Tuesday :: May 27, 2008


by Turkana

The usually astute Atrios doesn't understand why Clinton supporters are still pushing her candidacy. Even though I am only a reluctant and late-arriving supporter, no longer think she has a plausible path to the nomination, and am no longer pushing her candidacy, I'll try to provide some answers. And they begin with the blunt fact that part of Atrios's problem lies in his presumptions. Some of which are flatly wrong.

As far as I can tell they want her to be the candidate and really just don't care how that happens as long as it does.

True. I've seen quite a few like that. Of course, I've seen quite a few Obama supporters like that. It's just that their guy is the almost certain winner, so their arguments, distortions, and tactics are now less noticed.

At this point only a drastic rule change combined with a massive shift in support from superdelegates even gets her close to the nomination.

Partially true. She wants the Florida and Michigan delegates seated, but even that wouldn't get her close, in pledged delegates. And that wouldn't involve much more of a drastic rule change than Donna Brazille seems to have previously succeeded in accomplishing, when the previously decreed 50% penalty was expanded to a full 100%. By a drastic rule change. But Clinton's argument to the superdelegates really rests on her possibly prevailing in the popular vote. Which is as imperfect a measure of the will of the people as is the absurdly allocated pledged delegates.

The key, then, is that massive shift in superdelegates, and not a drastic rule change. But even that massive shift isn't necessary. Since Obama doesn't have enough declared pledged delegates and superdelegates to put him over the top, not even one would have to shift for Clinton to win. All that is necessary is that she win almost all the remaining undeclared superdelegates. I don't see that happening, but if it did, it would not be as drastic or massive as Atrios seems to think it would be. Because neither candidate can get close to the nomination without superdelegates. And enough of them remain undeclared for neither candidate to have won.

In another words, cheating combined with the smoke-filled room residents overturning the outcome of the primary process.

Wrong. Just wrong. Just plain wrong. Flat out wrong. Wrong.

The primary process will not produce a winner. I don't know why it is so difficult for people to understand that. The outcome of the primary process will be a leader by plurality, but not a winner. Which requires a majority. Which neither candidate can attain by pledged delegates. The smoke-filled room residents will decide this nomination. Almost certainly for Obama! But to pretend that it is anything other than smoke-filled room residents deciding the nomination is wrong. Just plain wrong.

But the worst part of Atrios's post is the word "cheating." Which follows his good friend Markos's previous designation of a possible Clinton win as a "coup by superdelegates." Which betrayed either a lack of understanding of the rules or a desire to change the rules mid-stream, to de-legitimize that possible Clinton win. And while I no longer think such a scenario can happen, if it did, it would be neither a coup nor cheating. It would be perfectly within the rules. Because the superdelegates will decide this nomination, and there are no rules forcing the superdelegates to pick one candidate over the other. Have I mentioned that? Even a massive shift of superdelegates, as described above, would be perfectly within the rules. In fact, some superdelegates have shifted from Clinton to Obama. Even some pledged delegates have shifted from Clinton to Obama. Amidst much rejoicing from the Obama supporters and the Obama blogs. With no thought that such could be considered cheating or a coup. Because cheating or a coup only applies to the possibility of delegates or superdelegates switching from Obama to Clinton.

But returning once again to reality, neither delegates nor superdelegates switching from Clinton to Obama, or from Obama to Clinton, is a coup or cheating. It's all within the rules. And I may have mentioned, once or twice, these past months, that the rules are a joke. And both candidates have played by them, and both candidates are playing by them. And Obama is winning. And Obama is almost certain to win. But he will not win without smoke-filled room residents making up the difference between the number of delegates he has earned in caucuses and primaries and the number he needs to actually clinch the nomination.

I never really cared all that much about who won this thing, but at some point Obama became the only one with a legitimate path to the nomination.

Legitimacy is in the eye of the beholder. I think a solid Clinton popular vote win would be legitimate grounds for the superdelegates to award her the nomination. Others don't. Some think even a popular vote loss need not preclude a Clinton nomination, because recent polls have called into question Obama's electability. I disagree with them. But I understand their argument, because, once again, there are no rules determining how the superdelegates have to vote. And just in case I haven't mentioned it, the superdelegates will decide the nomination. So, by any fair reading of the mess of the rules, both candidates still have legitimate paths to the nomination. Unless you want to drastically change the rules and impose standards of legitimacy that aren't actually in the rules.

I appreciate that there are people who don't like Obama for whatever reasons and prefer Clinton for whatever reasons. But he, you know, won?

No, he, you know, didn't. He does not have enough pledged delegates and superdelegates to secure the nomination. I am almost certain that he will. Maybe in June, and maybe in August. But he does not now. So, if Atrios wants to make the point that the odds against Clinton winning are now enormous, and almost impossible, that would be fine. That would be fair. That would be an honest reading of the rules and the process. But to say that Obama, you know, won, is factually wrong. To say that it would require a drastic rules change for Clinton to win is factually wrong. To say that it would take a massive shift of superdelegates is factually wrong. To say that it would be cheating is factually wrong.

In 1980, Ted Kennedy stood less of a chance of winning the nomination than Clinton does now. But he took his fight right to the convention floor. Many people like me, who had voted for Kennedy in the primaries (in my first-ever presidential vote), still hoped he'd somehow pull it off. Even though I was already enough of a realist to know he wouldn't. But I don't recall the media denigrating Kennedy or demanding that he drop out. I don't recall his supporters being ridiculed. Something this year is, you know, different.

Turkana :: 11:07 AM :: Comments (52) :: Digg It!