Hands off, Howard

Howard Dean says he is thinking about trying to avoid a brokered convention. How? By brokering a deal between the candidates this summer. The last person I want picking our nominee is Howard “Loser” Dean. That and the disenfranchisement of voters in Florida and Michigan is just too much interference from the party, separating voters from our right to choose. Leave it alone, Doctor.

: LATER: Now I see that Dean is pushing Florida and Michigan to hold second primaries. That’s offensive. The voters in both states already voted. By redoing it, I’d bet Dean would be advantaging Obama, he of the momentum. I repeat: disenfranchising the voters in these two dates is undemocratic and unDemocratic and trying to change their votes is even worse. I knew that Dean as the head of the party would be trouble.

  • Ah, glad to be back to agreeing with you, Jeff!

  • Cooler Heads

    Jeff, thanks for offering an evironment for a stimulating political debate. I appreciate it. And I’m glad to be agreeing with you here too.

    I just read that the party might have to redo the Michigan and Florida primaries if the delegate count is too close.

  • I don’t think Dean should get involved.

    But your glib dismissal of Dean (“loser”), is a bit much, especially coming from someone who preaches the power of the internet and the culture around it. The 50-state strategy, and Dean’s battle to implement it, represent a lot of the good things you speak for in other contexts.

  • The only fair way to handle the situation with Florida and Michigan is new elections there.

    Leaving out their voters would be unfair. So would counting the results of uncontested primaries.

  • Ryan

    That’s the most bizarre aspect of Jarvis’ support of Hillary. Her campaign is completely old school — top-down, hierarchical, follow-the-leader. Meanwhile, his approach is everything I used to think Jeff was all about — grassroots, democratic, getting the youth truly engaged in the process.
    Now, have some Obama supporters gone a little cultish? Sure. But Barack Obama, I would argue, has remained unflappable and self-assured. He hasn’t gotten caught up in the wave of support and has continued to keep his head down and run a terrific campaign. To suggest that he’s all inspiration and no substance is ridiculous. He’s a brilliant, yet pragmatic, politician. Once Hillary is finally defeated, I’m sure Jeff — and all the other reach-back-to-the-90s voters — will see that.

  • JR

    (snip) Front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York followed Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina in pledging to abide by the calendar set by the Democratic National Committee last summer. The rules allow four states — Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina — to vote in January. (snip) — LA Times 9/2/07

    When not in receipt of the desired result…change the rules. Florida and Michigan have not been disenfranchised by the DNC. No…they have effectively been ‘disenfranchised’ by their own legislature…which effectively are represented officials voted into office by those you claim to be disenfranchised.

    They are, indeed, represented in the primary process. Of course, they are represented poorly by their respective Governors. The DNC gave them a grace period to reconsider their changing of the primary dates. Both states (and their elected officials) chose to ignore the ultimatum…so endeth the story.

    I would add that Clinton was the odds on favorite in all the polls when each candidate pledged not to campaign in Florida or Michigan. Now that things are a bit up in the air, who do you suppose is making the most noise about this bogus “disenfranchise” issue? Why, I believe it is the same candidate who disregarded her own pledge and campaigned in Florida.

  • Undemocratic? Hillary Clinton’s name was the only one on the ballot in Michigan. How democratic is that?

  • JR. I think the party as a whole was wrong with this, including the candidates, who should have fought it. now they have a fine mess.

  • JR

    ((((JR. I think the party as a whole was wrong with this, including the candidates, who should have fought it. now they have a fine mess.))))

    Oh, absolutely, Jeff. But, some entity has to take a hold of the reins or you end up with States moving their primaries to December. Soon, to beat those States (and assure that their primary holds ‘relevance’) some rogue State goes and puts their primary right after Thanksgiving.

    To borrow from Al Gore…there is the necessity for a “controling legal authority.” The DNC is the logical entity. They set the rules on the primary process. They did so, and two States took it upon themselves to ignore those rules. They are suffering the consequences. My primary point, however, was the fact that no one has been “disenfranchised.” The folks in Florida and Michigan elected their governors. Their govenors ignored the DNC’s warnings…and they are now served the repercussions.

    The fact that Hillary Clinton has now taken a stance to try and include the delegates of those two states after signing a pledge to the contrary is nothing short of opportunistic dishonesty.

