Dean created a problem he can't fix
Following the voting debacle in Florida in the 2000 presidential race where hanging chads, and allegations of Black voters being turned away from polling stations led the media headlines its appalling to me that the Democratic leadership would seek, once again, to discount the votes of the Florida (and Michigan) constituency. Indeed, the willingness to discount two states in the primary season highlights the flaws of our current Democratic primary system, and how a single day of voting might benefit voters better than a lengthy season of primaries, which respond only to the caprices of voters and the latest political scandal.
On Monday, April 28, 2008, Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean, who, himself, sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2004, appeared on ABCs Good Morning America, where he warned that one of the two remaining Democratic candidates must drop out of the race when the primary season comes to a close. We want the voters to have their say, he stated. Thats over on June 03.
However, in his actions as DNC Chairman, he has effectively denied almost 2.5 million voters their say, by discounting the value of their votes and nullifying their states in the Democratic primary race.
Upholding a rule passed in 2006 by the DNCs Rules and Bylaws Committee, both Florida and Michigan were stripped of their delegates when they broke rules and held their primaries earlier than allowed. According to the rule, only four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina) were permitted to hold primaries or caucuses before Super Tuesday (February 5, 2008) (1), which saw 24 states hold their primary or caucus. Of those four states, two of those states South Carolina and Nevada were permitted to move up their primary for the first time this year; all others who sought to move their dates were denied.
Angered by this decision, Florida and Michigan defied the party rule and moved their primaries to January 29 and January 15, respectively; as they and many states have desired to boost their states influence in the primary season, which can sometimes decide a presumptive nominee before many states even have the ability to hold their respective primary or caucus. In fact, Florida and Michigans nullification is, arguably, one of the reasons the current race is going on so long. Democratic elders have repeatedly pushed for one of the candidates to drop out, such that the party can unify a move that, if heeded at its initial call, would have denied about 12 states their right to vote for their candidate of choice.
(continued) In stripping the states of their votes, the DNC effectively threw out a combined 313 pledged delegate votes, and 55 superdelegates from two of the most delegate-heavy states. With both candidates struggling to reach the 2,025 delegates needed for the Democratic nomination, these delegate votes are invaluable, particularly for Senator Hillary Clinton who won the Michigan primary (55 percent to 40 percent) and the Florida primary (50 percent to 33 percent) (2), which would have given her a net delegate gain of 56 delegates. She has repeatedly called for the national party to honor the voters of Florida and Michigan, and in an address to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in March; she argued we have a basic obligation to make sure that every vote in America counts."
Critics of Clinton have argued that she initially agreed with the penalties leveled against the two states, but pressed for the votes to count when she saw that she won them. Personally, I am in concert with Clintons statement that every vote in America counts, and think that the two states should be counted, not because they favor Clinton; rather, because the current primary system is inherently flawed, favors certain states over others, and neither Howard Dean, nor the Rules and Bylaws Committee, have shown just reason as to why Florida and Michigan couldnt hold their primaries before February 5th. Instead, the Committee, arbitrarily, it seems, selected only two states to move their dates, and still supports an age-old right of New Hampshire and Iowa to be the firsts. In fact, both Iowa and New Hampshire threatened to move their contest to December 2007, in order to maintain the tradition that they open the primary season, in the case that any other state attempted to precede them.
While Super Tuesday can be seen as a sort of random sampling survey of the general electability of a candidate, this years predicament with Florida and Michigan shows that discounting the other 20 states that would not have voted as yet can be change the result altogether. Hillary Clinton, who placed third in Iowa, managed to carry major states like Texas and Pennsylvania, which hadnt even gotten the chance to vote by February 5th. In addition, had Florida and Michigan actually been counted, she may have even been the frontrunner, which is a clearly different picture than how things are today. But, given a single day of primary voting, across the nation, results are iron-clad, free from the fluctuations of political scandal of the day, and are a harmonious, unified yes to whichever candidate actually wins a true majority of our votes, instead of a portion needed to represent us.
So, while Howard Dean and the Democratic elders continuously press for an exit by one of the candidates, for the sake of unity, they should probably allow for us all to make a collective decision about whom we want to support; that is, if they want to maintain the integrity of the party. Doing so, however, would mean considering the views of the millions of voters in the states of Florida and Michigan and seating their delegates at the convention.
(1) Tomasky, Michael. A Possibly Super Problem, The New York Review of Books. March 20, 2008
(2) Newman, Johanna. Clinton Insists Michigan, Florida Votes Should Be Counted, New York Times. March 12, 2008