Sunday, June 01, 2008

Legitimacy Lost

The RBC meeting debacle (see all the TalkLeft live blog posts) coupled with Hillary's blowout win in Puerto Rico today shine a harsh light on two problems of legitimacy facing the Democrats this electoral cycle. The first problem is one created by the RNC itself and concerns the manipulation of the process for the sake of a particular candidate. The other legitimacy issue has been created by Obama himself and has to do with his lack of support from the majority of the party. The two problems are intertwined - the manipulation of the system was done to overcome the lack of support that resulted in increasing amounts of manipulation to counteract the increasing drop in support. Like Obama's reliance on race-baiting to depress Clinton's support, once the dynamic began, it could not stop. It cannot even be described as a Phyrric victory as the nomination remains undecided.

The mishandling and arbitrary decisions surrounding states pushing ahead of their assigned schedules in the primaries laid the groundwork for the mess. Please go read BTD's many excellent posts on this subject over at TalkLeft. The fundamental issue was the lack of leadership in the DNC to create and enforce clear, non-arbitrary penalties on all of the states that changed their primary/caucus dates. This should have been a matter of rule-based discipline - return to your original date or face a percentage penalty in loss of voting power, possibly determined by some formula based on number of days you jump ahead plus the number of states you jump ahead of or something like that. Instead, the penalties were handed out arbitrarily, with no consistent enforcement of any rules. At that moment, while there may have been some guess about which candidate would fare best in which state, no votes had been cast and no advantage secured. Once votes had been cast and candidates jockied for position, the DNC became a partisan player in deciding the outcome and distributing delegates, hinting that they would allow delegations to count only if Hillary could be forced from the race, allowing the Obama campaign to block revotes, and other idiocy. They abdicated responsibility for being even-handed or even consistent. This left a legitimacy vacuum in the middle of the election process. However, it still remained within the bounds of its chartered authority to determine the seating of the delegates. Yesterday's RBC meeting upended that authority.

While some Floridians may take umbrage, the 50% seating of Florida does not cause half the crisis that the reallocation of Michigan's delegation does. Simply put, the RBC arbitrarily handed Michigan delegates to the DNC's preferred candidate to try to prevent him being defeated at the convention. There is no rule or guideline in the DNC that allows that organization to redistribute a state's delegation to the national convention. They can refuse to seat a delegation, they can refuse to permit the delegation to have full voting authority, but they cannot change the composition of the delegation. The delegates are apportioned based on the express will of the voters (primaries) or caucus goers (caucuses), which are conducted by rules agreed upon prior to the electoral contest by the state party organization.

Once the voters have cast their ballots and the ballots are certified either by the Secretary of State or by the Party (Caucuses) (And I may be wrong about who certifies caucuses. It may also be the SoS, and/or vary between states.), that's the vote. Allocation of specific delegates may be done by a formula, but it must be based on the express choices of the voters. You cannot count votes that were not cast. You cannot choose people who were not on the ballot. You cannot take 50 votes for candidate A and hand them over to candidate B because of an exit poll.

Reallocating votes based on the outcome you want to have, not what the certified vote count actually was, eviscerates democracy as such.

Think about this. Really think about this. A committee of people, behind closed doors and under pressure from a specific candidate to shore up his crumbling support, has functionally declared Michigan's votes null and void and has reallocated the delegates to suit themsleves. The will of the people was considered advisory, not definitive, and the will of the committee was substituted. As for the argument that "the state wanted this outcome," it doesn't hold water. This outcome was not on the ballot. Obama did not put himself up for a vote at the time of the initial primary, nor would he agree to doing so when there was time to organize a second primary. His solution was simply hand him half the delegation and fuck the voters of Michigan. It is no consolation that he didn't get all of the delegates he wanted to steal, just most of them.

Again, the RBC handed out delegates to a candidate who removed himself from the ballot and who will not accept the penalties of his campaign choice. They have removed delegates earned by one candidate and handed those delegates to the other person because they want him to be the winner. They did this to prevent the popular vote winner from earning her fair share of delegates and to force her out of the race.

I myself made the mistake of focusing on the four hand-over delegates yesterday, when the fact is Obama did not deserve a single delegate from Michigan. He removed himself from the ballot to game the system, which removed any legitimate claim he had to the votes, but his fixers in the DNC gave him more delegates than he would have won had he competed. I have said before that I think Obama could have won a revote outright, but why bother with all that campaigning and earning votes crap if your buddies will just hand you delegates?

If the DNC is claiming the authority to reallocate delegates based on what they believe voters would have wanted had things been different, then what is the point of the delegations? Why not, as Hartina Flournoy someone (Ickes, I think) scathingly said in the meeting, just decide the votes for 2012 while you're at it?* Why bother with primaries at all if certified votes are merely advisory and you can decide what the people really want?

How is this any different than the Supreme Court declaring that Florida went for Bush no matter if a ballot recount showed it going for Gore?

The DNC has undermined its own legitimacy with this decision. They may have provided Obama his margin of victory for the nomination, but the price is their own authority. What state will not try to push and bully its way to head of the line? What candidate will take seriously sanctions handed down by the party? Why will voters want to turn out if they know their decision can be overturned in a secret committee meeting?

What makes anyone think this will not be a major line of attack from the Republicans in the fall?