  • And, now, seeing your update, I have to disagree again. The Mich. and Fla. primaries happened without any candidates campaigning there, and in Mich, Hillary was the only one on the ballot. So, it would be decidedly unfair to decide, “what the heck” let’s just give her the delegates. That holding another vote in those states might give Obama the edge is not unfair, and is merely a reflection of the direction of the momentum. If Hillary had the momentum, she could easily win these states fair and square.

    The whole situation with those states is obviously a mess, and the primary system is in need of fixing, but you can’t blame Dean and the DNC solely for this mess. The Mich/Fla politicians are the ones who made the decision to move up the dates, knowing full well they’d be penalized for it. I don’t know if holding a new contest should be the solution, but in many ways it’s a lot better than saying “suck it” to the thousands of voters in those states who deserve a chance to influence this tight race.

  • I don’t think it even has so much to do with dates moving backward as it does with giving the small guys a chance to be heard. I’m from South Carolina, and I’m pretty sure that all we’d get is a handshake and a kiss on our collective babies’ cheeks out of the candidates. We just don’t have the delegates that Florida has.

  • Disenfranchised Voter

    I live in Michigan, and the choices were “Clinton” or “uncommitted.”

    Hillary did not play by the rules here. She left her name on the ballot instead of taking it off, like everyone else did.

    Interestingly, in my Congressional district, “uncommitted” beat “Clinton.”

    Yeah, the state Dems screwed this up. But so did the DNC by creating this absurd primary schedule. There’s blame all around, and the voters were definitely disenfranchised by the party at all levels.

  • Disenfranchised Voter

    Oh, and I forgot to say that if you wrote in “Obama” or “Edwards” or anyone else, your ballot was considered invalid.

    I have heard that thousands of ballots in and around Detroit were tossed out because voters didn’t realize that “uncommitted” was really a vote for Obama.

  • Sputter

    I can see two arguments: stick to the original, agreed-to rules (in which case those two states don’t count at all). Or hold fair contests.

  • sidereal

    ‘Howard “Loser” Dean’

    Somehow the content of your reasoning gets lost behind your personal issues. Is that how you refer to everyone who loses a party primary or election? John “Loser” Kerry? If Clinton loses, will you be referring to her as Hillary “Loser” Clinton?

    Dean wasn’t a great candidate and didn’t deserve to be the nominee (though I voted for him), but his campaign revolutionized the place of the Internet in political networking, he was the only candidate who wasn’t so terrified of Republican talking points that he campaigned proudly on his principles, and he singlehandedly drove a cowed and defensive party back to enthusiasm with his 50-state strategy. And in the general, he couldn’t have done any worse than Kerry (given the choices between ‘won’ and ‘lost’) and he could have had a long-term Goldwater effect in loss.

  • I would think having another primary in Michigan and Florida would be “re-enfranchising” Democratic voters there. They were told their votes were not going to count — and candidates pledged not to campaign there. How would letting voters in those states get the benefit of an actual campaign by Clinton and Obama be disenfranchising? What would you have? That the previous primary that was defined as a “beauty contest” and during which candidates pledged not to campaign should be re-defined as a delegate assigning contest. That would be like saying a pre-season exhibition in the NFL should be more important that what the Democrats would be offering Michigan and Florida: The chance to be the Super Bowl of Primaries. Besides, if Democrats want to win in November, Florida and Michigan are going to be key to the election strategy. If those states have a say in who the candidate is — and that say is as close to November as possible, then I’d suggest that benefits the party’s chances of winning in the fall.

  • Mike

    Wow. I think Dean should be getting a little more respect than he’s getting here. I can think of few people who brought new life to the Democratic Party than Howard Dean.

    The Florida and Michigan problem is more complicated than you’re letting on here…I realize blogs are biased, but leaving out the details of who was actually on the ballot and why is a serious sin of omission; and to call Dean a “loser” shows a lack of class that hurts the credibility of a blog that purports to be related to the journalistic profession…

  • The most compelling argument in favor of Dean isn’t his 2004 campaign, it’s his run as head of the party.

    2006 brought the Democrats back to power in Congress. It was an enormous victory after a 2004 election in which the party had a compelling story to tell, but was completely impotent.

