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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hillary's Hypocrisy

These days, Hillary Clinton has only one or two thin straws left to grasp in her efforts to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Voting is about to end -- Barack Obama has secured a majority of elected delegates even though Montana, South Dakota and Puerto Rico will still select 86 delegates.

Likewise, the Superdelegate "primary" -- which she was once winning by a sizable margin -- has turned away from Clinton. Obama has seized the lead among those convention participants and seems to add several more delegates each day. He currently leads the superdelegate race by 25 to 30 delegates. Just over 200 are yet to declare their allegiance.

By the math long accepted in this race -- Clinton too once agreed that the number for victory was 2025 -- Obama needs only about 60 more delegates to secure the nomination. Given proportional representation, he's going to get at least half of those from the remaining three electoral contests even if Clinton wins Puerto Rico by a 3-to-1 margin.

To get to the magic number assuring victory, Obama will likely need the support of fewer than 30 of the remaining 210 unpledged superdelegates.

So, where is Clinton making her last stand?

The answer is in Michigan and Florida, states where Clinton won both primaries.

However, Democrats agreed in 2007 not to campaign -- and not to count the delegates from those states. The states are being penalized harshly by the Democratic National Committee for moving their primaries to early dates, which competed for attention with traditional opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Back in 2007, none of the candidates wanted to offend early voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Here's the Clinton press release from September 2007:
"We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process," Clinton's campaign said in a statement. "And we believe the DNC's rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role."
The Clinton campaign, like the campaigns of Obama, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd, signed a pledge not to "campaign or participate in any state which schedules a presidential election primary or caucus before Feb. 5, 2008, except for the states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina," as drafted by the DNC.

Note that this was not merely a pledge not to campaign. This was a promise not to participate in an election. Can one claim victory if such an election occurs? All the candidates save for Clinton and Dodd withdrew their names from the Michigan ballot. The DNC had already invoked the penalty. Clinton certainly agreed when she was campaigning in New Hampshire:
...she told a New Hampshire public-radio audience, "It's clear, this election [Michigan is] having is not going to count for anything."
Moreover, the DNC is not some disinterested third party. Hillary Clinton supporters were the mainstream of the Democratic party when these penalties were imposed. Some of her highest profile supporters helped make the DNC decision:
On Aug. 25, when the DNC's rules panel declared Florida's primary date out of order, it agreed by a near-unanimous majority to exceed the 50 percent penalty called for under party rules. Instead, the group stripped Florida of all 210 delegates to underscore its displeasure with Florida's defiance and to discourage other states from following suit. In doing so, the DNC essentially committed itself, for fairness' sake, to strip the similarly defiant Michigan of all 156 of its delegates three months later. Clinton held tremendous potential leverage over this decision, and not only because she was then widely judged the likely nominee. Of the committee's 30 members, a near-majority of 12 were Clinton supporters. All of them—most notably strategist Harold Ickes—voted for Florida's full disenfranchisement. (The only dissenting vote was cast by a Tallahassee, Fla., city commissioner who supported Obama.)
By the way, Clinton now has the support of 13 members of the DNC, to 8 for Obama, with 9 unaligned.

To hear Clinton talk now, however, voters from Florida and Michigan are comparable to the voters in authoritarian states, who are ruled by thugs who do not care about their concerns:
Speaking in Sunrise, Fla., Clinton said: "You heard Diana talk about coming from a country where votes don't count. People go through the motions of an election only to have it discarded and disregarded. We're seeing that right now in Zimbabwe -- tragically an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people. So we can never take for granted our precious right to vote."
I wonder what Clinton thinks of elections in single-party states, where voters are given ballots that do not reflect electoral choice?

In the former Soviet Union, the state's sanctioned candidate used to get over 90% of the vote; Clinton managed only 55% in Michigan. Uncommitted ran a strong second -- with 40%.

Clinton has also been making the argument that she should be the nominee because she leads the popular vote:
We believe the popular vote is the truest expression of your will. We believe it today, just as we believed it back in 2000 when right here in Florida, you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren’t counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner. The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal clear. If any votes aren’t counted, the will of the people is not realized and our democracy is diminished. That is what I have always believed.
Independent sources that track the vote count reveal Clinton's hypocrisy on this issue.

Obama won a number of caucuses that do not report traditional vote counts. Would Clinton not want to count those votes? She won Michigan where Obama was not on the ballot. Indeed, the only calculations that give Clinton a popular vote lead are those that fail to count every vote -- by ignoring caucus results or by counting votes in states where voters had no chance to register their support for Senator Obama.

Make a reasonable estimate of the caucus results and exclude Michigan where Obama was not on the ballot, and the popular vote results do not favor Clinton. Barack Obama has not only secured more delegates than Hillary Clinton, he's ahead in the popular vote as well.

This would be a nice opportunity for Al Gore, who was genuinely wronged in 2000, to step forward and silence Clinton's latest argument. Failing that, this is likely to be resolved on May 31. It now appears that Obama's delegate lead is insurmountable, meaning that he's going to win the nomination even if Michigan and Florida delegates are seated. Democrats from those states have presented plans to the DNC that would not hand Hillary Clinton a last minute victory.

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