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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Good for the Party?

Even if Obama is your candidate, Hillary Clinton’s Texas and Ohio victories may be a good thing. Sure, he would have preferred to put it away yesterday. But a closer race keeps interest and turnout high. The fact that our two candidates who are locked in a high turnout race are an African American and a woman underscores the Democratic Party’s creds as the Party of hope for the disempowered and gives campaign ’08 an aura of heightened historical significance.
The narrowing race also keeps both candidates sharp and forces McCain to split his attacks, while getting hammered by both Dems. When we get to the convention, Clinton and Obama will be more seasoned and better prepared to rumble with the Republicans’ toughest front-man. Because of the extended campaigns, Obama, Clinton and their troops will have learned more about the political arts of self-defense, ad-making and buying, media interviews, speechmaking, targeting demographics, GOTV, leveraging issues, strategy and tactics etc.
That’s the good news.
There are, however, a couple of ways the aforementioned scenario could sour. Badly. Despite the media emphasis on delegate-counting, the popular vote is the key to claiming the moral high ground. If Super-D’s give the nomination to the loser of the popular vote, it won’t be worth having, and most of them, one hopes, are smart enough to know that and to do the right thing. But what if the popular vote totals going into Denver are so razor-close that neither candidate can convincingly claim the moral high ground? Imagine the deal-making and bitterness of the loser’s supporters. Imagine the field day McCain could have in mocking the Democrats’ commitment to “democracy.” A near-tie in popular vote totals would be less of a problem if ALL delegates were allocated by popular votes in their districts.
I get it that the super-delegate idea was conceived to check convention delegates on occasions when they don’t reflect the popular vote. But the potential for abuse is just too high. May the genius who cooked up the super-delegate scheme go join the GOP and let them benefit from his sage advice.
The other booby trap now looming larger is the Michigan-Florida mess. After last night, Obama still leads in the popular vote tally of all the primaries except MI and FL thus far by 582,718, while Clinton leads by 40,363 when MI and FL are included in the count (Obama wasn’t on the ballot in MI). It’s a little more difficult to assign blame here. But changing the rules without an agreement from both Clinton and Obama would be an equally-disastrous response. If they are not both on board with whatever is decided, expect mayhem.
Both of these obstacles can be overcome — the first by either candidate getting a clear majority of the popular vote and the second by Clinton and Obama reaching agreement on what should be done about FL and MI, sooner, better than later.
Looking toward the future, Democrats have a big job ahead in adopting reforms to insure that the popular vote total always prevails. The focus should be on dismantling the super-delegates and other vestiges of Party elitism, and moving in the direction of direct popular election of our nominee, so it becomes clear to all that we are the party that champions the will of the people.

One comment on “Good for the Party?

  1. links on

    While we are at it with all these primary reforms, might we want to consider baring Republicans from voting in the Dem. primary also? If so, what about independents? Does that make it more small-d democratic or less?
    Popular enfranchisement in the candidate nominating process is not something people in most other democracies enjoy. Then again, they don’t vote for their chief executive directly either.


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