Sunday, March 23, 2008

Open Letter to the DNC


I have drafted this letter in the hope that others will use it as a starting point for their own letters to the DNC and other major Democratic Party leaders (like Nancy Pelosi). This is a case where I think snail mail may be more effective than email.

Mr. Howard Dean
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol St., SE
Wasington, DC 20003

Dear Mr. Dean:
I am writing to insist that the votes in Florida and Michigan count. The fate of the election, and of the country, most probably will depend on the outcome of the DNC's decision.

Michigan and Florida
I can think of no valid reason, other than "The Rules" for not seating Florida. Both candidates had a presence during the primary (Obama's national TV ads ran repeatedly). The campaign had national coverage. Yet the DNC seems to believe that it can exclude Florida's voters without harm. Has it forgotten 2000? Is it willing to do to its own Party what George Bush and the Republicans did to it in 2000? To, in effect, admit that what Bush did in 2000 was OK?

Moreover, the Democrats had no choice about the primary's date. So if the DNC penalizes the Party's voters, it is essentially letting the Republican Party determine whom the Democratic candidate should be.

Michigan is trickier because Obama's name was not on the ballot - even though that was his choice. But the DNC could assign the uncommitted votes, as well as those for the other Democrats on the ticket, to him with reasonable certainty that the distribution more or less reflected the will of the voters.

Obama's objections no longer deserve to be considered. Hillary was willing to accept a re-vote, with all the risk that implies. James Carville had pledged to raise half the money needed to stage the re-vote if Obama (who has a huge campaign war chest) would match the money. It was Obama who refused to go along. By my calculation, his refusal to agree to a solution accepted by his opponent abrogates his right to complain about the seating of Michigan's delegates.

The Rules
It is pretty obvious that, had the DNC known going in how close the race would be, it would have handled this situation differently.

More important for the long term is the fact that the DNC should not have continued to let Iowa and New Hampshire set the terms and dynamics of the primary season. It is well past due for a major overhaul of the system to prevent those two small states from, election after election, winnowing down the field before 99% of the Party gets a chance to vote. If there are any states to be penalized in the future, it is those two. It is absolutely vital that a rotating system of primaries be set up such that no single state will ever again be viewed as a gatekeeper to the nomination because there will simply be insufficient history for the media to seize on past history to predict current results.

If, however, the DNC insists that "The Rules" are "The Rules", then, to be consistent, the DNC must also permit Super Delegates to vote for whom they want, regardless of the results in their districts or states because those, too, are "The Rules". (And if Super Delegates Kerry and Kennedy and Richardson can publicly back Obama, in spite of the fact that their states voted for Hillary, then I simply do not see how the DNC can demand that other Super Delegates follow the votes rather than their own judgment.)

The Party is split pretty much 50/50 between Hillary and Obama. If Hillary is perceived to have lost because the DNC did not count or only partly counted the votes from Florida and Michigan, her supporters will not consider Obama's nomination to be legitimate. The DNC may feel confident that the vast majority of Hillary's supporters will back Obama. Hillary has certainly pledged that she will. And I, too, will vote for him. But I won't, under those circumstances, contribute either time or money to the campaign. Nor will I feel compelled to defend him against attacks during either his campaign or, if he is elected, his term in office.

Worse, however, is the fact that some of Hillary's supporters will not vote for Obama under those circumstances. May I remind you that Gore lost Florida by about 1000 votes? Ask yourself one very simple question: How will you feel on Nov. 11, 2008 if the Democrats lose the White House again because of 1000 votes in Florida? Will you assert that playing by "The Rules" was more important than winning the election? I am not stating here that the Democrats will win if Hillary is the nominee. McCain will be a much stronger opponent than, for example, either Giuliani or Romney would have been. The Democratic nominee will need every possible vote to win this election. That's why the DNC cannot afford to alienate Democrats in two large states.

A Dream Destroyed
Democrats began the campaign season on a high. We had many good candidates to choose from. For various reaons, including, I am sorry to say, the behavior of some Party leaders, it has turned ugly.

No matter who wins the nomination, or how the nomination is won, many Democrats may feel cheated. But it is the DNC which has created the environment (a bizarre collection of primaries and caucuses and byzantine delegate rules and penalties) in which such hatred has taken root.

I can assure you that, as a Hillary supporter and a person who strongly believes that she is much better equipped to fight McCain than Obama, I do not consider her exit from the campaign to be the solution to this dilemma, however much some may want her to drop out.

There may be no fix which will appease everybody, but it is time to put away partisanship and pride in "The Rules" and at least try to engineer a fix - or McCain will be inaugurated next January and all the Democratic Party will have left for comfort is "The Rules".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent letter...I sent something rather similar to Howard Dean about a month ago and received a form-letter reply. The gist of his reply was simply that while the DNC regrets that FL & MI won't get to participate, "rules are rules" and these two states broke the rules.

This is why I appreciate your comment about how after all is said and done, "the rules" are all they will be left with. So true! Quite frankly, now more than ever, I believe Howard Dean's loss in 2004 was fate...he would have been an God-Awful President!