Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fire Dean, Fund the Do-Overs

To give party officials more influence over the nomination process, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) created superdelegates in 1982. To punish the Florida and Michigan party chapters for defying the new national primary schedule, the DNC stripped them of all their delegates--and then handed out an extra 76 add-on delegates ("uber super delegates") to the rest of the states. The DNC has distributed and withheld delegates like candy, brazenly manipulating the nomination process with all the tact and foresight of a high school prom committee.

Apparently, it never occurred to the DNC that these superdelegates would only give party officials any "influence" if they voted contrary to the pledged delegates and thereby changed the outcome of the nomination. Apparently, it never occurred to the DNC that refusing to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan would only "punish" them if doing so changed the outcome of the nomination. It certainly never dawned on them that shenanigans which change the outcome of the nomination would be seen as unfair and de-legitimizing.

If the purpose of an election is to make a decision in a way all sides will at least grudgingly accept was democratic and fair, the DNC has failed spectacularly in the 2008 Presidential cycle. It is time the DNC to step up and fix the mess they created. Howard Dean, the chair of the DNC and the man repsonible for the Michigan and Florida fiasco, should be fired. The DNC should pay for the full cost of a complete do-over of the primaries in Michigan and Florida (none of this privately-funded mail-in crap). And as part of restoring the delegate count formulas, the 76-or-so unpledged "add-on" delegates should be sent home (most have not been selected anyhow).

As for the rest of the 700+ superdelegates, we shall simply have to trust that they will do what is in the best interests of the party. Which is likely to bow to the wishes of the pledged delegates, unless the numbers are really close. I see no other good alternatives anymore.


Raised By Republicans said...

The primary schedule was set up the way it was by Terry McAuliffe (a Clinton associate) to favor Hillary Clinton.

Florida and Michigan jumped cue. All the candidates agreed with the DNC at the time to punish these two states.

Oh, but wait. Something happened on the way to the corronation. The schedule didn't turn out to be as favorable for Clinton as they thought. Oops. So ever since she came in third in Iowa, Clinton and her supporters have been trying to rearange the rules. First Clinton started campaigning in Michigan and Florida ahead of her competitors (in Michigan she was the only one who didn't take herself off the ballot). Now she's saying that delegates don't matter. What REALLY matters apparently is absolute number of voters who support you regardless of which state they voted in (in other words, don't count the caucuses because Hillary can't win those).

And then we have the Florida/Michigan thing again. The Clintons just want their wins in those non-primaries registered. The DNC sees how unfair that would be and are trying to set up a compromise. That's where the do-over idea comes from. But who should pay for it? The people who broke the rules (i.e. the states) or the DNC?

I'm inclined to suggest that we send the bill to Hillary frankly. It was her camp that set the original rules to rig the game in her favor, then broke them when the game didn't stay rigged as planned. But short of that level of justice, we should just make the states pay for their own screw ups.

I'm not a huge fan of Howard Dean but I'm not inclined to blame him for any of this mess.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The primary schedule was overseen by Howard Dean, not McAuliffe. Dean became DNC chair way back in February 2005. In August 2005 he told the Concord Monitor Concord Monitor that he wanted to do some "minor surgery" that would move primaries closer to NH, but would probably keep its first-in-the-nation status.

The Democratic Party's Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and scheduling was initially appointed by McAuliffe shortly before he was replaced. That's the only influence he had. And the commission itself had limited influence on what followed. As reported by the Washington Post, that commission gave its final report to Dean in December 2005, recommending to add one or two caucuses between Iowa and NH, and one or two primaries in the week after NH--but not specifying which states, or exactly how many. But the commission also voted to forbid more than five states from holding primaries in the same week, to eliminate Super Tuesday. And they wanted a system that gave more delegates to states who voted later, to avoid front-loading. Neither of those made it, as we all know.

In March 2006 the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee accepted the recommendation to add more states, but not some of the other recommendations, and a battle began to decide the details. In July 2006 the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to add Nevada and South Carolina to the calendar in July, 2006. Reid and Dean lobbied for Nevada. Clinton supporters (e.g. Ickes, Brazille) pushed for Alabama instead of South Carolina, arguing that it favored Edwards, but they lost. (Here's a little blog describing the event.) The DNC approved the changes later that year.

