Ah, the subtlety. Did you even notice that yesterday’s subheads were green?
And speaking of noticing things (and speaking of bears) you might want to take this 15-second acuity test.
HOW SUPERDELEGATES SHOULD VOTE
Here’s what I wrote yesterday:
First, they should decide whether one candidate, in their view, is more likely to beat McCain than the other. If so, that’s the one they should vote for. Period. (And, yes, into this calculus must go the factor of how the superdelegate vote itself might affect the chances of one or the other having the best chance to win in November.) End of story.
If they decide that the electability difference is minor or impossible to discern (or that it doesn’t matter because either will almost surely win), then they should decide whether one candidate, in their view, would do a significantly better job as President. If so, that’s the one they should vote for.
If, finally, they think each is more or less equally electable and more or less equally likely to be an outstanding President – albeit with different strengths and story lines – then they should simply ratify the will of the voters.
If they can determine what it is.
David: ‘Is this your opinion or party policy?’
☞ Just my opinion! And you did not all share it:
Jacob Roberts: ‘Your superdelegate voting criterion #1 would, if followed, produce one of the ugliest nominating conventions in recent history. I would forget #1 as a criterion.’
A.K.: ‘As I read your article today, I had a moment of clarity. You don’t care how many delegates will vote/voted for Obama or Hillary. You’re so hungry to get a Democrat back in power that, in effect, ‘Screw the delegates; pick whoever you think will win, no matter what.’ Am I wrong? I hope I am. I want to think that you want us to do the right thing, not the politically expedient thing. By the way, I’m an Independent and am not sure I’ll vote for.’
☞ My first premise is that the DNC must not change the rules – at least not in any way both campaigns don’t agree to. It’s fundamentally important that the losing side not feel the DNC changed the rules to favor one candidate or the other.
So when it comes to superdelegates – who were written into the rules 35-odd years ago – the standard is that they get to vote whatever way they think best.
(Consider: if the standard were that they must simply vote for whoever has the most delegates, then they have no vote at all. It’s not a ‘vote’ if it can only be cast one way.)
My second premise is that both of our candidates would do so much better for the country than John McCain that it’s far more important that one of them wins (and, incidentally, stanch the rightwing slide in the Judiciary) than which of them wins, different though they are.
(Imagine electing Senator McCain. There are several reasons I’d rather not, much as I admire him; but how about just this one: It would send the world a message that . . . after all this . . . America had decided to stick with the same Party – ‘four more years!’ – led by the guy whose photo hugging George W. Bush will be the iconic image seen across the globe. This may not be entirely fair, any more than our perception of France is entirely fair, but it would be the message the world receives.)
That’s why, Jacob and A.K., I think the most idealistic, high-minded thing a superdelegate can do, if he or she honestly believes one candidate has a meaningfully better chance of winning than the other, is pick that candidate – be it Barack or be it Hillary.
That said, I agree with you: if it’s unclear who has the best shot of winning, and unclear who would be the most successful president – and to many superdelegates it may be agonizingly unclear – then they should definitely go with the will of the voters.
BUT . . . WHAT IS THE WILL OF THE VOTERS?
There are arguments for why it should be the delegate count, not the popular vote, from which the superdelegates divine the popular will – and arguments for the reverse.
Arguments why Florida and Michigan should count in some fashion, even if they do not revote – and why they should not.*
Arguments for overweighting the later-voting states – and for not.
Arguments for overweighting the primary states versus the caucus states – and for not.
(And arguments for overweighting the swing states . . . but those arguments belong up above, in step #1: electability.)
Even those arguments have subarguments. For example, those who conclude the superdelegates should ignore the popular vote must decide whether it is the delegates of their state they should vote with (which would force Senator Kennedy and Governor Patrick to switch sides) or whether they should look only to the national tally (whatever that turns out to be).
* My Florida plan (though only, of course, if the two campaigns agreed to it): Each campaign names its favorite pollster. Then you get those two, along with the DNC’s favorite pollster, each to do a poll Florida’s registered Democrats. Then you average the results and there you are. Florida would count; you’d save 20 million Democratic dollars that would have gone to administering a revote; and, yes, the margin of error might be 3% or 4%, but that could cut either way – as could the weather on election day. (Both sides seem to hate this plan, which suggests to me it may be a pretty good one.)
AND EVERYBODY HATES THE . . .
You may be familiar with Tom Lehrer’s “National Brotherhood Week.” It’s the lead song on his amazing 1965 album, “That Was the Year That Was” (lyrics, here). (The last cut is “The Vatican Rag.” Surely you’ve heard that one – no?)
“I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings,” Lehrer intones in the lead-up to the song – “and I hate people like that.”
I am reminded of this because of the verse in which “the Protestants hate the Catholics / and the Catholics hate the Protestants / and the Hindus hate the Moslems / and everybody hates the Jews.”
All in good fun, of course – but even as necks get warm among both Obama and Clinton supporters, there’s one thing, at least, all of them can good-naturedly agree on: they hate the DNC.
My wonderful Clinton friends want us to stick to the rules on superdelegates – but bend them just a little to count Florida, which went 55-27 for Hillary. After all, it wasn’t the voters of Florida who did anything wrong. They are furious with us.
My wonderful Obama friends want us to stick to the rules on Florida – but would like the superdelegates to follow a new rule: that they should all vote for whichever candidate got the most delegates. They are furious with us, too.
So it’s a mess; but do not despair. First, we have two superb candidates. Second, the DNC has been scrupulous in sticking to the rules (angering both sides). Third, everyone recognizes how important it is to find an acceptable resolution by mid-June, if at all possible, and – though it is way above my pay grade – I think a resolution is likely to be reached.
Steve: “The DNC has not adequately ‘sold’ the superdelegate system to the country. As such, pressure to vote based on ‘district popular vote’ will likely prevail. But every state has different rules, most disadvantaging the bulk of the Democratic Party. A table measuring the number of votes-to-generate-a-delegate for each delegate would show a shocking imbalance. The Party created as open a system as it could, and then created a ‘balancing’ mechanism to assure that those who have actually been elected to office (federal, state-wide government or state-wide party) – and who have a very strong incentive to look at the practical world of politics – would have a say. These individuals, above all else, are required to win general elections.”
☞ Please remember; this column reflects my thoughts, only. I am enthusiastically neutral between our two superb candidates. I’d like to find a way both campaigns agree on for Florida to count; I’d like the independence of the superdelegates to be respected; I’d like the superdelegates to “do the right thing” – and expect they will.
Quote of the Day
They maintain themselves high above the fray, descending only to shoot the wounded.~S.J. Perelman on the press
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