Thursday, February 07, 2008

Clinton v. Obama = Bush v. Gore?

In his blog, Washington Post reporter David Achenbach suggests that if the delegate count is close enough, the Clinton campaign will start agitating for the seating of the Michigan and Florida delegates in what can only be described as Bush v. Gore through the looking glass. The Clinton mantra will be nominally the same as the Gore notion in 2000: Count every vote! Don't disenfranchise Michigan and Florida voters! But these superficial similarities to the Democratic position in 2000 will mask a deeper affinity with the brass-knuckle tactics of James Baker and the paid brownshirts sent to Florida to intimidate vote counters in 2000.

When Florida moved up its primary in violation of national party rules, the national Democratic party followed through on a threat not to seat Florida's or Michigan's delegates. Further, all of the candidates agreed not to campaign in Florida or Michigan. But just before the Florida primary, Clinton announced that she thought the Florida and Michigan delegates should be seated. She said: "I hope to be President of all 50 states and U.S. territories, and that we have all 50 states represented and counted at the Democratic convention."

How very noble. Wherever both candidates have campaigned, Obama has eaten into Clinton's early leads, so a primary in Florida in which neither candidate campaigned naturally led to a Clinton victory, and in Michigan Obama wasn't even on the ballot.

Achenbach suggests that if the DNC's Credentials Committee (which includes at least one Clinton loyalist) in fact permits the Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated, lawsuits will follow, giving Justice Scalia the chance to pick the Democratic nominee. At that point, Hillary Clinton's journey to the dark side (as described by Maureen Dowd here) will be complete.

Posted by Mike Dorf


Paul Scott said...

It would be offensive and absurd if the Dems were to count states after announcing that they would not *and* telling the candidates to not campaign in those states. That said, if something that corrupt were to happen, my guess is that law suits would, in fact, not follow.

My expectation is the following:

A candidate - hopefully Obama - will emerge victorious before the convention and going into the convention the vote will be a formality with all votes already pledged to a single candidate. At that point, FLA and MI delegates will have their votes counted along with everyone else.

The only way a counter decision on FLA and MI helps Clinton is if it is made very soon, so that Clinton can claim those votes officially and make the vote count gap wider in her favor - possibly thereby effecting later primaries.

egarber said...

I saw that the party may actually work with Michigan and Fla to hold a "re-caucus", which would basically mean that they'd hold another election sometime in the spring.

How ironic that would be. Two states moved up their dates to have greater influence and they were punished for it; but now there's a potential compromise that could make them pivotal, given how close the race will likely be when a re-vote takes place (if it takes place).

Sobek said...

The argument that the Michigan and Florida votes should be counted is not frivolous. The people of those states really should have a voice in choosing their candidates, and it doesn't make sense to punish the voters for the actions of their nominal leaders. But I would have a lot more sympathy for that argument if Hillary! weren't trying to change the rules in the middle of the game, when it appears to her advantage. Makes her look petty and willing to cheat (no surprises there).

Exact same deal with the Nevada caucuses and Hillary's surrogates' last-minute attempt to change the rules. The arguments were not frivolous by any means, but the fact that they were only advanced when it appeared to be in Clinton's best interests demonstrates that it was Clinton's best interests -- rather than those of the voters -- that were the motivating factor.

For what it's worth, now that McCain has the nomination all but guaranteed, this is one life-long Republican who is seriously thinking about voting for Obama. *shudder*

egarber said...

Hey Sobek (and everybody), check out this piece by Frank Shaeffer on the Huffington Post. Very interesting perspective on Obama's seeming ability to get folks to see contemporary divisions in new ways.

Sobek said...

Wow, I disagreed with almost every single thing in that article, egarber. It's pretty thick with baseless assertions and logical inconsistencies.

One example of the former: "And [the Republican Congress] took their sincere evangelical followers for granted, and played them for suckers."

Unless and until Roe is gone, Congress can do virtually nothing beyond empty gestures. The fact that Roe is still there can't be blamed on Congress. And what little Congress can do, such as banning partial birth abortion, it has done.

And example of the latter: "The Bush doctrine of life was expressed by starting an unnecessary war in Iraq that has killed thousands of Americans and wounded tens of thousands more."

First, the Bush "doctrine of life" has nothing to do with the War on Terror. That's just silliness. Second, Scheaffer posits a false alternative: had America not invaded, fewer people would have died. Of course there's no empirical way to demonstrate such a thing, especially in a country (and part of the world) where life is cheap anyway.

Schaeffer then asserts: "The society that Obama is calling us to sacrifice for is a place wherein life would be valued not just talked about."

That certainly doesn't describe Saddam's Iraq very well. And Schaeffer doesn't offer any hint as to how he would calculate which is better: 25 million free people, or 25.9 slaves. I have no idea how to do the math on that one, myself.

I'll emphasize that I'm considering Obama for mercenary rather than policy reasons. I think he would do the least damage to my policy preferences (although he's the most liberal guy out there, I'm hoping for conservative backlash to executive overreaching, and Obama doesn't have the experience to force his agenda through).

And I'm also hoping that Obama is Carter-esque in the most important sense: that he will give the country another Reagan on his way out.

egarber said...