Now as for rules violations, let's look at the Delegate Selection Rules. Rule 11.A. says Iowa caucuses may not be held before January 14; Nevada caucuses may not be held before January 19; New Hampshire primary may not be before January 22; and South Carolina primary may not be before January 29. (Everyone else was forbidden to go before February 5.) We should remember that South Carolina, Iowa, and New Hampshire all violated the rules. Of course they felt spurred to do so because Florida and Michigan broke the rules--but does that matter? The DNC voted to punish Florida and Michigan, but not those other three states. And what's more, the proscribed penalty (Rule 20.C.1.A) was to lose half the delegates--not all of them. But Dean was so incensed by MI and FL that he pushed the DNC to invoke extra provisions in the later sections of Rule 20.C that allowed additional sanctions to be imposed. He is fully to blame for doing that.

As for campaigning in Michigan and Florida, the only candidate who did was Obama. He ran an ad called "inspiring" on national CNN and MSNBC networks. Clinton complained about it at the time. Obama's response was that he CNN and MSNBC did not allow a 49-state-only national advertisement buy. But no one made him buy those ads--Clinton did not--he could have bought local ads like everyone else. Clinton did travel to Florida once (after Obama's ad) for one or two private fundraising events, but those are permitted. On the other hand, Rule 20.C.1.b clearly defines as a violation, "purchasing print, internet, or electronic advertising that reaches a significant percentage of the voters in the aforementioned state." Now the DNC has not found either candidate in violation of the rules--they have not been asked formally to rule and have not volunteered a ruling. I'm sure they don't want to touch that with a ten-foot-pole.

Now as for Obama pulling his name from the Michigan ballot, I've said before that no one made him do it. And I noted that, at the time, pundits speculated it was merely a strategic move to ensure that Hillary got no bounce from her anticipated win in that state. so I argue that the reason Obama volunteered to sacrifice any chance of winning the Michigan primary was because it was a strategic decision in his own interests. Now you can continue to argue that he did it merely to "honor" the DNC's decision, because he is noble and selfless...

So to recap: Dean oversaw the whole scheduling process and Dean oversaw the whole sanctioning process, applying extra punishment to some state parties and giving no punishment to others. And Dean is certainly no Hillary supporter. The Hillary camp did not set the rules nor did they break them (if anyone broke them, Obama did with his cable TV ads). This was Dean's DNC screw-up and the buck stops with him.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Dr.S - It's pretty well established that the DNC tried to favor HRC in the process. The superdelegate lead (DNC members mostly) is an indication of this preference too.

I think Dean is right not to fund the do-overs. There should be do-overs, but Michigan and Florida (and Clinton and Obama) knew the rules, and Michigan and Florida deliberately chose the idea of early-voting influence over actual delegates. The fact that delegates are now more important, so they want that instead, is not an excuse for a change. The reason to change is that the Democratic party needs to get a consensus.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I agree that the GOP handled its punishment (1/2 delegates) better. If michigan and florida had chosen to sacrifice half their delegates for an earlier date, it would be much, much harder for anyone to argue that they wanted a do-over. Also, both campaigns would have been in both states, and the delegate count would be pretty much close anyway.

Dr.S, you must realize that most of the DNC favored Clinton from the start (whether or not Dean did is another matter) and she was by far the favorite of the party insiders.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The DNC did not alter the primary calendar to favor Hillary. I did my best to explain above how the current primary calendar came to be. (And as it happened, some of Hillary's key supporters were not happy with the choice of South Carolina because they believed it favored Edwards.) The extra punishments for MI and FL certainly were not meted out to favor Hillary. (She was leading by 20+ points in the polls in those states at the time.) If anyone has had control of this process, that would have to be DNC Chairman Howard Dean, and it has been pretty well established that Dean is not a fan of Hillary.

If you have any actual facts to support the assertion that Terry McAuliffe rigged the primary calendar to support Hillary, or the broader claim that the DNC rigged the process to favor Hillary, let's hear them.

Raised By Republicans said...

Here are two links that suggest that this goes back much further than Dean's tenure and that McAuliffe played a significant role in pressuring Michigan and Florida early on - but then switched when it became clear that doing so would help Hillary.

According to the story in the first link the conflict goes back to 2003 when McAuliffe was DNC chair. He was very tough with Michigan and Florida back then. It was also McAuliffe that set up the committee that came up with the broad strokes plan we saw in January of 2008.

"After McAuliffe's showdown with Michigan, he established a DNC commission to recommend improvements that would add some diversity to the early process.

