Sunday, March 16, 2008

Meek Proposal Could Help Avoid A Bloodbath For The Democrats

The increasingly negative tone of the exchanges between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, their staffs, and their supporters, isn’t the only bullet the Democrats need to dodge to avoid tipping the odds in John McCain’s favor. The brewing storm over the issue of whether the delegations from Michigan and Florida should be seated at the Democratic convention is the other obvious factor that could drive a wedge into the party that could cost them votes in November.

Florida and Michigan held their primaries early in clear defiance of the rules laid down by the Democratic party. The candidates agreed not to campaign in those states. Four candidates, including Obama, took their names off of the ballot in Michigan. Now the Democrats are concerned about alienating voters in those states if they are not represented at the convention.

If the delegates who were elected in those states' primaries are seated, it is clearly to the advantage of Senator Clinton, who “won” both primaries. If she were to get the nomination, helped by this sort of maneuver, there is absolutely no doubt that a sizable number of Obama’s supporters would not support her in November.

The primary discussion of what to do about this situation has focused on allowing some sort of “do-over” — mail-in ballots, caucuses, or even new primaries in both states. This is a bad idea for at least a couple of reasons.

First of all, any of these options will cost the party, at either the state or national level, a lot of money that could otherwise be used to try to win the general election.

In addition to the cost, a re-vote of any sort not only removes the punishment, stated in advance, for violating party rules, it actually rewards the renegade states. Florida and Michigan jumped the gun hoping to have added impact in determining the party’s nominee for president. With the contest for the nomination too close to call, giving them a re-vote at the end of the process gives them exactly what they were seeking to begin with - an out-sized role in determining the nominee.

Of course the Dems could simply let the credentials committee hash the matter out in August, but that is a recipe for disaster. No matter what they decide, if their decision is the deciding factor in determining the Democratic candidate, the losing candidate and his or her supporters are going to cry “foul” with good reason.

The Democratic party is really stuck between a rock and a hard place. The best way out of this dilemma has been offered by Jerry Meek, the chairperson of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Meek’s proposal is that after all of the other primaries and caucuses are over (around mid-June) the convention credentials committee would allocate delegates for Florida and Michigan based on each candidate’s percentage of the total popular vote in other states. That might not make the renegade states happy, but it is the best solution possible under the circumstances.

Monday, March 10, 2008

An Open Letter To Barack Obama

The Clintons are making you an offer you can, but shouldn’t, refuse.

There may well be an element of calculated scheming on the part of the Clintons in floating the offer of a "joint ticket." I think you would be wise, however, to take them up on the offer. An agreement between yourself and Senator Clinton that whoever comes in second for the Democratic nomination will accept the vice-presidential slot on the ticket would go a long way toward ensuring a Democratic victory in November.

Over seventy percent of the Democrats polled have indicated a preference for both yourself and Senator Clinton to be on the ticket. We already have a president who ignores the will of the people. It would be nice to see the leading Democratic contenders respond to the preferences of their supporters.

The number of new voters participating in the Democratic primaries and caucuses this year is a real tribute to you and to the power of your approach and your message. The excitement that you have generated among your supporters needs to be maintained through November and beyond. Even a minor mud-slinging contest between yourself and the Clintons has the potential to turn off the supporters of the losing candidate to the point where they stay home in November.

I know how difficult it can be to resist the urge to strike back when you are being criticized and attacked. You have demonstrated admirable restraint in that regard. Lately it seems that you are beginning to weaken a bit and have made a few negative comments of your own. Stay strong.

More than the mere hope of change, you have already changed the climate of this election. You have demonstrated the power of staying positive.

I am convinced that if the Clintons continue to go negative and you can resist the temptation to fire back a little longer you will win the nomination. If you don’t get the nomination - agreement or not in the meantime - I hope you will join the "dream ticket."