Sunday, June 01, 2008

DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, Reflections

This Saturday the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the DNC met and sorted out the Florida and Michigan appeals. A lot of people were displeased, some were very displeased. There is an incredible amount of ignorance floating about that certainly enhanced that displeasure.

State Legislatures can offer to finance Primary elections for Parties and many do. These offers of financing often carry conditions such as open or closed Primaries or the date or... These election financing offers are just that, the State government does not control Party Primaries. The State Parties control their elections with in National Party rules. In this case we are interested in the FL & MI Primaries and the DNC. The FL & MI Legislators passed bills containing primary dates outside the DNC rules, the DNC had warned the States previous to their votes and after their votes that there would be serious consequences, the State Parties of both States told DNC to shove their consequences and went ahead. There were remedies available to both State Parties, the most affordable and legal was to refuse the Legislatures' funding and self-finance caucuses. This is the most basic reason caucuses exist, they are affordable.

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee sanctioned both states with both the automatic 50% penalty and for, essentially, egregious behavior took the other 50% for a 100% penalty. The DNC further asked all the candidates to pledge not to campaign in those States. The candidates agreed. In the voting for sanctions the Clinton contingent voted 100% for 100% sanctions.

The States held their illegitimate votes on their proposed dates, in FL all candidates names were on the ballot because FL law did not allow them to withdraw them. In MI several candidates did withdraw their names before the deadline. This effectively separated the States into two different categories. Despite clear evidence of vote suppression in both states, the case could be made in FL that all suffered equally, in MI this was not the case.

The RBC held that FL would be subject to the automatic 50% penalty, this was in the face of no actual good faith attempt to remedy the situation. The question in FL was how the penalty would be applied, whether it would halve the delegation or their votes, the vote penalty favored the Clinton count. In MI with no valid vote measurement the choice came to either the DNC disallowing entirely the MI delegation or allowing the State Party to assign delegates on some relatively reasonable measurement of voter intentions. The State Party made a good faith effort and came up with a number to which a 50% vote penalty was applied.

Both States were ill served by their Legislatures, their Governors, and especially their State Parties. Regardless of the intentions of the other parties involved the State Parties are elected to serve the interest of the Democratic voters and candidates. Their loyalty is not to their legislatures or governors, their loyalty is to the interests of the Democratic Party. In particular, their loyalty is not to a candidate or even to all candidates, it is to the Party the candidates purport to represent by putting a (D) after their name. The DNC is by Charter neutral in a contested Primary and most if not all State Parties are, also. Whether a candidate expects to do well in one sort of vote or another is not within the scope of the Parties' interest.

To place this in context, the votes in FL & MI might as well never have happened for all the validity or concern of the State Parties. The Parties had remedies available to them. This blog pointed this out very early in the process and you can be assured that both Parties knew this. Both Parties knew that caucuses were their realistic solution. Both Parties ignored this. One candidate, Sen. Hillary R Clinton interfered in this process. The Clinton campaign had demonstrated poor performance in caucuses. If you wish, you can infer a motive for her interference, the fact is that she did so. Neither State was going to finance a general re-vote and FL claimed a physical inability to do so and MI law prohibited private financing in such an endeavor. It has been claimed that the Obama campaign interfered, factually they did not and could not.

The final responsibility lays at the feet of the Michigan and Florida State Democratic Parties. It is not the fault of DNC, which could not interfere. No matter what the stand of any candidate, the elections were in the control of those State Parties. The responsible people were elected by the State Parties and if they apportion blame correctly those people will no longer hold any positions of authority where they can once again so poorly serve their Party. The news media was complicit in this mess, they made little to no effort to make the actual story of authority and responsibility clear to the voters in those states or to the public at large.