    This year, the Democrats are raising a ton of money, and a woman and black man are battling for the nomination. If he were to broker a deal (which I doubt he could), it would mean that Dean is picking the nominee. He would be facilitating a resolution that benefits the party.

    And it doesn’t matter a whole lot to me whether the nominee is picked by Dean or by 700 Superdelegates who are not pledged to either candidate. Either way it’s undemocratic- but the party isn’t a democratic institution. It’s just a club, and they’re allowed to pick their nominee any way they want.

  • Oops, I mean if Dean were to broker a deal, he would NOT be picking the nominee, he would be facilitating a resolution that benefits the party.

  • Benjamin

    Don’t be a plonker, Jeff. If you want a fair vote you got to rehold the primaries. Why? Because the original primaries were non-primaries. All candidates agreed not to campaign on the understanding that the delegates would not be counted. Obama and Edwards were not even on the ballot in Michigan.

    Then trying to get the delegates counted is undemocratic because they were not proper elections. Hence the democratic choice is to get the primaries rerun.

  • Tom

    I second Rex’s comment on this.

    Hillary was the only one to campaign in Florida and Michigan flaunting the rules that were set up by the party. Now that she has won these states in a typical Clintonian irregular pattern, she wants to force those votes to count.

    I love the idea of the national party paying for Florida and Michigan to redo the primaries. As a Republican it would be a disadvantage to my party as it would energize two key states that right now are not thrilled by the Democrats, but overall it would be the right thing to do.

  • Andy Freeman

    Why shouldn’t the DNC be allowed to pay for a primary in those states at the date of its choosing?

    What? The DNC is unwilling to pay for these elections? Why not? It was the DNC’s decision to void the elections that those states paid for.

  • I agree with Rex. They had their pre-season. Let them have their playoffs. Don’t worry Jeff. Hillary proved in California that she can hold her own in fair and meaningful votes. And Florida and Michigan both fit her demographic (as does Pennsylvania).

  • Kirk

    Not mentioned here is that the DNC would probably accept caucuses from Michigan and Florida to select delegates to the convention. But given Obama’s superior organizational strength and performance in caucus states to date, the Clinton campaign isn’t going to go for that solution.

    And Jeff–your attempt to fault the party as a whole rings a little hollow. These states knew exactly what the consequences could be for moving their primaries up–what the state party hacks didn’t count on was that the DNC might be forced to hold the line on disciplining them because their delegates might actually end up determining the nominee.

  • “Now I see that Dean is pushing Florida and Michigan to hold second primaries.”

    A repitition of the primaries, but certainly NOT caucusses, would be a good compromise, if this would result in one candidate being able to get a convincing majority of pledged delegates, enough for deciding the nomination. The state Dem parties, who created the effing problem in the first place, will be punished enough by having to pay the bills for this.

    Having said this, it shouldn’t be forgotten Obama can only blame himself for the MI problem. Out of strategic reason, he deliberately withdraw his name from the ballot, nobody did force him to do so. All the whining about how unfair it would be if the MI delegates were seated is totally hypocritical.

  • “It was the DNC’s decision to void the elections that those states paid for.”

    No, it was the decision of the FL and MI Dems to go for these dates, knowing perfectly well what the consequences would be. Of course they were screwed by the state Republicans, sure. But they could have tried to get support for the costs of doing their own primaries. They didn’t even try. The DNC isn’t to blame at all. They made those rules and the schedule long before the primaries, and they were totally open about them.

  • ‘Howard “Loser” Dean’

    Huh? Well, whose “50 state campaign” was essential for the huge Dem victory in 2006? Howard “Winner” Dean’s.

  • Disenfranchised Voter

    What would be better for the Democratic Party?

    A convention fight? A brokered convention with party elites making the decisions behind closed doors? A standoff between Obama and Clinton that rips the party in half and creates a rift that will lead to Nov. defeat?

    Or repeat the primaries and seat the delegates?


  • David

    I also take issue with Jeff’s characterization of Dean. Dean was also primarily responsible for developing and executing the party’s strategy during the 2006 elections, which were successful for the party by most accounts. However Rahm Emmanuel and Chuck Schumer were somehow given much of the credit by the media (my girlfriend at the time worked for the DNC).

    Jeff’s support of Hillary does seem to contradict most of what he appears to believe in with respect to the power of the web.

