Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Clean Process

This years presidential primaries are the best in my memory. Admittedly, that's not saying much. John Kerry was pretty much the democratic nominee before he got to my state, California in 2004. Al Gore was the vice president and heir apparent in 2000. Bill Clinton was, as far as I can remember, unopposed in 1996 and I was too young to vote in 92. So like I said, my experience is limited. What I do remember is how horrible the whole process felt in '04. Kerry seemed like a terrible choice for the nomination but I had no say in the matter. He ran a dismal campaign as the 'not Bush' candidate and I was completely uninspired to vote for him in the general election.
This year it's mostly different.Some of the Democratic candidates like Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich (who had no chance) didn't even make it to states like California or Arizona or even Nevada, in Richardson's case, where they might have had some real constituencies. Aside from this downside, the primary race has been a pretty invigorating competition between senators Obama and Clinton. It's now clear that (almost) every state in the nation will get to declare its preference in the choice. That's great, except for the almost part.
2004 revealed some some serious problems with the primary process. Many people, myself included, feel that the current system gives an unfair advantage to early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. There are various proposals to overhaul the entire system, like one interesting idea that has a rotating regional primary in which every four years a different region of the US will be the first to hold it's primaries. While such systems are debated, there have been some efforts to improve the current way of doing things. The Democratic party decided to move a western state, Nevada, into the early rounds of voting in an attempt to give westerners and Hispanics more voice in the primaries. Other states, Michigan and Florida, impatient with reforms decided to drastically move up their primaries into January, against the wishes of the Democratic national party. As a result, the party has barred Michigan and Florid delegates from participating at the convention. One issue not mentioned, to my knowledge, in reforming the primary system is the role of Super delegates, party elite who may have a very active role in this years convention.
What we have, then, is a very competitive and interesting race in a very technical and nuance ridden system. In short, a Democratic primary, that may end in a decidedly undemocratic fashion. In order to prevent such and undesirable outcome, I'm am proposing a sort of boycott. I will abstain from voting in the general election if the Democratic candidate is chosen in a decidedly underhanded manner. If enough people join me, we may be able to keep the candidate selection process honest. At this point in the primary, it's not the Obama campaign that worries me so much as the Clinton campaign does. I don't think that Obama is above using political machinations to come to power, I just think that Clinton has more opportunity and has shown a bit more of a predilection to do so. The affair with the Nevada caucuses meeting in the casinos comes to mind. There, nobody had a problem with casino workers meeting at their workplaces to caucus until the union representing those workers decided to endorse Obama. Then a union endorsing Clinton brought a lawsuit to try to stop the workers holding caucuses in the casinos. The lawsuit failed, casino workers turned out for both Obama and Clinton, and Clinton won Nevada.
I would happily support a Clinton candidacy if she wins the nomination through a just process. But her efforts to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida are not just. I sympathize with the states of Florida and Michigan in their attempt to make their voices heard in the primary. But when they were banned by the party from participating, nobody went to those states to campaign. If their delegates are included without Obama having had the chance to compete for their votes the nomination will be seriously tainted.
Finally, I cannot support a Clinton candidacy in which the party elite, the Super Delegates, nominate Clinton while Obama wins a majority of the popular vote. And, of course, the reverse is also true. Delegates selecting Obama over a Clinton popular win is equally unpalatable.
If this great choice is ruined by machinations and back room politics we must show the Democratic party that such actions are intolerable.

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