Monday, March 24, 2008

Where Josh and Big Tent Both Get It Wrong

There was a rather controversial post today from one our favorite bloggers, Josh Marshall at TPM, purporting that Hillary Clinton's supporters are trying to game the system outside of the rules to put their candidate over the finish line.

I imagine playing poker around a table with friends. Player A has a Straight Flush; Player B has four of a kind. Then B says well, sure, if you're counting straights, but if we were adding up the numbers rather than going by straights winning, I'd have won.

A similar theory was extolled at KOS. Over at TalkLeft (another excellent blog) Big Tent Democrat retorts that Clinton's strategy is exactly within the rules.
Let's focus on whether the rules allow this. The answer is obviously yes, they do. It seems to me that it is Obama supporters like Markos who are complaining that the rules MAY NOT favor Obama. It is they who are whining that the rules permit Super Delegates to pick a nominee who is not the pledged delegate leader. I do not like the rules either. But for a different reason. They allow Super Delegates to pick a nominee who might not be the popular vote leader.

While I may sound like a tiresome Mike Brady trying to settle a dispute between Greg and Marsha, might I suggest that each of you have many technical points which recommend your theories, but that you are both missing the big picture and getting it completely wrong. The problem here does not lie with the current rule set (which is in desperate need of improvement) or with the party leadership or with the supporters of the two candidates. It is with the two campaigns themselves.

On the one hand, this is the Democratic Party you're talking about, and thwarting the will of the popular vote, the total pledged delegate count, most states won, etc., would send a terrible, fracturing message to the party membership, possibly keeping new, excited voters on the bench in November. On the other hand, the rules are clear and are there for a reason. The super delegates exist for the express purpose of being able to resolve such disputes in their best judgement, so a candidate asking to push the contest to the convention for such a "coup" is completely within their rights and might be putting the decision in the hands of experienced players better suited to reading the tea leaves for the upcoming election.

But none of this addresses the real fault here. First, let me say that we are in no way out of time... yet. Some of the numbers are not yet out of reach for either candidate for all the major metrics being discussed, and allowing Pennsylvania, Oregon, and North Carolina (among others) to have their say will not kill us. However, the longer this drags on past that, the more harm is done. As Ron and I discussed during our interview with Shaun Mullen on today's edition of Mid Stream Radio, time is on McCain's side. A story on St. John McBush's questionable relationship with telecom lobbyists passed almost without notice today. And why would the media bother? Why chase scraps of bread sticks when there are chunks of filet mignon on the table?

The solution to this conundrum can not come from the blogs, the media, the DNC, or even the super delegates. Any forced resolution will come at a higher cost to the party than all of these pretty rationalizations would lead one to believe. It is high time for both of these candidates to act like adults who are committed to the one concept which both of them seem to embrace - that they both wish to see the Democratic party prevail in November. The only viable remedy is for one of these candidates to come out very publicly to their own supporters, well ahead of any type of Waterloo, and say that they will never forget the boundless support of their followers, but that for the good of the party they are going to bow out and support their opponent. This need not be done now, but this pause before the Pennsylvania primary is indeed the time for them both to sit down, look at the numbers, and decide on the parameters which each will accept for moving forward by June at the latest.

What this does is allow both candidates to come together and say, "No. This is most certainly not a case of some anonymous group of party power brokers robbing you of the nation's first [black] - [female] president. It is to our great credit and honor that both have been fairly considered and given this opportunity. It is simply a case of our party coming together to decide that the most electable one of this pair of historic contenders will be the person to defeat John McCain in November."

Anything short of this is nothing less than yet another case of the Democrats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and giving away the White House in an election year where they should have taken it in a walk. There is too much blood in the water for either candidates' supporters to bow down gracefully before a victor anointed by the Powers That Be during the convention. I personally find it difficult to envision a scenario where Hillary Clinton makes this case successfully, given the math, but that could still change in the primary battles next month. Be that as it may, I will gladly take either of them at this point if the other is willing to make that long, hard walk down the hall and do what is in the best interest of the party.

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