As Rubio was selling his early primary, the DNC commission was inviting state parties to apply to hold one of the early caucuses or primaries. Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina alone were given permission to choose their nominee before Feb. 5. Florida Democrats didn't apply.

The commission also concluded that relying on states to cooperate wasn't going to work.

'It's hard for us to control the states and keep individual state legislatures from going off and doing things, so we needed some sticks,' said Carol Fowler, a member of the DNC rules committee and chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. 'The sticks seemed to be the only thing keeping every state from moving to the front.'

The sticks were heavy: States that move their primary before Feb. 5 automatically lose at least 50 percent of their delegates, and candidates who campaign in those states could forfeit any delegates won there."

Dr. Strangelove said...

The blog and article you quote support my view. In fact, the article gives a longer history (going back to mid-2003) and shows that--for entirely their own reasons--Michigan and Florida wanted to jump the schedule for the 2004 election as well as the 2008 election. These links show that the party leadership in Washington consistently opposed that move. In other words, the decision to exclude MI and FL from the early primaries was not made to help Hillary. There is no indication anywhere in these links that the primary schedule was rigged to help Hillary or anyone else.

Moreover, the links indicate that the accepted punishment was to remove half of the delegates, not all of them. But at least they indicate a longstanding hostility over MI and FL, so Chairman Dean's decision to strip away all of the delegates was understandable, albeit unprecedented. Unfortunately for Dean, a quote in these articles describes Democratic leaders in Washington (and Florida) as "oblivious to the coming train wreck" as early as March 2006. This wide net surely includes DNC chairman Dean.

So, again, it is clear that the primary rules were not rigged to support Hillary.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The conventional wisdom, Dr.S., is that the 2/5 super tuesday was favored by Clinton supporters and pushed by her supporters as a day on which nobody else could reasonably compete.

As RBR said, MI and FL jumped the queue - we know that early primaries for them were not part of the plan.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Hillary and her supporters liked the idea of a big Super Tuesday. OK, but so what? Nobody is talking about redoing any of the Super Tuesday states, are they? Let's get back to the claims I was taking issue with.

RbR wrote, "The primary schedule was set up the way it was by Terry McAuliffe (a Clinton associate) to favor Hillary Clinton."

Well I think I've put that erroneous rumor to bed.

RbR also said, "I'm inclined to suggest that we send the bill [for do-overs in MI and FL] to Hillary frankly. It was her camp that set the original rules to rig the game in her favor, then broke them when the game didn't stay rigged as planned."

I think I've also shown pretty clearly that the rules regarding MI and FL were not "rigged" by Hillary at all. They were not to her benefit and nobody thought they would be. RbR's linked articles show that the fight with MI and FL has a history going back many years, and they also show that Senator Carl Levin--a strong Clinton supporter--was the very man who was trying to push Michigan to jump the queue. But he was thwarted. Dean's decision to strip all delegates (instead of the 50% called for in the rules) had nothing to do with helping Hillary.

Hillary does want to change the rules regarding MI and FL. She was never thrilled with those rules. She accepted them, as did everyone else, but there was no reason for her to like them. Disenfranchising MI and FL was a big mistake. Blame Dean.

Raised By Republicans said...

The rules that Hillary broke were not the scheduling of MI and FL but rather the pledge to punish MI and FL for jumping cue.

McAuliffe, prior to Iowa, was all for punishing MI and FL. After Iowa, he's toeing the new Clintonian line - that MI and FL primaries with only her on the ballot in MI and with an abreviated campaign driven by name recognition in FL, were entirely fair and the delegates need to be seeted.

So the Blog link I posted makes exactly the argument I was trying to make. That Clinton's position on MI and FL has changed as her electoral needs of the moment have changed.

The Law Talking Guy said...

If super tuesday was set up to favor hillary, and I think it was, then RBR is correct that the primary schedule was meant to favor her. MI and FL were supposed to obey the rules and not devalue Super Tuesday.

Dr. Strangelove said...

As for the initial primary schedule involving SC and NV, allow me to quote RbR from August 20, 2006, in a comment to the first of three posts titled, Primary Madness Continues:

"There is some back room sneakiness going on here. The rumors I've heard are that Edwards in particular likes the new schedule. He's got comparatively strong organizations in both South Carolina and Nevada. So he can expect this to boost his early delegate totals. I've even heard speculation that this is an anti-Hilary Clinton move by Dean."

