Saturday, May 31, 2008

The new number is 2117

According to Democratic Convention Watch, the result of today's decision by the Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC), which seated Florida and Michigan's delegates with half a vote each, means that the new magic number of delegates is 2,117. Obama is currently 65 short of that figure; Clinton is 240.5 away.

Plenty of smart folks have been weighing in on the RBC's decision, but one point that seems to be largely overlooked is why the party chose to penalize Michigan and Florida in the first place. Or rather, why anyone ever punishes anyone. Some punishments are surely for revenge, but this doesn't strike me as that sort of situation. The point of this punishment was deterrence. The party (both parties, actually) were protecting Iowa and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status and the general order of things as it has emerged over the past four decades. Whether that order is worth protecting is besides the point; the national parties have the right to establish a system and members of those parties, should they have problems with the system, have plenty of avenues to change it or protest it. Michigan and Florida chose to gamble. They wanted to go earlier than the national parties wanted them to, knowing full well they could face a serious sanction for doing so.

So why did the national parties punish them? To deter other states from following their path. Imagine that the Democratic Party had decided to fully reinstate those states' delegates based on the vote allocation from January, as the Clinton campaign had urged. What would deter other states in 2012 from doing the exact same thing that Michigan and Florida did this year? Nothing. A lot of noise, but ultimately, no penalty. 2012 would be chaos. State after state would leapfrog earlier and earlier, and the first primary of 2012 would be next month. Okay, maybe some chaos wouldn't be the worse thing to hit this system, but the national parties certainly have the right to deter such chaos.

Meanwhile, Hillary should be proud of the sorts of voters she's mobilized this year:

As the votes on the agreements were taken, one woman, wearing a blue “Team Hillary” shirt, shoved a man in a suit and tie wearing a small Obama button on his lapel. Another woman in a white Clinton shirt hung her head in her hands.

“That was a crime!” a man shouted.

“McCain in 08! McCain in 08!” a woman yelled from the back of the room. “No-bama! No-bama!”

McCain in 08. There's a good Democrat for ya.


Anonymous said...

Both candidates have "mobilized" yahoo supporters. B/C the DNC RBC was siding with Obama there was less reason for his yahoos to protest on-site.

How hard would be it for you to sift through the blogosphere and find intemperate comments by Obama supporters saying they wouldn't vote for Hillary and would even go for McCain if she won the nomination? Was it really so rare to see the wholly rules-based prospect of Hillary being nominated via superdelegates with a minority of elected delegates described as her "stealing" the nomination?

Going beyond yahoo protesters in t-shirts, there is quite a long list of hateful PROMINENT Obama supporters decent people should not be proud of. In the interest of unity I am not going to rehearse that honor roll now, but you know who many of them are. So really, don't go there.

Seth Masket said...

To be sure, there's plenty of absurd invective being thrown around by both candidates' supporters. And both candidates have a non-trivial group of backers who claim they will vote Republican in the fall rather than support the other Democrat (even though I think those claims are way overstated).

So far, however, I haven't seen Obama supporters publicly threatening to vote for McCain at a meeting of the Democratic Party in front of TV cameras . That strikes me as particularly egregious -- far more so than a response to a survey or an anonymous blog posting. Perhaps, were the situation reversed, we might be seeing similar behavior from Obama supporters. But that's just speculation.