  • Andy Freeman

    >> “It was the DNC’s decision to void the elections that those states paid for.”

    > No, it was the decision of the FL and MI Dems to go for these dates,

    (1) Not so fast. The state and federal organizations are affiliated. If the powers that be can’t keep their people under control, that’s their problem.
    (2) Doesn’t matter which group of Dems made the bad call. The state already paid for another election. If someone wants another election, they should pay for it.

    I’m willing to compromise – they can piggy back on the next scheduled state-wide election.

  • Rock81

    “Having said this, it shouldn’t be forgotten Obama can only blame himself for the MI problem. Out of strategic reason, he deliberately withdraw his name from the ballot, nobody did force him to do so. All the whining about how unfair it would be if the MI delegates were seated is totally hypocritical.”

    Huh??? Do you realize that all but one of the democratic contenders took there names off of the MI ballot? Hillary’s was the only name that remained. Everyone knew from the jump that the delegates would not be seat because they violated party rules by moving their primary up. If you’re a Hillary supporter or not, I can’t even begin to understand how some people feel that the delegates should be counted, WHEN THERE WERE NO OTHER NAMES ON THE BALLOT.

  • “PRIMARY CONCERN: Florida and Michigan”
    Op-Ed by Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.

    At her campaign celebration last night in Ohio, Hillary Clinton raised the specter of a nasty, divisive fight at the Democratic National Convention, claiming that she should be the party’s nominee based on her big state victories, rather than on the pledged-delegate count. It was a slick and sophisticated attempt to change the rules in the middle of the game and declare herself the winner.

    She said, “You all know that if we want a Democratic president, we need a Democratic nominee who can win the battleground states just like Ohio. And that is what we’ve done.” Then, she listed the states she “won,” boldly including Florida and Michigan in the litany.
    Weeks before her boast, Julian Bond, the Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and one of my heroes, penned a letter to DNC Chair Howard Dean noting that he is “deeply concerned” about the “will and intent of the Florida and Michigan voters.”

    But, both Clinton and Bond leave several important facts off the table.

    First, the rules. They were known and agreed to by everyone involved, well before the first votes were cast in Iowa. All the campaigns, including the Clinton campaign, pledged to honor the “early window” that included only four states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Enforcement of the primary timing rule against Florida and Michigan was necessary to prevent the 2008 nominating calendar from falling into chaos. Moreover, a decision to overturn this action by the DNC could destroy our nominating process for 2012 and future years, as states realize that there will be no penalty for violating the primary timing rule.

    Second, the DNC’s Rules & Bylaws Committee gave both Florida and Michigan a full and fair hearing, plus an open and transparent vote, and their efforts to “jump to the head of the line” were soundly defeated. No other state party organization or Rules Committee members supported them. None of the campaigns—including the Clinton campaign, which is very well represented on the Rules Committee—spoke up for the principle of allowing Florida and Michigan to go ahead of the other states.

    Third, the new 2008 primary calendar was painstakingly worked out for the very purpose of increasing early voting diversity. Along with Iowa and New Hampshire, most Democrats agreed that both Latinos and African Americans should be added to the early voting equation. Adding Nevada and South Carolina to the early calendar increased regional and racial diversity while protecting the grassroots, small state nature of the early primary process. The DNC was right to protect these two states from encroachment in the calendar by Florida and Michigan.

    Fourth, since there was no campaigning in either Florida or Michigan, and neither the names of Obama nor Edwards even appeared on the Michigan ballot, the idea that the votes cast there represent “the will and intent” of the people is nonsense. We must not allow the uncontested primaries in Florida and Michigan to “nullify” the will of the large mass of voters in all of the hotly-contested primaries and caucuses around the country where the candidates did campaign and the voters had the chance to meet the candidates, ask questions, hear their message and make an informed decision on who would be the best nominee for the Democratic Party.

    Finally, I want to be clear that this is a disagreement between the DNC and the Florida and Michigan State Democratic Parties. This is not—and should not become—an argument between Senator Obama and the voters of Florida or Michigan. Senator Obama will reach out to the voters in Florida and Michigan as the presidential nominee of our Party, and will work hard to carry these two important states for Democrats in the November election.


    Congressman Jackson is serving his seventh term in the US House and is a National Co-Chairman of the Obama for President Campaign.