Even if Hillary Clinton had wrapped up the Democratic party nomination for president on Super Tuesday in early February as most expected her to do, the problem of what to do with Florida and Michigan delegates would have remained.
That’s because the Democratic National Committee, in what might be termed a fit of pique, took away all of those states’ delegates as a result of their violation of primary scheduling rules (while also preventing candidates from campaigning in those states). At the time this occurred, I couldn’t have been the only observer who wondered how a national party could disenfranchise two of the biggest states in the union and not suffer untoward consequences. At the very least, by denying the delegate’s credentials from those two states - states that have proven competitive in most national elections - the DNC risked losing the presidential election because of their slavish adherence to rules designed to enforce party discipline.
Contrast the behavior of the Democratic National Committee with their counterparts at the RNC. The Republicans, also seeking to get control of the primary process, took away half the delegates from Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, Wyoming, and New Hampshire - also as a result of their violations of primary scheduling rules. They also allowed full participation by all candidates in those primaries.
As a result, while there was some grumbling and even some legal challenges, the primaries went forward on the Republican side with little or no backlash. (Note: There may yet be a blow up on this issue for Republicans. But it probably won’t rise to the level of what the Democrats are going through.)
Now the Democrats are in a pickle of their own making. With Hillary Clinton desperate for delegates and the Michigan and Florida state parties still seething, a push is now underway to either seat delegates who were chosen during the illegal primaries by forcing a showdown at the convention with the credentials committee or hold some kind of “re-vote” with the blessing of the DNC that would allow full delegate participation in the convention from those two states.
Howard Dean will not bend the party rules to grandfather in the disputed delegates from Michigan and Florida, the Democratic party chairman said in a statement today.
Instead, he put the state parties on notice: either they can wait and allow the credentials committee to decide whether to seat their delegates, or submit to a re-vote sanctioned under DNC rules. “We look forward to receiving their proposals should they decide to submit new delegate selection plans and will review those plans at that time,” he said in the statement.
“Everyone seems to be asking what the DNC will do,” a Democrat close to Dean said. “But the question is: what will the state parties do.”
Dean’s statement implies that he has no intention of changing the rules to accommodate any solution proposed by the candidates or the state parties. There has been some suggestion that the two remaining presidential candidates might try to broker a deal among themselves. His line in the sand narrows the options for Hillary Clinton’s campaign because it is unlikely that a credentials committee would endorse a delegation congenial to her mathematical interests.
In other words, the ruling last November that disenfranchised Michigan and Florida really doesn’t count. If the two states want representation at the convention, all they have to do is submit a plan to the DNC on how they wish to choose the delegates and they will sanction it.
So much for party discipline.
Dean’s blunder has the potential of leaving a trail of blood all the way from Denver to the November election. By placing the burden of holding a nominating contest on the state parties, he effectively washes the DNC’s hands of any responsibility for maintaining discipline in the face of rank defiance by local entities.
Why not stick to your guns and enforce the original decision? And if that decision was wrong - and supporters of both candidates believe it was - Dean should resign and allow his successor to clean up the mess. Paying for do-over primaries in both states would be an expensive proposition. A primary in Michigan would cost taxpayers in that cash-strapped state $10-12 million - a not inconsiderable sum even if the candidates were to pay for the two primaries as some have suggested. (The cost of a do-over primary in Florida is estimated at $15 million.)
Then there are the organization challenges of staffing the polling places, polling machine maintenance, absentee ballots, and setting up the whole infrastructure necessary to hold the contests. Could all of that be done in just a few months?
Florida would appear to be hesitant:
Karen Thurman, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party, issued a statement late Wednesday that seemed to discount the possibility of a second primary.
â€œIt is important also that we are clear about one issue. At this time, no suggested alternative process has been able to meet three specific and necessary requirements: the full participation from both candidates, a guaranteed commitment of the millions of dollars it will cost to conduct the event and a detailed election plan that would enfranchise all Florida Democrats, including our military service members serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.”
“The Florida Democratic Party cannot consider any alternative that does not meet these requirements. Indeed, it is very possible that no satisfactory alternative plan will emerge, in which case Florida Democrats will remain committed to seating the delegates allocated by the January 29th primary.”
Granholm seems to have ruled out a primary altogether:
Granholm made it clear her first choice would be to find a way to seat the delegates from the January 15 Michigan primary, but acknowledged the fact that Barack Obama was not on the ballot creates a fairness issue.
â€œIt could not be a primary because a primary is publicly paid for, and the taxpayers would not spend any more tax dollars on a primary. So if thereâ€™s anything it would have to be a caucus, but weâ€™d have to have a way to pay for it without taxpayer dollars.â€
What an unholy mess.
The Michigan Democratic party is up for a do-over primary but the governor won’t allow it. The Florida Democrats want the result of their original primary accepted and can see no alternative primary or caucus scenario.
Can you say “trainwreck?”
Dean’s “solution” is useless. No money - no primary. And it is apparent that Florida Democrats have dug in their heels and want their $15 million primary results validated.
If this is a game of chicken between the national and state parties, Denver would seem to be where the two sides will collide. If the national party prevails in the credentials committee (which is almost guaranteed), they will make 6 million Democratic voters in Florida and Michigan very unhappy. If Clinton were to somehow win the day and have those delegates seated, how many millions of unhappy Obama supporters will there be?
A Hobbesian choice to be sure. And one for which Howard Dean is completely responsible.
Howard Dean sums up the Democrats problem in one quote from this morning’s GMA:
“They have to be seated within the rules,” Dean said on “GMA.” “What you cannot do is change the rules in the middle of the contest.”
Of course they’re trying to change the rules in the middle of the race. That’s because the DNC ruled originally that the states were ineligible! And if they can’t change that rule why are we even bothering with all of this?
Howard Dean is a dunce, don’t you think?