Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mich., Fla., delegates count for only half

A half-person.

That is the proposed solution for allowing the states of Michigan and Florida to have representation at the Democratic National Convention even though their states violated rules concerning when they could schedule their primary elections for 2008.

FACED WITH THE prospect of 48 states deciding who gets the party’s presidential nomination, officials have been looking for a way to include Florida and Michigan at the nominating convention in Denver without making it look like a sullen child getting away without being punished for their misbehavior.

Attorneys for the Democratic Party want their rules committee on Saturday to approve a measure that would give each state only half the representation at the convention that their population normally would entitle them to.

Whether that means delegates from Detroit and Tampa and other places in the two states will only count for half a person each, or if it means only half as many people get to spend a week staying in luxury hotels in Denver for the convention has yet to be determined.

The practical way would be to give the states smaller delegations. But that likely would result in snubbed feelings from those local politicos who had their hearts set on a week away from the spouse and being able to walk around Denver thinking of themselves as big-shots doing important business for the people of the United States of America.

SO WE’RE LIKELY going to get the sight this summer of people from Florida and Michigan carrying the designation of being worth only half a political person. On the surface, it reeks of the mentality of the old South of the early 19th century when African-American people were just Negroes who only counted for 60 percent of a person.

I can already hear the rants and rages from social conservatives, claiming that the Democratic Party is the political outfit that reduced the people of the great states of Michigan and Florida down to partial people – unlike the Republican Party which doesn’t seem to care that elections officials tried to jump the gun on holding their primary elections out of a belief that it would increase their influence.

The problem is that those rants will be nonsense. There is a legitimate issue involved in state political parties trying to place their personal interests ahead of the national party, when the election at stake is for a federal government office such as president.

If this were a case of an election for a local or statewide office, then local officials would be justified in thinking that the national party is butting into matters that are none of its business.

IF ANYONE IS reducing the voters of Michigan and Florida to partial political representation at the nominating convention, it is the political powers-that-be in those two states. Voters in the two states ought to hold it against them the next time they seek whatever local offices they hold and seriously think of dumping them from politics.

Of course, that won’t happen. That would require people to take the time and energy to find out exactly who the party bosses are in their states and to determine what local government offices give them their influence.

That’s a lot of work. It’s easier to just blame Barack Obama, which is the tactic that Hillary R. Clinton has used in the past few weeks – trying to make it appear as though it is Obama’s fault that the states knowingly violated rules concerning the scheduling of primary elections.

While I understand that all 50 states ought to have some say at the nominating convention in Denver, it always struck me as ironic that Obama (the candidate who actually followed ‘the letter of the law’ in removing his name from the ballot in one state and not campaigning in either) was the guy who would wind up getting penalized by the whole mess.

CLINTON WON THOSE two controversial primaries because she remained on the ballots and made sure that voters in those two states knew of that fact.

She now claims that the votes she got in those two primaries rightfully belong to her national voter tally, which is an essential part of any argument she might make that her campaign has any legitimate right to be considered for the presidential nomination.

She ran against nobody in either state, and barely won those primaries. People who would have backed Barack were choosing to be “undeclared.” If anything, Clinton ought to be embarrassed to try to include Michigan and Florida in her column of supporters.

Michigan and Florida political people ought to feel greater shame because their intent in scheduling their primary elections so early in the process was an attempt to increase their states’ influence on the presidential campaigns. Perhaps their mothers never taught them when they were young to wait their turn.

THEY THOUGHT THAT by going so early, they would be able to impose their will on the country. It didn’t work.

If anything, the ultimate punishment for those two states is that by holding an election that early, they made themselves less relevant.

They would have been better off conducting their primaries at their usual time in late February, rather than trying to shoot for a month earlier. In this extremely unusual campaign cycle, it is the states bringing up the tail end of the primary season that have the greatest influence – Puerto Rico will gain more attention this week than Michigan or Florida did from their early primaries.

How odd is Primary ’08? Take this trivial tidbit into consideration.

OF ALL THE states in our region (those Midwestern ones that border one of the Great Lakes), Illinois has the largest population and most delegates to the Democratic convention. Yet it likely has been the least influential.

Places like Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio all got more attention from the presidential campaigns. Michigan would have too, had they played by the rules and held their primary when they were supposed to.

Which Great Lakes state had the biggest influence on the Democratic presidential primary? Arguably, it was Indiana – the one Midwestern Great Lakes state whose rural nature makes it a reliable outpost for the modern-day Republican Party.

Clinton’s miniscule victory in that state (combined with a big Obama win in North Carolina) is what appears to have convinced a significant number of the super-delegates and other party powerbrokers to finally “get off the pot” and back Barack instead of Hillary.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Michigan and Florida political people may only count for half a political person ( from another state.

Will Michigan really matter much ( to Democrats if polls indicating a preference for Republican John McCain are accurate?

Aside from trying to get full inclusion of the delegations from Florida and Michigan to the Democratic convention, Hillary Clinton is trying to get super-delegates to change ( their minds and support her instead of Barack Obama.

No comments: