Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fixing the Democratic primary mess

Obama won Oregon very handily, and now possesses a majority of pledged delegates, bringing him that much closer to the nomination. So hopefully this horrible primary will finally be over soon. June 3rd isn't too far away, boys and girls.

One thing that has been made abundantly clear is that this primary has been a mess, largely because of the confusion and continuing uncertainty over the delegations of Florida and Michigan. John Cole has some good ideas:

First, the seating of Michigan and Florida. It seems to me that since these were not to count and many feel completely not seating the delegation is too draconian, the fairest thing to do is to punish them by halving the total number of delegates (pledged) from the states. Then, the appropriate way to apportion them would be to take the pledged delegate lead from the other 48 states and assorted territories and the like (DC, Guam, Puerto Rico), and apportion the Michigan/Florida delegates according to the percentage that both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama have from those states. For example- If Obama has 52% of the pledged delegates from those 48 states+, he would get 52% of the delegates from Michigan and Florida. I have no idea what to do with the supers, but I am inclined to tell them to pound sand.

This would accomplish several things. First, it would stop the “seat the FL and MI delegates” nonsense. Second, it would be a strict punishment. Third, since there really was no election, it would fairly distribute the delegates according to the way they were determined in the rest of the country. Fourth, it would not impact the outcome of the election (and it wouldn’t if Hillary were in the lead of delegates, either). Finally, it would ensure that the DNC is still respected by the state delegations, and crap like this would not happen again in the future.

Second, solving this mess from the future. Unlike many, I like the proportional representation. It allows for campaigns to last longer, it really allows non-institutional candidates a shot, and I think it is a good thing. Keep it. I would also get rid of the sense of entitlement that Iowa and NH have, and make the primary system run on a regional basis, rotating every election. Break the states into appropriate and manageable regional blocs, set a start date for primaries, and every two weeks a different bloc votes. Depending on how long you want the primary season to last, you could tailor the size of the blocs and the start date for the election. States would be free to determine whether they want to be a primary or caucus or hybrid.

One last thing. I would create a sort of political quasi-holiday for all Democratic candidates running nationally prior to the start of voting in which they the rules of the contest, the metrics that will be used to determined the outcome and the nominee, and all that stuff are read, agreed to, and then have the candidates sign a statement agreeing to them. Publicly. Turn it into a celebration, make it a big deal so everyone knows it happens. Get all the party heads there, take a time to remember past party giants who may have died in the past few years, present awards to people who have done great things for the party. Have fund-raisers, do meet and greets, introduce rising stars in the party, etc. Call it “Signing Day” or something. But make it big, known, and public. The bullshit goalpost moving a certain campaign has done the past few months is unacceptable.

I think making all parties publicly embrace the rules that have been set out, no questions asked, is an excellent idea. Moving the goalposts in mid-game creates confusion, resentment, and bitterness among the supporters of the losing candidate. Combine that with the uncertainty and equivocation over Florida and Michigan and you have toxic memes like "Hillary is winning the popular vote".

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