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
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.