I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The DNC Primary Process

A lot of people are sick and tired of the Primary by now and it seems even more are disgusted with the system the DNC uses. Hillary Clinton made sure the Primary was pushed up way early, she was campaigning in fund raising and national attention from the 06 election forward and the only chance anybody had was to come out early also. This isn't the fault of the DNC, it is simply a reality of having an "inevitable" candidate.

The stupidity of Florida and Michigan has been exposed for what it is, though blame keeps accruing to DNC. This cost should deter any further such behavior. If it does not, plainly natural selection will soon have to begin operation within State legislatures. There are some very good reasons the system is designed as it is, for Democrats.

Proportional delegate selection seems to offend some folks, they'd vastly prefer a winner take all system. There are some very nearly fatal flaws in such a thing for Democrats, it strongly encourages the 50%+1vote that Republicans favor and the Clinton/McAuliff crowd operate under. The upshot of that thinking is very narrow majorities, majorities that evaporate at the first opportunity and create the need for crisis manufacture. This also discourages campaigns from maturing, they are eliminated early and campaign stumbles are fatal. Depending on the point you pick in the path of the Primary so far, this could have killed either campaign before now. The biggest problem with a 50%+1 win is the number excluded from consideration, that 50%-1 can get pretty bitter about being ignored.

The small state start off offends nitwits like Florida and Michigan, they're ever so important they should get to go first. That is exactly the problem with them going first, only the heavily financed and well connected campaign will make it through a big state Primary, very nearly ensuring corporatist status quo candidates will be the only ones competing. While we might not be surprised that the Republicans prefer their campaigns to be such, Democrats don't - mostly. It means, at the least, the stifling of other voices in the campaign. Perhaps a Kucinich will never have a chance in a Presidential Primary, but his voice should not be silenced - it is an important part of Democratic politics (or pick your 2nd tier candidate to replace Kucinich in the statement). Sometimes a candidacy will take off because it is heard, Obama may not have had the resources to start out in a large state. That might please the Clinton camp at this point, but evidence shows it would not have been a good thing for the Party at large.

Once things like small state starts and proportional delegate selection are in operation the potential for near ties occurs. Two strong and appealing campaigns make it nearly inevitable so that means pledged delegates of nearly the same numbers would enter a Convention with no "out" available. This means a deal would have to be reached, a deal that would not be the result of a public winning of delegates unless you propose to go to the 50%+1 vote model. Under proportional delegate selection the +1 would represent the narrowest possible majority meaning an offense against the -1, a potentially more damaging result than having the Party's automatic (super) delegates be decisive.

There is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the status of the super delegates, they are elected by the people not some high powered insider clique. The Party insiders are elected by the State Parties composed of people elected by County Parties through PCPs who are elected by the residents of Precincts, the elected officials won State races as US Representatives, Senators, or Governors. These are not unrepresentative people, they simply are not elected in the Primary.

Caucuses have drawn the ire of many, particularly Clinton supporters. Caucuses have several advantages that are not considered, the first is affordability. MI and FL wound up disqualified because their State Legislatures decided to ignore the rules and make State financing of the Primary contingent on their date. A caucus could have been financed by a State Party, but not a General Vote Primary, the State Parties were hamstrung into going along in order to have such a vote (the truth is both State Parties wanted to go along, anyhow). A Caucus puts control in the State Party's hands, not the State government's hands - who by law cannot mandate a method - but can blackmail a result. DPO made it clear that rather than risk DNC sanctions the Party would caucus, the Legislature backed away, DPO refused to bow to any suggestion of blackmail and had the caucus alternative to do so.

The public nature and commitment required by caucusing has been blasted. The candidates wear a (D) after their name, it is a Democratic Party process and it is important that the candidate selected be Democratic in mindset. If the people involved in the process have to do so publicly and with a time commitment it pretty much ensures that people who have given the matter real thought will be the ones participating. Because the only requirements are a (D) and a commitment of time and dedication the process is not exclusive of anyone, it is simply most likely to attract the participation of those willing to put effort into it. I'll admit to preferring the wider participation of a General Primary, but an entirely reasonable wish that those included were more thoughtful and dedicated people than actually do participate. There is a trade-off and quite rationally the trade-off is narrow which ever side you come down on. I've heard people state that this violates the privacy of voting, it may not afford it, but it violates nothing. It is entirely legal and correct as a process of the Democratic Party, which is not the Federal Government.

If you want to play in Democratic politics you are simply going to have to accept a level of messiness. It is the nature of the Democratic Party, it is the nature of any Party that tries to be reflective of a wide membership. Sometimes that membership holds parties with directly opposed views, the 2nd Amendment is a perfect example of such a situation and the Party struggles to include both and it is a struggle. In many instances the tension between ideas results in better answers, sometimes only uneasy truces, and sometimes explosions. But this is the Democratic Party. The Republican model is something else and if it seems a bit more orderly, there is also the result of the last 7 years to take into that consideration. I will take the Democratic messiness.

In short, if you're looking for an efficient and orderly process the Republicans have one, and if it is that important to you to have it, all it takes is an (R) after your name and a certain fondness for the last 7 years to have it. If you think the Republicans have chosen good candidates with their system I suggest you reflect on who they've put up in your memory. I'm a Democrat and I'm not insulted that it's easier to herd black cats in a dark room with a stick than it is to manage Democrats, I happen to like it in fact. (I've never been impressed by sheep)