Anglachel

Previous posts on the DNC legitimacy crisis:

*"[W]what is being proposed here is that you go into a voting booth and at some point somewhere down the road, someone can decide that your vote goes somewhere else. If we're going to do that, let's sit in this room and decide the delegates for 2012." -- Hartina Flournoy (hat tip, commenter Deb. See below)

12 comments:

pm317 said...

I heard CNN (and may be other news media) are including all of the uncommitted votes in MI for Obama in one of their popular vote count scenarios. How is this right? It is bad enough that he got those delegates (and 4 more from Clinton). They will try to undercut her popular vote lead argument and blur its significance. Wow, how did we get here? I have never been exposed to such viciousness in all my life.

Shainzona said...

"How is this any different than the Supreme Court declaring that Florida went for Bush no matter if a ballot recount showed it going for Gore?"

Like Alice Through the Looking Glass...I was thinking this morning about how things have turned upside down since 2000...Gore wins the popular vote but loses the EC....and "progressives" squeal like crazy.

But now that's OK?

I'm confused. But then, according to Obampaphiles, I guess all HRC supporters are "out to lunch".

I will, of course, get it straight by November when I don't vote for Obama. No way. How how.

CognitiveDissonance said...

You know, I was thinking this morning that if Karl Rove had put together a covert operation to infiltrate the democrats and divide the party right down the middle - that he couldn't have done a better job than what has happened.

You're right, Anglachel. What they did yesterday was so illegitimate, and so blatantly one-sided for Obama, that it is going to cause a rift in the party that will last a long time. I'm so mad that I'm ready to work against every single fraud on that committee, every single SD who supports Obama, and of course, Obama himself.

The fact that this was supposedly about "unity" is so ridiculous and ironic that I hardly know how to express the depth of my disgust.

orionATL said...

"when the fact is Obama did not deserve a single delegate from Michigan. He removed himself from the ballot to game the system, which removed any legitimate claim he had to the votes, "

yep.


and speaking of penalties,

why wasn't obama penalized for advertising in florida prior to the unsanctioned election and for giving an interview there on election day?

penalty? loss of all delegates.


i'm starting to wonder if the dnc might be afraid of the obama campaign.

perhaps because the obama campaign has threatened to create mass demonstrations if their candidate is not "carried" to a victory.

remember:

the democratic party of recent years is, first and foremost,

the party of conflict avoidance.

Deb said...

"[W]what is being proposed here is that you go into a voting booth and at some point somewhere down the road, someone can decide that your vote goes somewhere else. If we're going to do that, let's sit in this room and decide the delegates for 2012." -- Hartina Flournoy

I wish someone had suggested that the RBC re-apportion delegates from states like WA that had primaries after their caucuses. I mean, how would that be any less valid than the finger-in-the-wind method the RBC used for MI?

Deb said...

Wait, don't answer that... obviously adjusting caucus results would have severely damaged Obama, and we can't have that!

Teresa said...

Orion: Guaranteed, if Hillary had campaigned in Florida, she would have lost the delegates

lakelobos said...

In the end, a tortured and one sided process the DNC employed all along culminated by the new democracy motto that replaced the "one person one vote" by "one committee all the votes."

In a cruel way, this the logical conclusion. Obama and his goons demanded all along that they get 50% of both Florida and Michigan. The DNC allowed Obama to block the revote and, of course they wouldn't simply give Hillary the votes that were cast.

The Republicans worry me considerably less than the fate of the party. This is a catastrophe, it's not a flu. Obama will surely lose the elections unless McCain implodes; not likely the Republicans know only too well how to prop up empty suits.

That DNC violated several basic tenets of democracy: equality under the law, didn't adhere to its own rules and tempering with the votes cast. You cannot blame Dean only, they were many collaborators.

Underneath this decision, you have a party badly split in two. With one half, the Obama Bolsheviks, hate the other half racially, personally and sexually.

I actually think that the Supreme Court crime is lesser than the DNC. Theirs was a single act and they never said that Gore is a monster and a whore. The DNC is a repeat offender and that considerably worse.

RayN said...

Heckuva job, Howie.

missplsd said...

Some interesting gossip, rumor, and innuendo (or perhaps news) about the delegate counts in Michigan:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/02/us/politics/03web-seelye.html

Susan said...

"You know, I was thinking this morning that if Karl Rove had put together a covert operation to infiltrate the democrats and divide the party right down the middle - that he couldn't have done a better job than what has happened."


What makes you think the GOP HASN'T ratf***ed our primaries and caucuses, let alone the media, to get this joke of a candidate? They HAVE. Wake up. We are about to lose ALL fifty states to McCain.

Makarov said...

First, a quick note that I really appreciate your blog.

"How is this any different than the Supreme Court declaring that Florida went for Bush no matter if a ballot recount showed it going for Gore?"

The RBC decision is, in my opinion, worse than what happened to Gore in 2000. Though we know that a full recount examining undervotes and overvotes would've resulted in a Gore victory, the SC decision merely stopped the recount. Bush won a fully certified election. Crooked? You bet. Still, it was done under the law. Bush was the certified winner in FL.

What the RBC did was to set aside the results of a legal, certified election. In short, the results they made up, based on exit polls, could've just as well come from a reading of tarot card or tea leaves. Their decision had no basis under the law, or the charter, bylaws, and rules of the DNC.