As for why Super Tuesday happened, allow me to quote LTG from his comment to the third of those Primary Madness Continues posts:

"I think the importance of Being First has gradually increased over time for a variety of reasons relating to television and coverage. The whole country can watch campaigning in IA and NH. So they do. In 2000 and 2004 the parties "learned" the lesson that if you win the first state, you win it all. Now that the importance of Being First has eclipsed delegation size, the Big States are rushing in."

So let's be clear.

1. Choosing the four initial pre-Super Tuesday contests was in the works for several years, and at any rate it was not done to favor Hillary.

2. The stampede toward 2/5 that created Super Duper Tuesday was an inevitable consequence of the (apparent) increasing importance of the early contests. It required no intervention from Hillary! If anyone knew how important the early contests were, it was Dean himself who was undone by Iowa in 2004--and the DNC could have provided disincentives for the stampede to 2/5--disincentives which the McAuliffe-appointed committee recommended back in 2005, as a matter of fact (see above)--but Dean and the DNC rejected them. Though to be fair they were probably unenforceable anyhow.

3. The punishments meted out to MI and FL for trying to stampede even harder and jump the queue were established by DNC rules as a 50% reduction and then augmented by Dean to be a full reduction. (And no other states were punished for their violations, by the way.) Those were Dean's choices. And they were certainly not made to benefit Hillary.

4. The real issue is what to do about MI and FL. I think (I hope?) everyone now recognizes that the DNC's and Howard Dean's decision to disenfranchise MI and FL completely, and to do so with no back-up plan, was a horrible move. I quote again LTG's words from November 2007 on the subject, because LTG understood the folly of this move at the time:

"I think it is shocking that the Dems (and now the GOP too) have agreed that NH,NV,IA, and SC are allowed to have polls before 2/5, and all others are punished (except Wyoming, which has its GOP caucuses on 1/5, and nobody cares). The shocking thing is that they will disenfranchise Michigan and Florida voters for doing what other voters in other states can do."

The only people who still think the old DNC policy makes any sense are the Obama supporters. Everyone else across the political spectrum realizes now that voters in MI and FL must be counted somehow, whether counting the votes as-is (unlikely) or by doing the whole thing over again.

The Law Talking Guy said...

1. You mean, the only people who have been consistent in supporting the DNC policy is the Obama campaign. Clinton switched from support for the DNC policy to open opposition for it when it was to her advantage to do so.

2. I have learned more since my initial posts about the primary schedule. We all have learned a lot.

3. If Clinton had lost Michigan and Florida, she would not want to seat those delegates. That should be totally obvious to everyone. The question is whether Obama's position would also be different if he had won those states, or whether his consistency is a result of circumstance. I think, as I explain below, that we will never know.

4. What is interesting is that if Obama had won those states but was down in the delegate count, he would be under immense pressure to leave the race (whereas Clinton gets a pass on all that). And if Obama had won those states, and was ahead in the delegate count, he wouldn't bother.

5. If Dr.S. is not interested in acknowledging that all the party insiders and most of the DNC supported HRC from the beginning, then there is no point in further discussion. We know very well that this is true (which is why she's hoping the superdleegates will still save her bacon and crown her with the nomination despite the popular vote and elected delegate count). The question is how much (if anything) the party regulars they did to help her with the primary calendar.

5. Does anyone seriously think that Puerto Rico's party insiders, who are believed to be largely Clintonistas, didn't change its process to help Clinton? Does anyone think, seriously, that they would have changed the date or the type of selection process if they thought it would hurt Clinton?

Dr. Strangelove said...

Yes, I acknowledge that most Democratic party insiders and most DNC members supported HRC.

But as you said, LTG, that was never the point. As you said, the real question is whether the party regulars rigged the primary/caucus process to help Hillary. And I have answered that question in considerable detail. The early four primaries were not selected to help Hillary. (If anything, the reverse.) Super Duper Tuesday happened for its own reasons, it was not invented to support Hillary. (In fact, the McAuliffe appointed commission recommended rules to prevent such a thing.) The disenfranchisement of MI and FL was not done to help Hillary. It hurts her, and was expected to do so.

I am extremely frustrated right now. If LTG has some evidence that shows the primary/caucus process was rigged to help Hillary, I would like to hear it. I would at least please, please like for LTG to actually address or acknowledge any of the points I have made concerning what even he admits is the real question. When he wrote that I was the one who had refused to acknowledge something, I almost blew a gasket. We have to answer each other or the whole "discussion" on this blog is a fucking joke. I am really, really angry at being ignored and worse, being told I am the one doing the ignoring. I am so angry about that.