Those choosing to criticize the RBC for its ruling are playing at partisan politics to the detriment of the Democratic Party and further the members so engaging are being liars by omission or actual commission. Harold Ickes is a flagrant offender, he voted for 100% penalty, once his candidate had a use for or necessity for those votes became an advocate of counting all votes - as long as they were his candidate's votes. At the meeting he used offensive, divisive, and inaccurate language to describe the motion in regard to Michigan. I do not advocate a blanket loyalty to Democratic candidates, I do state bluntly that an official of the Democratic Party owes it his allegiance and its best interests his full attention - or resign. I do advocate that supporters of candidates with equally good Democratic politics deserve the loyalty of Democrats. There is nothing in Democratic politics that justifies a vote for McCain over either Democratic candidate. John McCain is a straight line Republican and if those are the policies you prefer, then you are not a Democrat and should not claim to be now or to ever have been. If you make any sort of claim to racial or gender justice John McCain cannot possibly be seen as a reasonable alternative. In point of absolute fact as proven by votes, John McCain is George W Bush with a lot more years on him.

It is apparent that the mantle of Democratic Party leadership has been passed to a new group. I have heard and read pundits state that the party is now Obama's. I do not believe that is quite accurate, it has become the Party that Howard Dean fore saw and built for. Barak Obama has used the Dean 50 State model to great advantage and through force of charisma and organization has expanded on Deans's start.

In this article I predicted this collision, though I missed slightly on the timing: is absolutely required by the state of the Democratic Party. We are going to have this out. We are going to use the process for what it was intended, to determine who and what the Democratic Party is. The process of proportional delegate apportionment is going to finally come into its own. The smaller pieces of State Parties are going have a say, the ability of underdog campaigns to flourish in that environment is going to come to pass, we are going to find some things out. We are going to find out where the Party officials and the elected Democrats want to go. We are going to find out what works and does not work in Democratic Party politics. The Howard Dean and the Terry McAuliff visions of the DNC are going to collide. This is going to be a brawl and it will go to the final round and end in a knock out. Sending the doctor into the ring will be pointless, because one is not going to get back up, ever.

I figured at that date, slightly after Ohio, that this had to go to the Convention to be sorted out. This meeting of the RBC accomplished it without the bloodbath at the Convention. I do not take seriously the Ickes reservation of right to take the delegate fight to the Credentials Committee, it would be political suicide for Clinton to do so. She is now in the remarkable position of being a Junior Senator with more Democratic Party exposure than the most senior members. She can wield tremendous influence in the Senate if she chooses to keep her political gains. Keeping those gains will require soothing the injuries to the Party and being a real part of a November victory for her rival. Her political base in the DNC is mortally wounded already, the lead up to the RBC meeting delivered that blow. Her alliance with Terry McAuliff guaranteed it.

Hillary Clinton stands at a cross roads, she can be a true power in the Senate and a guardian of the values she claims or she can lose it all on the altar of ego. She has a week or so to make up her mind, if she waits long enough to force the Party to slap her down - she is done. Despite her short comings, once the lure of the Presidency is out of the way Hillary Clinton could become standard bearer for progressive Democratic politics. She'll always bear watching, though.


Phil said...

Thanks for clarifying, Chuck. Much better job of reporting than that rendered by the MSM.

If I had to use a single word to describe Hillary, I think that word would be "unprincipled."

Chuck Butcher said...


I don't care for how she's run her campaign, but they're both politicians and they've just done politics differently.

This isn't even about white knights vs black knights.

KISS said...

Yup, neither black or white...It's green like in greed bothers me.

Zak Johnson said...

"She has a week or so to make up her mind, if she waits long enough to force the Party to slap her down - she is done."

She's already set herself up to be blamed if Obama doesn't take it in the November, justifiably it would seem. She needs to do more than exit graciously at this point, now that she has stirred up the water she must be the one to pour balm on them. The Clinton supporters over the weekend with the "Mccain before Obama" signs are all of her making. It's gonna take more than a "sorry, my bad" to make that go away.

Chuck Butcher said...

A few hundred here and there don't amount to much, there is a large group that does need to be assuaged.