Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why Michigan and Florida Should Absolutely Count (JM)

In Florida 1.5 million people cast ballots to help choose their candidate for the presidency. In Michigan, 600,000 people have spoken. Now the time had come and people are calling for compromise on these states between the Obama Camp and the Clinton Camp. This is absolutely the wrong way to look at this, in fact the interests of the respective candidates are secondary to the only interest that ought to matter: the voters in Michigan and Florida.

Florida is the much clearer picture. All the candidates were on the ballot and Obama had commercials running in the state, while HRC did not. 1.5 million people came out to vote, made their votes clear and had an ample chance to hear from both of these megacandidates. The complaint from the Obama side is that they didn't get to go in and meet with people, which is his candidate's strength. This would be a marginally valid argument if it weren't for two things: 1) Hillary's strength (and probably a far more important presidential strength) is debating, a platform Obama seems quite keen to deny Hillary as more and more states come up; 2) Obama's concerns about how he gets to present himself are not nearly paramount in this discussion. Given the information they had the people of Florida went out to vote and deserve to have a say in our next president. This is particularly true given that it is an important swing state.

Michigan is a bit murkier. Hillary being the only candidate on the ballot kind of muddies the water a bit until you ask yourself this question: Why was Obama still on the Florida ballot? The answer is that he thought he had a chance to do well there. Largely speaking pulling off the Michigan ballot was a tactical move Obama and Edwards got behind, because Michigan happened to have been a very favorable climate for Hillary. Here's a video of Chuck Todd discussing this very possibility. Again 600,000 people came out to vote for the president and should not be disenfranchised because their party leaders were arrogant and silly. I would, however, offer a compromise in the case of Michigan. Grant Obama the delegates that would be attributed to Undecided. The truth is that his campaign was largely behind the Undecided movement and he takes a great advantage out of getting all undecided delegates because assuredly Edwards would have strongly cut in to his numbers with his ties to labor.

The only other compromise I've heard discussed is holding caucuses, which is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. I have often, in this space, discussed how wretched the caucus system is: it distorts voting opinions, it's proportioned bizarrely and it is often representative of population size so small that the results would be statistically insignificant if this were a laboratory experiment. But how much worse is it when you count the fact that over two million people have already voted. Imagine the outrage if we hold caucuses and 200,000 people invalidate the results of two million. This is essentially what Obama supporters are arguing for, and it's absurd. Finally, it's just too expensive, both states have said they cannot afford to run an additional caucus (now I recognize that this could be political hardball, but still it's a factor).

Is this a perfect situation? No. But the distortions that currently exist in the Florida and Michigan voting is nothing compared to the distortion that would exist in the national voting if we left their voices out altogether. I would suggest that the first goal of a democratic system of voting is to count as many voices as possible. I would further suggest if the party chooses not to count them that we might see some real blowback in the general election. These are states McCain can compete in, particularly Florida where the Wilford Brimley endorsement will play large. For the sake of the party and the people, Michigan and Florida must be counted.

5 comments:

SPN said...

Rules are rules! Clinton knew that when she ran. No use crying now that she's losing!

Walter McQuie said...

Yes, the ideal standard would be to honor all voters. But then we don't live in an ideal world. What about those who believed that Florida and Michigan delegates would not be seated and decided to stay home rather than cast a ballot that would not be counted. How do we un-disenfranchise them? To honor the votes of only those who were unaware of the rules or felt the rules would be changed or didn't care about the rules also skews the will of the electorate.

You insist that the interests of individual candidates should be irrelevant. But these interests can't really be taken out of the equation of how to seat these delegates. Changing the rules after the fact will benefit one candidate over the other. Just as deciding to stick with the unfair rules will benefit the other candidate over the one. Most proponents of one "solution" or another will have a candidate preference. It seems to me that the only "solution" that can be truly divorced from the interests of the candidates and their supporters is to follow the rules in effect at the time of the events. And then follow the necessary procedures to change the rules as needed for next time.

The Other Steve said...

If the DNC makes an exception now for Michigan and Florida, it sets a bad precedence in favor of anarchy in the next cycle.

That is, they'll never be able to agree to a schedule, because any given state will change their time slot on their own, and then argue that they have to be counted because back in 2008 Florida and Michigan were counted.

This is why we have rules.

There are still something like 15 races to go, the candidates are close in terms of delegates. If Hillary can win in all of these upcoming races, she's got this nomination locked. Doing so would prove she's a good candidate, and that the people want her to be the nominee.

So I really don't see the point in all of this argument.

yeld001 said...

let's change a skrimage into a real game because we won..... You're nothing but a Hil Shill.

Jonathan said...

Walter,

You argue that honor all voters would be ideal, but what about the ones that didn't vote. I mean either way the people that didn't vote didn't count and I am not at all comfortable taking away someone else's expression of preference because someone chose not to vote. Honestly, this is a way better argument for why no caucuses should count, they are way less representative than the 1.5 million who voted in an election they though would not necessarily count. Then somehow you say since both sides have an interest in this, the only fair decision is to go with the rules stated at the time. Of course, that's not the fair way, that's your side. I would argue that the fair way is count as many legitimate votes as possible. These aren't votes stripped because of corruption, thus it seems more fair to count them.

Steve,

This would only be a concern for next time if I didn't also think we absolutely will be reform the system next time. I post about it here: http://airingofthegrievances.blogspot.com/2008/02/yay-democracy-jm.html. However the essential point is, no more caucuses, universally set schedule, no more debacle. But I am not willing to make this process less democratic for the sake of procedure.