February 19, 2008

Democrats cannot unring the bell

"In the big picture of what really matters in the country, this is a very small blip. This is a fight among politicians." - Howard Dean, Oct. 10, 2007, Miami Herald
That statement by the DNC chairman symbolized the political wisdom of Democratic Party insiders and the liberal blogosphere back in the good old days of 2007, when Democrats were giddy at their prospects of wresting the White House from Republican hands. Florida lawmakers had jumped the gun by scheduling an early primary election, making the Florida voter an easy whipping boy for party bosses who showed no restraint with the big sticks and crack of whips. Little forethought was given to the unforeseen consequences of the party's draconian punishment. (Ignorance is rampant in Dems' firing circle)

Warnings of a possible party schism and calls for conciliation were roundly attacked - even by some Florida insiders. Not to worry, they insisted, our votes will too count; Florida delegates will be seated without a fight in Denver; we must support the failed party system as it exists today and fix it at some undetermined time in the future; this "very small blip" will soon be forgotten. Simple suggestions for a compromise, like cutting Florida's delegate count in half and encouraging candidates to campaign here, a la the Republican Party, were ruled out of order. The prevailing attitude was that Flori-duh can't be allowed to screw up another election for the rest of the country. Trust us, we know what we're doing.

So the political experts of the DNC got what they wanted. No leadership surfaced and none was sought to resolve the conflict. January 29 came and went.

Some party insiders who supported Florida's punishment, and that of Michigan, which had suffered a fate similar to Florida's, changed their minds on disenfranchising voters after primaries were held and their candidate "won." Following the February 5 primaries and the collapse of "the inevitable," party bigwigs at long last began to recognize the size of the blips they had created and exacerbated by their undue dependence on superdelegates and an overzealous enforcement of rules. Suddenly, rescue balloons were launched into the rarified atmosphere of the party elite, each caught in a crosswind of competing factions.

What's done is done, the bell is rung, and Democrats have fewer options now than a month ago. The direction they take will likely determine not only the party nominee but the party's fate in November.

Here are four of the paths open to Democrats in upcoming weeks:

(1) If, among pledged delegates, Obama takes a strong lead that Clinton cannot overtake, the majority of superdelegates will flow to him. At that point, something will be done to unite the party and return Florida and Michigan to a state of grace. This is my preference.

(2) If Clinton takes a strong lead among pledged delegates without the help of Florida and Michigan, the superdelegates will move in her direction, and delegates from both states will be seated. So far, however, her comeback efforts are falling short.

(3) If Clinton takes a lead that depends on superdelegates and regular delegates she claims from Florida and Michigan, Obama could be pressured to accept the VP position. Because that scenario would split the party irreparably, Democrats should restrain themselves from heading down that road. Obama, after playing by the rules and gaining the most pledged delegates, could not then be expected to play second fiddle for the sake of party unity. Under those deadlocked conditions, the party would be better served by uniting - as a last resort - around a man who won the popular vote for president eight years ago, Al Gore. Obama could more easily be persuaded to serve with Gore than with Clinton - and Hillary could accomplish more as Leader of the Senate or a Supreme Court justice than she could as VP for either Obama or Gore.

(4) And, if all the best efforts fail to return Florida and Michigan to the fold, we may as well have some fun - perhaps the last fun we'll have before Commander in Chief McCain's first term ends in 2013. My suggestion is that the party convention clear the slate by rejecting every designated delegate and superdelegate from Florida and Michigan, then select and seat an entirely new set of delegates - all unpledged to either candidate, and all selected by sortition:
Sortition, also known as allotment, is a fair method of selection by some form of lottery such as drawing coloured pebbles from a bag. It is used particularly to allot decision makers. In Ancient Athenian Democracy sortition was the primary method for appointing officials, a system that was thought to be one of the principal characteristics of democracy. It is today commonly used to select jurors in Anglo-Saxon based legal systems. - Wikipedia
Considering the Democratic Party's current state of mismanagement, could delegates chosen at random do worse?

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