Democracy And Democrats

by digby

I am certainly on board with the idea that the rule which states that superdelegates can vote any way they choose is undemocratic. But it's just a bureaucratic regulation, not based on any principle that I can think of, other than that party regulars should get a little extra influence, so I have no problem changing it. Meanwhile, it's perfectly legitimate to lobby these superdelegates to vote as their constituents did.

But I'm honestly a little bit stunned that people wax on about disenfranchisement and democracy in the case of superdelegates and then blithely assert that it's fine to adhere to a "rule" which leaves the people of Florida and Michigan hanging in the wind over a bureaucratic spat. The Democratic Party being unable to work this out ahead of time and simply throwing up its hands and saying, "your votes won't count" has got to be the stupidest optic I've seen in years coming from a party that has been the victim of systematic vote suppression scams and stolen elections. I can't believe any Democrat thinks that decision makes an election legitimate in a close race where those votes will make the difference.

I'm sure everyone recalls that we had a little contretemps not long ago where some people in this country decided that not counting all the votes was a legitimate way to win an election. After all, in one of the weirdest cases of twisted legal logic in history, the Republicans won in 2000 with a Supreme Court decision that essentially said that counting votes would "disenfranchise" those whose votes had already been counted.

The circumstances in the two states this year were different, but in Florida's case it was a corrupt, vote stealing Republican Party that insisted that the election be held early.

The DNC rules stipulate that states that have not been granted a special waiver must schedule presidential nominating contests after Feb. 5.

"Rules are rules," said DNC member Garry S. Shays, of California, at the meeting. "California abided by them, and Florida should, as well. To ignore them would open the door to chaos."

Donna Brazile, a member of the rules committee who argued for a swift and harsh punishment for Florida, said states' desire to be more relevant in the nominating process does not excuse violations of rules intended to make the system fair for everyone.

"I understand how states crave to be first. I understand that they're envious of the role that Iowa and New Hampshire have traditionally played," said Brazile, who was Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000. "The truth is, we had a process. . . . We're going to back these rules."

Though the DNC's action was well-telegraphed, it came after emotional pleas from state party leaders, who blamed the initial selection of the date on Republicans who control the legislature. Thurman said she and her staff spent "countless hours" trying to persuade the legislature to pick another date.

Jon Ausman, a DNC member from Florida, begged his colleagues to make an exception for Florida because of those efforts.

"We're asking you for mercy, not judgment," Ausman said.

The rules committee was largely unmoved; only one member -- Florida's Allan Katz -- voted against imposing the sanctions.

Under the caucus alternative proposed yesterday, voters could still go to the polls on Jan. 29 to express their preferences for a presidential nominee, but the results would be ceremonial, much like the results of the Republican straw poll held in Ames, Iowa, this month.

"It's essentially a beauty contest. . . . There are no delegates now," said Alexis Herman, co-chair of the rules committee.

Thurman and other state leaders said there are several problems with the caucus suggestion.

She said a caucus could cost the state party as much as $8 million -- money she said the party and its benefactors do not have. She said a caucus in a state the size of Florida would be impractical and would have the effect of allowing far fewer people to participate.

State party officials also said they prefer to keep the official voting on Jan. 29 because a property tax initiative they hope to defeat will be on the ballot that day. Turning the Democratic presidential primary into a meaningless event would probably mean lower turnout among the party's faithful and make it harder to defeat the initiative, they said.

"Defeating a horrible referendum on Jan. 29 . . . is a top priority for every constituent group I am aware of," said Terrie Brady, a DNC member and former chair of the Florida state party.

And none of that is the fault of average citizens, many of them rank and file Democrats, in both states who have every right to be represented no matter what Florida Republicans, Iowa and New Hampshire and the party poohbahs and activists want to do to ensure their own status and/or preferred results. The Florida and Michigan parties both tried to get their voters to the polls.

The party had better deal with this properly because this is an issue that is hugely important as we look to November and the new legal disenfranchisement that the Republicans are planning in the wake of the expected Indiana ruling. The Democrats need to adhere to principle and work to ensure that they are never advocating for anything less than one person one vote, period.

In a campaign that looks like it's going to cost a billion dollars, I think the money can be found to hold new primaries in both states. Since neither of the candidates campaigned in the first round neither should complain. It's not cheap, but it's doable. Chris Bowers (who also believes that supedlegates should represent their constituents) suggests that the Florida delegates should be seated as is and offers some solid reasons as to why that makes sense. But since legitimacy is a problem with this whole thing and I've heard talk of "marching in the streets all the way to Denver" I think we can assume that seating those delegates in a way that would tip the results is a non-starter. So, I'm for a new election. It's not that difficult.

And the DNC should be taken to the woodshed for doing this. The Democratic Party "sending a message" about "rules" by refusing to count votes in Florida is simply mindboggling. They should have found another way.

*Before any of you start calling me a Hillary shill and claiming that I'm doing this because I'm on her payroll, please read this post in its entirety and note that I believe the party should hold new primaries. It would be the most legitimate tie breaker possible and would probably offer the winner a real mandate. It would certainly be better than having a bunch of fat cats make the decision. So hold your fire. This isn't about advocating for a particular candidate. Somebody needs to keep their eye on something other than this interminable pie-fight.