Monday, March 24, 2008

The Rules of the Game (JM)

Josh Marshall over at TPM makes the argument that the new Clinton camp spin, brought forth by Sen. Evan Bayh (otherwise known as Senator Really Wants to Be Vice President), that the candidate who would have gained the most electoral votes in primary season should be the one chosen by the superdelegates is wrong. That we should stick to rules as laid out, despite our feelings about them. While I am usually in agreement with Josh, I could not disagree more on this. I think it is totally within the rules of the game and that the best democratic representation does matter.

As much as the reformulations of reformulations of the measuring stick for a successful candidate according to the Clinton camp has gotten a bit silly, it is both relevant and well within the rules. Superdelegates were created to make a decision based on what is best for the party, if the Clinton team can come up with relevant metrics to convince supers that their particular team is either a) more electable or b) a better representation of the will of the Democratic party, then this sort of rejiggering is perfectly well justified.
The electoral college argument could be quite persausive in marshalling the argument that Hillary would be the ideal candidate. The reason this argument is problematic is that it doesn't control for the candidate's effectiveness against McCain. For instance, clearly Obama would win New York in such a contest and Hillary would win Illinois. The popular vote proxy would have been decent, but for the fact that caucuses surpress the popular vote count and Michigan and Florida were disenfranchised. I actually think the best measure of electability is probably state-by-state polls of the two candidates over a long period of time in competition with Sen. McCain. Of course, no superdelegate could ever explain their vote by that logic. At this point it is simply a task of the Clinton campaign to supply superdelegates with the appropriate narrative by which to justify a vote for them, as well as to convince them of her superior electability and her greater representativeness of the Democratic party will.
These statements are well within the rules of the games, since there are technically no "rules of the game" as it comes to the way superdelegates make their decision. Heck, Hillary should feel free to point out that she has the support of more periodontists than Obama (this is not necessarily true, sadly polling on this is limited), it would not be terribly persausive I suppose, but that's largely up to her.

Lastly, if she can make a compelling argument that this is simply a better representation of the democratic will (a tough sell), it seems to me totally worthwhile. I am not sure why "rules are rules" is enough of a reason to not try to persuade independent arbiters that maybe we should invalidate these less than fair rules. It's kind of akin to jury nullification, a practice which, in certain cases, is definitely justifiable.


NewsCat said...

Heh, Bayh's theory makes me really wish there was a "Convenient Theories For You Monthly"

Jonathan said...

I have to say I love that your snark came complete with a link to the TWIP post about a fictional magazine referenced in SATC. I am not sure we could get more meta unless we had a blog comment discussion about this.