A Response to Lanny Davis

Lanny Davis has an article in Politico (via Balloon Juice) in which he presents some suggestions for the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee in their upcoming decision about the Florida and Michigan delegations. It has a few problems, the first of which pops up in the opening sentence.

Here are two important neutral principles that should guide the Democratic National Committee’s Rules Committee when it meets May 31 to decide whether to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations — and, if so, how to allocate them between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The problem is, of course, the idea that anything Lanny Davis has to say on this matter is neutral. Davis shouldn't utter that word in this discussion--hell, he shouldn't even wear a gray suit when discussing this subject. He's a Clinton partisan, and that doesn't mean his ideas are without merit--it just means that they aren't neutral. He will interpret the situation with his candidate's best interest at heart. Let's not pretend otherwise. Next point:
in some rough approximation, honoring the results expressed by almost 600,000 Michigan Democrats and more than 1.7 million Florida Democrats, who turned out in record numbers though they were told their votes didn't count, were not responsible for the rules violations, and don't want to be disenfranchised.
I'm separating this out from Michigan here for a couple of reasons. One, the situations are different--Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan, which causes some difficulties in awarding delegates, should the DNC decide to seat them. Second--and this is personally aggravating--Davis, like pretty much every other Clinton partisan, neglects to mention that there was another reason why people showed up to vote that day. A desire to take part in what we understood to be little more than a straw poll didn't drive turnout in that election. A chance for Florida voters to cut their property taxes drove turnout. Property taxes were such a big deal in Florida that in the 2006 governor's race, the question was not whether there would be a tax cut, but how large the tax cut would be. Voters had a chance to cut their taxes, and in order for it to pass, had to get 60% of the vote. There was strong opposition to the tax cut as well, especially from state workers and teachers unions. That accounts for the record turnout, not a for-show-only straw poll of a primary. Next?
in March, elected officials and party leaders in both states were willing to "cure" — i.e., to hold new primaries and raise the money privately to pay for them. In Michigan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Sen. Carl Levin proposed a "fire house" primary in June, in which voters could revote at local fire houses or libraries. In Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson and others supported a revote by mailed ballots and perhaps also offering the fire house alternative for those voters who preferred to vote in person.
One problem--this would have been illegal--mail in elections are illegal by statute in Florida.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean said at the time that such revotes were permissible and would bring Michigan and Florida back into compliance. And there was precedent: In 1996, Delaware Democrats held a party caucus earlier than the permissible date, resulting in a rule violation. But state Democrats were allowed to hold another caucus later on and were then found to be back in compliance.
One of the campaigns said that a caucus was unacceptable. Hint: it wasn't Obama. Clinton's argument about a caucus not being acceptable is a reasonable position, and one I back. But Davis shouldn't compare what happened in Delaware to what happened in Florida simply because caucuses and primaries are completely different animals, each with their own problems. Next, Lanny?

Now the Obama campaign would say that they neither objected nor approved; they just raised "concerns." That is a fact. But here is an unavoidable inference from other undeniable political facts: Had Obama instructed those supporters in Michigan and Florida who were opposed to the revotes to support them, and joined with Clinton in endorsing the revotes, the new rounds of voting would have occurred.

Can anyone seriously argue against that inference?
Yeah, I can, for one simple reason--state parties don't run primary votes, and neither do campaigns. States do that, and here in Florida, there was no way the state was footing the bill for another primary. We have some fiscal issues--you may not have noticed, but our economy took it on the chin more than most when the housing bubble burst, especially since we don't have an income tax and are heavily dependent on property taxes. And here's a counter-question for Lanny--why should a candidate--any candidate--spend money they've raised for the primary season to fix a problem they didn't create? There are two groups to blame for this fiasco--the Florida and Michigan state legislatures. Don't try to pass any blame onto anyone else.

I think that by this point I've shown that Davis is arguing from less than honest positions in many cases, and that his position is anything but neutral. His plan for dividing the delegation is strongly for Clinton's interests, but given Obama's lead, it probably doesn't make much difference what happens. I'd personally like to see Florida's delegation cut in half, which is the standard punishment, and then seated according to the percentages. As for Michigan, I'll be damned if I know what to suggest, but if the party leaders come up with something other than Clinton getting everything and Obama nothing, I could certainly deal with it.

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