One thing that’s clear after last night, we’ve got a tough and potentially ugly delegate fight ahead of us for the Democratic nomination. Not only might the unaccountable and undemocratic superdelegates come into play, but the prospect looms of a bitter intra-party battle to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates. The DNC, Governor Dean, and the state parties need to do some serious thinking – starting now – on how to avoid a situation where backroom deals determine the nominee and his or her legitimacy is called into question.
As most people know, the Michigan and Florida delegates aren’t supposed to be counted towards determining the nominee, a penalty for unilaterally moving their elections up in the primary season against the party’s wishes. The candidates agreed not to campaign in the states, and in fact, only Hillary Clinton appeared on the ballot in Michigan. Once she won both states, her campaign predictably began to argue that these delegates should be counted. This could force the Obama campaign into the unenviable position of looking like they are trying to block voters in two swing states. It’s a train wreck waiting to happen – perhaps to be played out before the national media in Denver.
The question is: what can be done to preempt this?
I know that there is a Credentials Committee, and a Rules Committee, and probably even a Committee for the Selection of the Credentials and Rules Committees. I know the delegate process is laid out and explained in the bylaws. But certainly the DNC never anticipated this situation and it calls for a creative and immediate mending of the process.
One proposal is that both Florida and Michigan be permitted to caucus later this spring. It goes without saying that the Clinton forces would reject this. But if the DNC, Governor Dean, state parties, and other prominent Democrats like Jimmy Carter, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, Jesse Jackson, Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, etc. – all called for a fair contest with the candidates competing head-to-head – how long would the Clintons put up a fight? They would move from looking like the defenders of Michigan and Florida voters (the niche they are currently attempting to carve out), to looking like they are once again attempting to “game” the system.
At the very least people need to be reminded that everyone agreed to the earlier decision to strip the states of their delegates – including the Clinton campaign. This fight is not the responsibility of the Obama campaign. It was a party decision, agreed to by all of the candidates, and the party needs to stand by it or come up with a better solution. Seating delegates that Clinton won during a sideshow is unacceptable.