May 31, 2008

Did the Democrats Solve The Riddle of Florida and Michigan Today?

Basically, after a day of wrangling at the Rules Committee, the compromise that got worked out today was this: Florida and Michigan will seat all of their delegates, but each delegate will count as one-half of a vote. This seems to be generally acceptable to most factions, but Clinton's proxy at the committee, Harold Ickes, made clear that "Mrs. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her rights to take this to the credentials committee."

"Mrs." Clinton, Mr. Ickes? I'm hardly a fan, but I've been consistent (I think) in using the title "Senator" when I've referred to her by title. She is a sitting United States Senator, and you're still referring to her by her relationship to her husband? She is a powerful and important political figure in her own right. It's entirely appropriate to refer to her as "Senator Clinton." No one refers to, say, Kay Bailey Hutchison as "Mrs. Hutchison" as though she were an appendage to her husband. She's "Senator Hutchison," because she's damn well earned the right to the prestige of that title. Same thing with Elizabeth Dole, who is "Senator Dole" and not just defined by being Bob Dole's husband. So too with Hillary Rodham Clinton. But enough of that.

Effectively this is, belatedly, the same solution to the early Florida and Michigan primaries that the Republicans reached before the primary season even began. Hugh Hewitt was right in that Democrats are so instinctively driven to be exactingly fair to everyone that they would rather be "fair" than play by the rules. Florida and Michigan broke the rules and set their primaries too early. The DNC made the right decision to disenfranchise their delegates, regardless of the justice, democratic principles, or overall fairness of the situation, because the DNC made the decision (regardless of its wisdom) to preserve the primacy of Iowa and New Hampshire in the early primary schedule.

We can certainly debate the wisdom of that. I would be all in favor of a rule that created, for instance, rotating regional primaries. But that's not how things are now and as it stands, the Democrats left themselves in yet another bad rules situation. This is probably a good practical solution to their problem, but it's somewhat amusing to see all the agony that the Democrats have had to go through to reach it.

Democracy -- a great idea in theory, a terrible mess in practice, and still better than any of the alternatives.

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