Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It's Simple Fairness That Hillary Stay in the Race

There is a meme being bandied about, mostly by Obama supporters, that Hillary Clinton can’t possibly win the nomination, so she should drop out now. They claim to have “done the math” and determined that it’s impossible for her to win. I guess they had the same bad math teachers I did.

I’ve done the math too. And with Obama having a lead of only 130 pledged delegates and a less than 1 percent difference in the popular vote, it would be difficult for Hillary to win. But not impossible. It would also be difficult, if not impossible, for Obama to reach the magic 2,040 delegates that he needs to win.

As Hillary Clinton supporters have argued, if the situation were reversed, Obama’s supporters would be howling with rage at any suggestion that he drop out. Actually, for people who support a candidate that claims to be a unifier, they howl with rage quite a bit anyway – but that’s another story.

Here in Virginia, as just reported on Raising Kaine, about 3 dozen local Democratic chairs have signed a letter, written by Fairfax County Democratic Committe Chair, Scott Surovell, and Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair, Peter Rousselot, urging Virginia’s super delegates to all commit to Obama to end this primary season now.

In answer to their letter, super delegate Susan Swecker sent out this response (printed in full because it is so well reasoned (h/t to Lowell for this):
Dear Peter and Scott,

I received your thoughtful letter by email on Saturday afternoon and came home this evening to write a response.

I was surprised that I was not given the courtesy to respond to you before it was posted sometime today on Raising Kaine.

Rest assured that I take my responsibility as an automatic delegate very seriously and it is something that I think about every day.

Once it became apparent that we were going to be in this nomination period for a much longer time than anticipated (sometime after the NH primary) I did some extensive research on the role of "superdelegates", how they came to be in existence and what is expected of them.

Senator Jim Webb is correct when he said on This Week with George Stephanopolus yesterday that if the national party "didn't want superdelegates to have independent judgment they wouldn't have created them". That is why they were created by the Hunt Commission (headed by former Governor Jim Hunt of NC) in 1982 and why they still exist today. As I see my role, it is to support the candidate who I believe, using my best judgment, will make the strongest commander in chief and get our economy at home back on track. In my opinion, that is Senator Hillary Clinton.

There is nothing - anywhere - that remotely indicates that the superdelegate should follow the will of the democratic voters of that state. However, if that is your premise, then please encourage Congressman Rick Boucher (whose 9th Congressional District went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton) to switch his support from Obama to Clinton. And please encourage Senators Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Governors DuVal Patrick, Bill Richardson, Janet Napalitano..... the list goes on ..... to do the same.

With all due respect, I have done my national Democratic math as well. To date, more than 27 million Americans have cast a ballot for Senators Clinton and Obama.
Of that 27 million, less than 1% separate the two Democrats in the 2008 campaign for the White House. (if the roles were reversed and Senator Obama was behind by less than 1%, you would not expect the race to be over).

By my count, Senator Obama leads with 130 delegates, but 887 delegates still remain to be committed to any candidate.

What is wrong with making sure that states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana and others to have a chance to say who they want for their nominee.

And making sure that Florida and Michigan are resolved fairly? Lord only knows we don't need to disenfranchise any more Florida voters!

I believe this race is good for our Party; at least for right now. States that have never participated before are getting a chance to have their say and we are getting to know who our voters are. This is a good roadmap for victory not only for this year - but to build the Party in the years to come. If you don't believe me, ask Governor Kaine how important he felt the 2004 Presidential Primary was to his gubernatorial victory in 2005.

I do hear your concerns about the race going into August. I do believe it will be and should be decided by then. But I feel just as strongly that the rest of the states need to vote and Florida and Michigan need to be resolved fairly - and then focus turns to the superdelegates. I hope that we as a group and individually will be able to bring this nomination process to a close and begin the process of uniting behind our nominee. While we may now differ on who that nominee should be, I will tell you that I will be the first Virginia Democrat to sign up for Obama for President if he is the nominee.

I will continue to listen to Virginians and continue to closely follow this historical competitive race.


In fairness to Scott Surovell and Peter Rousselot, they are echoing a sincere concern that the longer the primary drags on, the more the party will tear itself apart. At the same time, it’s also giving Republican opponent, John McCain, a free ride with ample time to define himself to the public without any challenge.

They have a point about that last argument. It concerns me too. But when I think about the argument that the protracted primaries are divisive and harmful to the Democratic Party and to our ultimate candidate, I have two words. John Kerry.

