These two distasteful options explain the sudden intense focus on Michigan and Florida. Because these states violated the party’s rules by holding their contests too early in the primary season, their delegates are not supposed to be seated at the convention. Indeed, Obama’s name was not even on the Michigan ballot, and none of the major candidates campaigned in Florida. That said, Clinton “won” both primaries and both she and the Democratic leadership in each state want those delegates seated.
It is true that counting the delegates in Florida and Michigan could reduce the chance that either of the above unsavory convention scenarios occurs. But figuring out some fair way to do that is tricky. Conducting full primaries in the necessary period [the campaign officially ends in early June], would be both logistically problematic and very expensive. The national party wants to save its money for November, while the state parties are pleading poverty.
Just as the Obama campaign justly objects to having delegates seated from “contests” where they were not able to compete, the Clinton campaign objects to conducting caucuses which would clearly benefit Obama. The stakes are large and thus we see black civil rights leaders getting pulled into this mess even when it is clear that black interests would best be democratically served if real primary contests were conducted.
It is incumbent upon fair-minded democrats (small d!) to insist on procedures that allow voters’ voices to be fairly heard, no matter how difficult inconvenient, or expensive the solution may be. The democratic process must be allowed to play out, even if the outcome reflects the will of the most progressive and democratic wing of the party in spite of the party bosses’ best efforts to rig the system.
Michael C. Dawson is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.