And by the way, the Governor of Puerto Rico Anibal Acevedo Vila has officially endorsed Obama. Governor Vila is also one of the islands eight superdelegates. That the highest-ranking Democrat in Puerto Rico supports Obama should give us pause. Perhaps they have their own reasons for making the change? Perhaps we should not at least jump to the conclusion that every change they make is done to support Hillary? Likewise, the highest official in the DNC, Howard Dean, is no friend to Hillary--but LTG seems to forget that sometimes too.

Lastly, regarding points 3 and 4, it is just a mite bit convenient that both Hillary and Obama have staked out positions on MI and FL that benefit themselves. I think that speaks for itself. We should decide what is right without listening to what parties with a vested interest have to say. I say we count all the pledged delegates from all states (with do-overs in MI and FL to facilitate this fairly) and we strongly pressure all superdelegates to let the decision of the pledged delegates stand. This will likely mean Obama wins. But it is still the right thing to do, and I am proud to say so.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Good, we're agreed that the DNC members and party insiders favored HRC. I would think that would be sufficient to conclude that the resulting primary schedule was designed to favor HRC. That, to my mind, is how politics always works. I don't need any other proof. But there is some.

To quote Dr.S, "The Democratic Party's Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and scheduling was initially appointed by McAuliffe shortly before he was replaced. That's the only influence he had." Err, that's a lot of influence.

Some sites to look at: (explaining frontloaded primaries have effect of excluding dark horse candidates) (explaining that the compressed primary schedule was first tried in 2004 by McAuliffe to get an early front-runner annointed).

The Hotline report is quite interesting on the vote of the DNC bylaws committee. Clearly, Ickes and his fellow Clinton supporters did not get everything they wanted. Maybe it's more fair to say that the process was guided towards a Hillary-like candidate initially. There's no doubt that McAuliffe and others wanted a front-loaded process with a couple key test states then a whole slew of delegates fairly quickly. However, it does seem that this was an insider-DNC strategy set up even before 2004 as supposedly the best way to get a nominee (have someone with name recognition and money win an early primary or two then claim the nomination). It worked badly in 2004. Worse this time.

Look, Dr.S, you aren't the only one who has frustrated. It has taken forever to get you to acknowledge that Hillary is not an insurgent candidate, but the one long favored by the bulk of DNC insiders.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I re-read this thread, and I understand part of the miscommunication that has happened here. LTG is correct that I did not explicitly acknowledge in this thread that HRC was favored by the bulk of DNC insiders at the outset. I did not say she was "insurgent" in any way, but neither did I acknowledge clearly that she was the favored candidate. I did not address that issue here. For that, I apologize.

But I would like to explain myself. The reason I did not address that issue was because I did not think it was the issue at all. Everyone on this blog, including myself, have acknowledged at some point in previous posts that HRC was the original establishment candidate. I thought it was obvious and did not bear repeating. in fact, I was insulted that LTG kept repeating that fact and ignoring everything else I said. I thought he was trying to evade or twist the question. I thought he was doing the old rhetorical trick of continuing to repeat one's initial argument as though it answered everything.

What I did not understand was that to LTG, this was the same question. The bell rings, a door opens--I understand now. You see, to me, whether Hillary was favored or not by most DNC insiders is a totally different question from whether the DNC designed the primary schedule to favor HRC. Totally different. To me, that's like saying, "If someone had motive and opportunity, that is sufficient to conclude they committed the crime." In fact, it's even more of a stretch, because none of the DNC's attempts to shape the primary/caucus schedule helped Hillary--if anything, the reverse.

I would ask you to re-read the threads and note the evidence I presented. I discussed the McAuliffe-appointed committee and how its recommendations were limited and largely ignored. I discussed the whole process. I picked it apart. There's just nothing left. All that remains of the spurious claim that Hillary "rigged" the process is the idea that many party insiders favored a front-loaded process in order to pick a nominee quickly. The truth is that Hillary molded her campaign strategy to fit (what she believed was) the reality of the primary schedule, not the other way around.

Finally, RbR's 2006 comment about Howard Dean and the DNC committee rigging the process to favor Edwards is particularly revealing. It should at least suggest to a fair listener that having "the bulk" of DNC insiders on your side is not the whole story. It should at least be enough to suggest that the distance from that premise to the conclusion that everything was done to help Hillary is too far to leap. It is at least enough to suggest that you really should require some proof. And you provided none.