10 February 2008

An Obama Weekend

Obama looks likely to sweep all four states holding caucuses this weekend. He won Lousiana, Nebraska and Washington State on Saturday, and is leading handily in Maine with 44% of the vote in so far. Obama also has a friendly beltway primary with Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia coming up.

Obama already leads in pledged delegates. Without a healthy lead in superdelegates, Clinton would be lagging now, and as it is Clinton is more or less dead even with Obama and slipping in the delegate count.

The proportional representation system used by the Democrats means that neither candidate can render late voting states irrelevant when the contest is fairly even, as it is this year, and it is increasingly clear that neither candidate will have enough delegates to win the race without support from superdelegates like Democratic National Committee members, Democratic members of Congress and Democatic Governors, who make up about 20% of the total.

The process leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August is, quite frankly, in disarray. The disqualification of all delegates from Michigan and Florida because those states willfully broke the national party rules was disasterous. The fact that the body that lays down the rules during the campaign is different from the credentials committee that interprets those rules in Denver doesn't help either, because it casts uncertainty on the decisions made now. And, the resentment over the privileged positions given to New Hampshire and Iowa which manifestly do not deserve that spot as they so grossly fail to look like the Democratic party is also a problem. The outsized influence of superdelegates in the race undermines the legitimacy of the primaries and caucuses that do count. And, informed Democrats are growing increasingly displeased with the hodgepodge of methods by which individual states allocate their delegates. There isn't even a consistent standard on whether independents or Republicans can vote in Democratic nomination contests.

Politics is an ugly sausage making process, and that ugliness isn't confined to what happens after elections are over.

The national Democratic Party body that made the rules in 2005 blew it, and lots of people felt that they have blown it, even back in 2005. But, most of those people were powerless to do anything about it, and far more simply were completely unaware of the ruling making process.

Democrats are fortunate this year to have not much at stake in the nomination process, as they have two competent candidates who agree on a great deal running for office this year. Our candidates are both much more reality based and each knows more about just about everything than a fifth grader, something that can't be said of many of the candidates, such as Mike Huckabee, in the Republican field. If this weren't true, the Democratic party would be doomed this year.

This isn't to say that the Republicans were any better. While they have had somewhat less controversy over the interpretation of their rules, I think that it is fair to guess that a two-thirds majority of that committee is now losing its breakfast over the way that those rules have played out in practice by awarding the nomination to a candidate intensely disliked by most of the conservative base of the party.

1 comment:

intellecafe - editor said...

The superdelegate factor may play an increasingly important role. A recent economist article describes the situation:


Moreover, it is the fear of many Democrats that if Clinton secures the ticket there will be no contest at all. This is because, with such an easy scapegoat, the Republican hate machine will be poised to win the same hearts and minds as always, whereas Obama's persona and rhetoric is more likely to sway at least a small percentage of the right who wouldn't otherwise vote for McCain unless Clinton was in the running.