As I got ready for church this AM I caught the talking heads keep using terms like “fair play” and “right thing”. The more they talked the more I realized that potentially the key lesson to who wins the Democratic nod lies in who can emulate Dwight Eisenhower.
Both Clinton and Obama hava unusual delegate problems. Hillary is in the lead because she has a large edge in democratic “superdelegates”, people like past presidents, VP, sitting governors, senators, congressmen, etc. Obama argues that superdelegates should vote according to the primary/convention process in their state…which means that potentially a lot of superdelegates who are with Hillary would shift to Obama. Interestingly, this would compel Ted Kennedy to vote for Hillary Clinton for the nomination.
Hillary, on the other hand won in both Michigan and Florida. Both states voted according to scheduling by the resepective state legislatures and not by the state party. However, the dates were in advance of Super Tuesday, and did not have the exemption that South Carolina had-with the result that the states delegates to the Democratic National Convention will not be counted.
Both candidates have rules they want overturned or implemented. I suggest they look back to 1952 and emulate the Dwight Eisenhower campaign.
In 1952 Eisenhower was running against Ohio US Senator Robert Taft for the nomination. Taft was the heavy favorite of the conservative wing of the party. This was especially true in the South, where the conservatives loved Taft but had kept the GOP small so as to maximize their share of the spoils if the GOP won the election.
They did not count on great up-swells of support for Eisenhower throughout the South, and some extremely capable organizers who came to the for to nominate the general. In state after state old guard support for Taft allowed delegates to be seated through chicanery and dishonesty.
GOP rules allowed the submitted delegations to vote until the credentials report was approved. Contested delegates would potentially be allowed to vote on their own legitimacy, which would lead to a raft of pro-Taft delegates being selected and handing him the nomination.
The Eisenhower campaign challenged the credentials of several delegations and produced proof of their dishonesty. Next came a motion that overturned party rules and disallowed contested delegates to vote on their own seating. This was called the “Fair Play” motion, and led to enough pro-Eisenhower delegations replacing the Taft slates sent for the by their states that by evening Eisenhower had won the nod.
Eisenhower, who was as much after power as Taft, was able to win the “Fair Play” vote because the vote itself was cast as a vote for honesty over dishonesty for-literally-fair play and an even playing field.
I think for Hillary or Obama to compel the state party to do what they each want, they have to be able to cast it as a vote not about process or procedure but about fundamental fairness. At present, I don’t see that Obama has real good chances of doing that.
Given that the Superdelegates were created as a way to offset popular passion for a candidate who was unelectable and bring sanity to the process by giving the elected official branch of the party a voice in the selection, it seems odd to think that the party will now-after the game has begun-turn around and say that Superdelegates had to vote to reflect the primary/caucus vote in their respective states. The Superdelegates were chosen so they could exercise political judgement…I don’t think you can make a fair play argument that says they should not be allowed to do exactly what they were selected to do.
Hillary seems to have a better chance, even though it would amount to changing the rules after the game has started. She can argue that it is wrong to disenfranchise entire states. Penalize, deduct delegate votes, etc., but don’t throw them out (or the Hillary Delegates!)…especially since the state parties were simply complying with state law. This choice seems much more likely to carry the day on Fair Play vote.
Ultimately all the above may seem like bilge, but the reporters who talk are reporting Obama and Hillary talking about challenges based on the items discussed above. If the credentials vote is phrased as a morality, then whoever placed the challenge will have an increased chance.
And, if neither passes? Then we shall see…
But I think the campaigns should reread the accounts of the 1952 GOP convention, and see what needs to be added to their arguments to make them more about “fair play” and less about “I need votes”.