Saturday, May 31, 2008

What Hath the Rules Wrought?

Most of the buzz now regarding the Democratic race concerns the seating (or not) of the delegates from Florida and Michigan at the convention. There is much following of the fallout now over at blogs like WaPo's "The Fix" where they are watching developments closely. Likewise the Republicans are keeping a sharp eye on what's going on, as are the conservative banner-wavers at such as Hugh Hewitt. Not surprisingly, there is fallout from a source that DNC officials seem willing to ignore for the time being: the voters themselves.

One such voter (presumably, anyway) by the name of Robert Tell writes to the Detroit Free Press:
This is not a partisan issue of support for either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton. It is an outrage that the silly rules artificially imposed by the Democratic National Committee should trump the honest attempt of millions of voters to express their political choice.
This of course doesn't help Howard Dean who must now navigate through this very thorny issue without completely invalidating the entire primary process. Good luck with that.

In the meantime, there is the very real prospect of voter revolt which could still affect the general election in November. Push your voters hard enough and they'll begin to push back.

Assuming Obama gets the party's nod at the convention, it would be a shame (really, I'm saying all of this with a very straight face) to invalidate the will of two complete states just because their state leadership wanted to have their say earlier than party rules allowed. As Mr. Tell said, the "artificially imposed" rules of the DNC have in essence wiped out two state primaries. Way to go.

I'm pretty sure the DNC had no idea that this race would become so pivotal, nor that the votes of two large-ish states would be become so contentious a topic. However, when you make rules that even potentially invalidate the voices of people you may need desperately in the general election, you essentially reap what you sow.

I suppose one could lay blame for this fiasco squarely at the feet of the respective state leaders in Michigan and Florida who insisted on holding their primary elections earlier than party rules allowed and created this political stalemate. However, their own decisions have been influenced by the larger "need" (a perception I still don't agree with) to have states be more "influential" by having their primaries earlier. California was just as guilty of this hysteria and created a situation where we now need three elections to handle the work previously accommodated by two. What a waste of money, among other things. There's also the accelerated pace of the campaign itself. We were inundated with so much information in such a compressed space of time that we weren't allowed to properly formulate our impressions of any given candidate. I believe Romney would have been in a better position to capture more votes were he still looking forward to a June California primary, rather than trying to criss-cross the nation as he was forced to do back in February on "Super Tuesday."

Thus it is that in this election, Republicans are pretty much left with a candidate who has not captured the hearts of the conservative base, while Democrats must sit through several weeks more of a true carnival sideshow. If this is what the general election may look like this November, both parties may need to run their state and national leadership out of town on one very large rail. We need a much cleaner, slower campaign in 2012.

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