Back in 2004, I too wanted to wrap it all up quickly. I even grew annoyed at John Edwards, whom I liked a lot, because I thought that the longer he continued in the primaries, the more likely it was to weaken the eventual winner, John Kerry, for the general election.

With hindsight, I now wonder whether it was such a good idea to anoint our winner as quickly and painlessly as we did. Perhaps if Kerry had been tested more in the primaries, he would have been a better candidate in the general election – a stronger, more focused candidate. And if not, maybe we could have gotten rid of him and picked somebody better suited to the job.

I think the vetting process that the primary puts the candidates through and the testing that it requires is a good thing. It separates the wheat from the chaff and strengthens the winner for the general election. In addition, the competition has generated a white heat intense interest in the process. People have been turning out in record numbers to vote for both Hillary and Barack. And in closed primary states, independents, and even disillusioned Republicans, are registering as Democrats. This, folks, is party building. It is helping local Democrats to build a larger database and a stronger grassroots.

Why would we deny the same benefits to the upcoming states like North Carolina and Indiana? Who knows how many new Democrats they will gather from this process.

But there’s an even more important reason to continue the primary process until the end when the race is so close. Simple fairness.

Not just to the candidates. But to the citizens of those states whose primaries are at the tail end of the season and whose votes, time after time, haven’t made a difference. Whose votes, time after time, haven’t even been cast because the race is usually over before it gets to them.

Think how excited we all were in Virginia because, for the first time in a long time, our votes actually mattered. It was a heady feeling. And in a race this close, it would be wrong to deny that same excitement to those states who draw the short straw and are the last to vote.

To be sure, if Obama had a runaway lead that was truly impossible to beat, I’d agree that we should wrap it up. But that’s not really the case. This is a case where every vote will truly count. And every one of those citizens who wishes to vote should have the opportunity to do so, just as we did in Virginia.


Hugo Estrada said...

I believe that the reason why some are asking for an end of the process is because they fear that if Obama enters with more delegates yet Hillary wins, McCain will become president.

For a while it seemed as if the Hillary campaign wanted to win the superdelegate contingent by running a smear campaign on Obama. It seemed as if the tactic was to ruin Obama so much that they had no choice but to vote for Hillary. When this was going on, I was in favor of Hillary dropping because that kind of behavior will undermine the party.

I may not be following the news that carefully anymore, but it seems as if the negative rhetoric between the candidates has been toned down.

If this stays this way, I have no problem with the process playing through.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I sympathize with those fears and I would oppose giving Hillary the nomination if she was not the winner of the delegates and the popular vote. Barring some truly unforeseen revelation about Obama, which would not only make him not viable, but also would lead to a consensus among delegates and the public, I too would be angry to see him deprived of a legitimate victory. It would be the same issue of fairness.

But it seems to me that bringing pressure on a candidate to drop out or trying to get super delegates to unite unanimously behind Obama just to force an early victory before all the states have had a chance to vote is undemocratic. It also is unfair.

I think the people urging this are well meaning. I have even heard some practical considerations from one party leader that make sense to me. The uncertainty is making it extremely difficult to plan for the general election and get material ready in a timely fashion.

But messiness and uncertainty is the price you pay for a genuine democracy. That doesn't mean I'm unsympathetic to the pragmatic concerns of our leaders. But all sides have to be convinced of the fairness of the process.

Pressuring Hillary, the super delegates pledged to her or uncommitted, or denying the remaining 10 states an opportunity to choose, like we had, would also divide the party.

Anonymous said...

I believe Jane Smiley is talking directly to you:


AnonymousIsAWoman said...

No, she's actually not. I think she is so angry she's unfairly hurling that famous kitchen sink back at Hillary (my that kitchen sink is rapidly morphing into a football, it's tossed about so much).

The truth is the process has to be fair to both sides. And every voters vote should count.

I'm willing to live with the results and to refrain from calling for a quick end until after the last primary, when every vote is cast and counted. Why aren't you?

Anonymous said...

The Kentucky results are in, and Clinton has won a stupendous victory. This, despite the constant drumbeat that Hillary should drop out and stop destroying the party. If Hillary were a man, do you think that he would be urged to drop out and walk away like a lady?? Those numbers reporting Clinton voters who will not vote for Obama are not a mirage. The Democratic party is going to nominate an inferior candidate--forget racism and sexism. This reminds me of the Reagan defeat in 1976 where Reagan won almost 50% of the vote, but refused to be considered for the VEEP position. I think we all remember what happened in 1980!! I look forward to 2012, if we can survive as a nation under Obama or McCain.