Sobek, based on conversations with some Republican friends, I think there are *some* folks from your side who might actually support Obama on the merits -- at least part way.

And there are some who agree that the public sector should play a role in making "life" better after birth -- a different kind of evangelical, if you will. Some of these folks (who I know) opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, like my neighbor, a life-long Republican who voted for Kerry in 2004 because he was furious about our display of hubris (he and I agreed wholeheartedly on that one).

I think there are some in this camp who are willing to trust that Obama has shed some of the baggage when it comes to our contemporary divisions. Obviously, I'm not expecting a huge rush to him from that side; I'm merely pointing out that the FS piece reflects that there might be something different about Obama.

Sobek said...

It all looks like warmed-over socialism in a prettier package to me.

But given that a lot of Republicans seem to favor some degree of socialism, I have no trouble at all believing you, egarber.

Sobek said...

One thing Obama deserves credit for: he appears to have an actual sense of humor. I can't quote him, but after a debate in which he said his biggest weakness was that he's sometimes disorganized, he made a joke about Hillary's and Edwards' too-perfect responses. He said something like, "I thought when they asked for weaknesses, they really wanted to know about weaknesses. Next time I'll say I like helping little old ladies across the street too much."

That's something I've never seen even the faintest glimpse of in Hillary. I once saw a flash in Al Gore, and it went a long way towards making him less of a plastic replica of a human and more like an actual human.

I also like the message that Obama would send by virtue of being elected while black -- especially given his outsider image. It would seriously undercut a victim mentality that all too often paralyzes the black community, and reinforce the message that in America, you really can make anything of yourself, regardless of your background. I see tremendous value in that.

egarber said...

Sobek, I think it's sloppy to call a philosophy "socialism" merely because it calls for public sector involvement or investment.

To me, big terms like that correctly only apply to descriptions of overall systems -- i.,e., whether industry is state controlled, whether the economy is centrally planned, etc. Now, at the component level, one individual program might be more *collectivist* than another (stoking the ire of Ayn Rand followers), but I think it's a form of red baiting to slap the label of "socialism" on any public effort designed to supplement our larger free-market system.

After all, Reagan supported a basic safety net; few folks would say he was a supporter of socialism. And even Hayek allowed room for social insurance to cover basic needs in his classic, "the Road to Serfdom" -- a book specifically offered as a warning about socialism and the bible for many Libertarians. You might as well call Alexander Hamilton a "socialist", since he saw the need for a national bank to prop up our young economy.

Are we a fascist nation simply because we have police and a military?

Sobek said...

"I think it's sloppy to call a philosophy 'socialism' merely because it calls for public sector involvement or investment."

It's a matter of degree. Reagan's administration pushed the dial towards diminished federal involvement, even if he didn't eliminate it altogether. Obama promises to push the dial the opposite direction. I won't call Reagan (or anyone else) a socialist simply because it's politically impossible for them to adopt strict libertarianism with the stroke of a pen.

Indeed, even I would oppose summarily disposing of social security or welfare. The federal government has taught too many people for too long how to survive only on government programs, and repealing those programs suddenly would have serious, negative consequences to people who simply don't know any better. But I do support taking action to reduce individual reliance on government programs, because of the damage and dependence they cause. In other words, I favor a gradual turning of the dial towards freedom from government dependence, which is by no means socialist even if I would leave the programs in place in the short term.

Concerning fascism, my short answer is no. The long answer depends on how you define the word.

egarber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
egarber said...

It's a matter of degree. Reagan's administration pushed the dial towards diminished federal involvement, even if he didn't eliminate it altogether. Obama promises to push the dial the opposite direction. I won't call Reagan (or anyone else) a socialist simply because it's politically impossible for them to adopt strict libertarianism with the stroke of a pen.

If Reagan himself is to be believed in his autobiography, he didn't want to get rid of the safety net; he wrote that he supported the principle of it.

But in any case, you're of course correct in that President Obama would call for more public sector involvement than Reagan.

However, unless we as a nation upend the basic system, eliminating all property and economic rights for individuals/corporations, I don't consider any of this a measure of "socialism"; instead, it's a question of how much one thinks government action should supplement the larger American economic system, which is not a socialist order.

That's why I consider those buzz words to be a form of red baiting when used to criticize any and all income redistribution. If it's accurate, for instance, we'd have to consider T. Jefferson a "socialist" compared to his old guard contemporaries because he supported taxpayer- subsidized public education for all. A word that broad is meaningless.

Unknown said...

Mike said: Achenbach suggests that if the DNC's Credentials Committee (which includes at least one Clinton loyalist) in fact permits the Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated, lawsuits will follow, giving Justice Scalia the chance to pick the Democratic nominee.

I don't get Achenbach's comment. There's nothing in the US Constitution requiring primaries and, as I recall, until fairly recently "regular" people didn't even get to vote in the actual election. Also, isn't a political party merely a private club that can establish its own rules (preumably FL and MI agreed to the rules at least by representatives)? On what basis would exclusion of FL and MI delegates get all the way to the US Supreme Court? And, finally, would the Supr Ct really want to take cert on this?

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