The DNC Rules Committee (scheduled to meet on May 31) has an opportunity to preserve democracy and educate voters in Michigan and Florida, as well as pundits, journalists, and talking heads, about the true nature of the illegitimate primaries in Michigan and Florida.
While the DNC (and Howard Dean, specifically, as though the DNC was a one-person show) has been given the blame for the current situation, the real culprits—the legislatures in Michigan and Florida, specifically the individual legislators who voted to move the primary dates—receive next to no attention.
2008 does not mark the first time a political party's national committee has established rules by which legitimate elections and primaries can be conducted, so the very presence of these rules is itself not problematic, nor is the use of sanctions for states who break those rules.
Moreover, 2008 does not mark the first time that Michigan has attempted to move its primary against DNC rules. In 2004, Michigan Democrats attempted to move their primary against standing DNC rules. In 2004, however, Howard Dean was not the DNC chair (Dean was, in fact, running his own campaign, which was unbelievably derailed by poor sound engineering). The chairperson of the DNC in 2004 was Terry McAuliffe. You know him...he is currently serving as Hillary Clinton's campaign chair, and he is among the most outspoken about the DNC's rejection of the illegitimately-moved primaries.
How did McAuliffe deal with Michigan in 2004? One need only to consult McAuliffe's memoir, What a Party! (2007), for his personal account:
"I'm going outside the primary window," [Michigan Sen. Carl Levin] told me definitively.
"If I allow you to do that, the whole system collapses," I said. "We will have chaos. I let you make your case to the DNC, and we voted unanimously and you lost."
He kept insisting that they were going to move up Michigan on their own, even though if they did that, they would lose half their delegates. By that point Carl and I were leaning toward each other over a table in the middle of the room, shouting and dropping the occasional expletive.
"You won't deny us seats at the convention," he said.
"Carl, take it to the bank," I said. "They will not get a credential. The closest they'll get to Boston will be watching it on television. I will not let you break this entire nominating process for one state. The rules are the rules. If you want to call my bluff, Carl, you go ahead and do it."
We glared at each other some more, but there was nothing much left to say. I was holding all the cards and Levin knew it.1 (325)
In McAuliffe's defense, he did use a co-writer (Steve Kettmann) when completing his memoir, so perhaps he doesn't remember writing (or having) that conversation with Levin. Or, less in his defense, McAuliffe remembers his use of sanctions as a threat, how he seems to take pleasure in that threat, instead of his simple enforcement of the rules. Either way, McAuliffe is either a hyprocrit or guilty of a Clintonian "mis-speak."
Either way, Clinton & Co.'s continued suggestion that the DNC is responsible for the illegitimacy of the Michigan and Florida primaries is disinformation. Unfortunately, this disinformation hurts her party in more ways than one.
First, by placing blame on the DNC, she paints the entire party as being anti-democratic and their continued observance of the rules as a choice fueled by a fire to disenfranchise two key states (that the DNC has such a desire is ludicrous). Second, she places blame on the Obama campaign, which only further weakens from within the party's likely candidate. Obama's campaign has objected to several proposals, not because they want to suppress Michigan or Florida, but because the proposals have not been fair to both candidates.
Consider Michigan's current "compromise proposal" to send the Michigan delegation to the convention in Denver with a 10-delegate edge for Senator Clinton. Remember, Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan, so the "compromise" is presumptuous at best. However, if the Obama camp rejects this plan, you can guarantee that the Eternal Campaign will label him obstructionist.
Through all of this, though, the real message is lost. Republican-controlled legislatures (with bipartisan support) in both states voted to move the primaries with full knowledge of the potential ramifications from the DNC.
Consider the following from a New York Times article date August 22, 2007, called "Michigan Joins the Race for a 'Me First' Primary":
The matter is likely to boil over this weekend, at least for the Democrats, when the states meet with the rules committee of the Democratic National Committee in Washington. The party wants to rein in the scheduling anarchy and punish those violating party rules that bar all but a handful of states from voting before Feb. 5. Florida is the chief delinquent, and Michigan could be another.2
So, four and half months before the primaries in question, the state DNC's were reminded of the consequences of their actions. They broke the rules anyway.
Voters in Michigan and Florida should not be outraged at the DNC. They should not be outraged at Obama. They should be outraged at their local elected officials who gambled with the legitimacy of their constituents' votes and lost. In fact, those voters should praise Dean, Donna Brazile, and the rest of the DNC Rules Committee if they are seated at the national convention at all.
1Transcription prepared by Mark Nikolas at PoliticalBase.com.
2It is interesting to note how Clinton and Edwards are mentioned in the article, but Obama is not.