Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Who Has the Moral Claim to the Democratic Nomination?

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The American Scene lays out the competing moral claims Clinton and Obama make on the Democratic nomination. I like this article because it acknowledges, as many similar articles do not, that the situation is not strictly black and white. The fact that Barack can’t get the job done in big states is troubling, the undemocratic nature of the caucuses and the failure of the delegate system to map directly onto the popular vote is problematic, and on and on. Obama clearly has the better of the argument as the winner under the rules, and accordingly he will be almost certainly be the nominee however long it takes to get there—but it costs me nothing to concede to the Clintons that, yes, the rules are not holy writ and they are not Objectively Fair and Just. They are merely the rules agreed-upon in advance by all parties involved.

My worry, going forward, is that Clinton can see the writing on the wall and will conclude that her only chance for the nomination is to turn her ship around and fly, guns blazing, at the DNC itself. Clinton’s last card is a big one, a kind of doomsday device—she can attack the delegate system and the rules themselves, claiming that various features of the primary have perverted the actual will of Democratic voters for reasons X, Y, and Z. From a procedural standpoint, this is nonsense, and from a partisan standpoint it is a total disaster, because if the delegate system is delegitimized in the eyes of Clinton supporters there’s no way to declare Obama the winner in a way they will accept and therefore no way to bring the party back together again afterwards. But it remains, nonetheless, a card she can play.

(As I wrote the other night, this total disaster scenario may even be a feature, not a bug; see possibility #3 in this comment thread.)

My point in writing all this is simply to acknowledge that, regardless of its relative lack of merit, Clinton will still have an argument that she should get the nomination over Obama even if she loses the race by every conceivable metric (as it appears she will)—and, worse, such an argument could actually take root in a party still smarting from the injustice of the 2000 election, with a press that is anxious to find some way for the Democrats to improbably let this gift-wrapped election roll, Buckneresque, right through their legs.

Obama supporters need to be ready to counter this.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 6, 2008 at 3:18 pm

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