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In Focus: Dems Debate Do-Overs

The fact that the Michigan and Florida Democratic primaries are such a mess isn't good for democracy.

by
Sheryl Longin

Bio

March 20, 2008 - 12:31 pm

The very notion that in this longest of all presidential races, Democrats are actually contemplating re-doing primaries in two key states is mind-boggling. Surely I’m not the only voter who worries about a political party’s ability to govern the entire country effectively when it’s making a mess of a basic procedure that is elemental to our democracy.

Just to be clear, the problem began when Florida and Michigan moved their primary dates up to January, in order to gain more influence in the nominating process. In doing so, they violated DNC rules and were stripped of their delegates. At the time, no one anticipated the tight Obama/Clinton race and therefore it wasn’t a concern.

Talk about a recipe for disaster. Here is one time the Dems actually should have listened to Hollywood, where legendary screenwriter William Goldman penned the adage, “nobody know anything.”

Cut to the present, where Obama and Clinton are in a fight to the death, and those Michigan and Florida delegates mean a whole lot. Although Hillary won the popular vote in both states, that was then and this is now. Add to that the fact that Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in Michigan, and what’s a poor delegate to do?

On Monday, after endless wrangling, Florida rejected a revote. As of today, Michigan is still undecided, but time’s running out. Naturally enough, the fight provides yet another opportunity for Obama supporters to accuse Hillary supporters of trying to buy the election, and for Hillary to accuse the Obama campaign of effectively disenfranchising voters.

With a revote looking more and more unlikely, the Obama campaign now supports a proposal to split the delegates 50/50, which Hillary rejects. What a dream ticket these two would make!

Over at TalkLeft the grassroots base battles it out, each faction accusing the other of being undemocratic, except when they can blame it on Republicans.

Speaking of the GOP, how did they escape this mess with a tight Romney/McCain race? While Democrats always use a proportional system to divvy up delegates, Republicans have different rules. In some states, the delegates are divided up based on the popular vote, but in many others, it’s a winner-take-all contest. Thank God for simplicity.

If the Bush/Gore Florida 2000 dispute made many question our electoral college system, the Michigan and Florida 2008 Democratic primaries are making it look a whole lot better than the alternative.

Sheryl Longin is the author of Dorian Greyhound: A Novel and co-screenwriter of the movie Dick

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