Monday, June 2, 2008

Primary Colors

I’m an Obama supporter, but only lately come to the game. Up until the whole gas tax thing, I was perfectly fine with either Clinton or Obama getting the nomination. But that move (and the whole combined ticket thing) solidified my sense that Clinton panders too much and is greedy for power, rather than the public good.

And Saturday’s shenanigan’s demonstrated that amply. I can certainly understand why Clinton’s doing what she’s doing. But having Democratic Party members shouting “McCain in ‘08” is just plain bad for the party and the prospects for a real renunciation of the many mistakes made during the Bush years.

So, here’s a message for all the Clinton supporters (who also read this blog – surely a hefty number). First, this nomination contest is an internal election for a private organization. The DNC doesn’t need to count your vote if you didn’t follow their rules. There was no vote fraud, no manipulation. You knew going into primary booth that your vote wouldn’t count. You gambled that the state party could stand up to the DNC, and you lost. This is an apt time to use the Chinese phrase “huo gai”, or “You deserve it.” In 2000, people went to the ballot box thinking that it would. That makes this an entirely different ballgame.

Second, this whole talk about “reassigning” votes. You’re assuming that people who voted for Clinton support Clinton, and the DNC is undermining the will of the voters by giving Obama a higher percentage than he deserves. That’s only partly correct, but you’re forgetting a cardinal rule of elections. Elections are contests between the people on the ballots. So in Michigan, a vote cast for Clinton was not a vote against Obama. To have that, he would need to actually have been on the ballot. After all, the will of the voter could easily have been “Well, I can’t vote for my candidate, so I might as well vote for Clinton.”

Now, of course in Florida, Obama was on the ballot. But then, it wasn’t an even contest. From all the elections that my organization has looked at internationally, there emerges a simple rule. When you can’t campaign, name recognition wins. And at the time, that clearly went in Clinton’s favor.

Democratic elections (small “d” ones) are hard. They require a lot of different elements to be balanced and respected: campaign time, equitable access to fundraising, equitable positioning on the ballot, etc. You can’t pick and choose the way the Clinton people are doing and still proclaim yourself on the side of democratic elections. It then just becomes a means to obtain power, and that’s exactly why Clinton turned me off.