather see a re-vote personally. However, with the momentum Barack Obama is experiencing, it will probably end up hurting Hillary Clinton's chances because people would want to vote for a winner and Barack is on a winning streak.

However, just think of all of the fun that will be had for bloggers if there are superdelegate wars. After that, there'd be all sorts of strange structural changes made to prevent a repeat -- that'd make for more blogging fodder.

This thing could end up like Florida 2000 -- it could mean months of guaranteed policy wonk content for all!


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