Sunday, June 1, 2008

More About Reflection

1. Clinton campaign position: Any result other than awarding 100% of Michigan delegates on the basis of actual recorded votes violates the core democratic principle of reflection—i.e., that delegates must be awarded in direct proportion to the vote results.

2. Problem: What do the recorded vote results in Michigan represent?
a. Michigan was penalized 100% by the Rules & Bylaws Committee for scheduling their primary between those of Iowa and New Hampshire. Ergo, the primary was not going to count.
b. Clinton & all other Democratic candidates agreed the primary would not count.
c. Obama and 4 other candidates withdrew their names from the ballot due to the Rules & Bylaws Committee decision above.
d. All withdrawn candidates were lumped together by the Michigan Democratic party in category “Undecided”.
e. Michigan rules say write-in votes are not counted unless candidates give prior written approval for them. None did, since the primary was not going to count.

Let’s say I’m a supporter of Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson or Joe Biden (none of whom appeared on the ballot in Michigan). I’m faced with the following choices:

a. Stay at home. After all, I’ve been informed that the vote is not going to count.
b. Vote for Undecided (What will that mean for my candidate? How would anyone determine which votes for Undecided were meant to be for my candidate among the several covered by that label?
c. If I haven’t been paying attention at all, write in the name of my candidate.

Question #1: Given the conditions listed above, to what extent can anyone say that my preference is “reflected” in the primary vote?

Let’s go further & suppose I’m a supporter of Hillary Clinton. I’ve been told, like the supporters of all the other candidates, that the primary vote is not going to count. The only difference in my situation is that my candidate’s name is on the ballot. I’m faced with the following choices:

a. Stay at home, for the same reason as noted above.
b. Vote for Hillary Clinton, knowing that the result won’t count.

Question #2: Given the conditions listed above, how can anyone say that the vote totals for my candidate (not to mention her opponents), were not significantly altered by the Rules & Bylaws Committee’s imposition of the 100% penalty?

Let’s try a contrafactual: Imagine that the 100% penalty had not been imposed; i.e., that the Rules & Bylaws Committee had never informed the Michigan Democrats that their primary would not count. In such circumstances, which of the following would have happened?

1. Democratic candidates removing their names from the ballot.
2. Democratic voters voting for “Undecided” rather than the candidate of their choice.
3. Democratic voters entering write-in votes.
4. Democratic voters staying home.

It seems obvious, therefore, that imposition of the 100% penalty inevitably yielded a result so flawed as to be impossible to consider usable in awarding delegates. How on earth can anyone argue with a straight face that the principle of reflection can be applied to such a mess?

Should the RBC have imposed a penalty on Michigan (or Florida, for that matter)? That’s a separate question. On one hand, I understand the institutional dynamics that led to the decision (see Mori Dinauer’s excellent backgrounder on this here. Also see emptywheel’s excellent discussion on the principle of reflection and details on the dispute here.). On the other hand, imposition of a penalty essentially penalized the voters of those two states for decisions made by those states’ GOP-dominated legislatures, which seems to me inherently unfair. Nonetheless, attempting to change the rules once the penalties and the affected primaries had taken place amounts to cheating, as noted yesterday by Donna Brazile. And it is especially hypocritical for people who originally supported imposition of the 100% penalty (such as Harold Ickes, Terry McCauliff & Hillary Clinton) to complain about the outcome after the fact.

No comments: