Saturday, March 29, 2008

Party Destruction

We're destroying the Democratic Party!

Well, maybe. That's the conventional wisdom at least when it comes to the long primary process. If this is true, why do we have this long process in the first place? Maybe it's the party's folly. Did no one really sit down and think that if you have a process that goes to July that well, maybe, the process will take until July (or longer)?

I, for one, think that it's good. In a "normal" election, I imagine that voters who are usually left to rubber-stamp the forgone candidate get bored and distracted until after the convention. The fervor gives way to an endless wait until the big grudge match of September, October and November. The candidates get somewhat quiet over the summer while they go off to raise money for the general.

Let's look at the positive effects of a long primary. 1) Late state voters are galvanized to take part in the primary process. 2) Those late states are hearing a lot about the Democratic candidates positions. 3) The national media is largely ignoring John McCain (other than his gaffes) and spending ample time talking about the Democratic contest.

You might say that 2 and 3, with the griping between the campaigns, isn't such a good thing. I beg to differ. Nothing that's been said has come anything to the level of Swift-Boating (or McCain's illegitimate black child in the 2000 campaign) and this airing out of grievances and weaknesses will only make the candidates stronger come the general. Let's assume it's going to be Obama, how is McCain going to attack him with Rev. Wright (which would have been done anyway) in the general? It's the same with just about any attack against Clinton - been there, done that, cue the roll of the eyes.

As was quoted at the end of today's NY Times article, we should all take a deep-breath and tell ourselves "it will be ok". It really will. The problem isn't Obama and Clinton fighting it out, the problem is our collective public hand-wringing over it. The more we say that our party is being destroyed, the more the uncommitted voters will think that Democrats don't have the answers.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Let them eat cake!

I, along with most Democrats, will be very disappointed if the convention comes down to a battle between Superdelegates that may not reflect the actual votes of party members.

This is especially true if, in this close race, the voices of Michigan and Florida are shut out. Yes, they screwed up and went against the party. Yes, they were rightly stripped of their delegates as punishment. But now we need both states to help make this decision. Not, as Obama would like it, split 50/50 between him and Clinton, but as a real reflection of the will of the party.

It's really the only way for Democrats to finally be comfortable with whoever ends up pulling ahead. I know Obama supporters don't want to risk the votes of these two states putting their horse behind, but if we look at the electoral votes and the popular votes (discounting the "winning streaks" a particular candidate might have state-by-state), the race is truly neck-and-neck. Clinton has no reason to drop out now and should see it through to the end.

Florida and Michigan should revote. It's really the only way. The Clinton camp's insistence on seating Michigan as is is laughably absurd bordering on insane. How should they sit the "other" votes? Florida is at least more of a reflection of the voters wills. Yes, Florida voters knew that their votes would not count, but they still turned out in record numbers and there's no indication that one candidate's base supporters stayed home at larger rates than the other's. Still, in all fairness, Florida should be done over also.

And no, it should not be by caucusing. Chez Progress has had a long-standing debate about caucuses. The better-half thinks their fine. I, on the other hand, think they are undemocratic, or at least undemocratic in the American sense. Secret votes where every eligible voter has a chance to have his voice heard is the only true reflection of the voter's wills. A system where a voter is required to be at a site at a particular time (thereby disenfranchising late-night workers, parents, the elderly, etc.) and a voter must stand up to community pressure doesn't cut it. If I wanted to vote from Gravel, I should have every right to do so and have my vote counted!

Clinton has it right on this one. Yes, she has nothing to lose and if she was on the other side her tune might be different, but that's just an ad hominem criticism of her position. Each candidate should put up 15 million dollars and have Michigan and Florida revote. If the result stays the same, at least we can all sleep easily.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Take this man/woman

I started drafting this post a week ago, but got sidetracked...

Much of my day last Monday was spent watching the oral arguments in front of the California Supreme court in In re Marriage Cases. It was an uncomfortable three hours sitting in a plastic chair watching a live feed.

It was nearly impossible to tell from the questioning by the bench where the split will ultimately lie in the seven justices. Justice Chin was certainly telegraphing that he believed that CA's Civil Union law was similar enough to marriage that there was no need to rock the boat. On the other end, Chief Justice George and Justice Moreno were working through an interesting distinction - is this case asking the Court to declare the right for a person to enter into a "same-sex marriage" or was the Court being asked to say that "marriage" in the classic sense, was open to anyone? (The question turned on the US Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas where they rejected the previous "right to homosexual sexual relations" and instead based their decision on the more universal right to privacy and free sexual relations for all consenting adults).

Civil Unions, as I mentioned, makes the argument hard for the Petitioners in this case. Chin especially harped on this point. Isn't this the legislature essentially creating gay marriage? Or is this, in the opinion of George and Moreno, a separate but equal situation.

Justice Werdegar asked the simple question, "Is now the right time to do this?" To which I have to wonder if the answer is a simple, "Well you agreed to hear the case didn't you?". Looking back on it, I'm more and more struck by the utter simplicity, and perhaps naivete, of this question. Justice Werdegar must recognize that the Court refusing to acknowledge a right for gays and lesbians to marry will establish in California that marriage is not a basic civil right and will close a major avenue for finally bringing a positive change in the state. I hope that this is not the feeling on the Court as a whole, otherwise they made a tactical blunder in bringing the case up now when there are not seven justices willing to make a final legal determination on the issue.