By Brigitte L. Nacos
The Founding Fathers established an electoral college for the election of presidents based on the votes allotted to each state in the union. It was not exactly a democratic solution in that it allowed for the election of a chief executive who did not win the nation-wide popular vote. When this happens as in 2000 when Al Gore won more than half-a-million million more popular votes than George W. Bush, the “winner’s” legitimacy is questioned—at least by those who supported the “loser.” In order to keep the states on board, the Framers compromised on several counts. 200 years after the U.S. Constitution was framed and with the experience of the 2000 debacle fresh on their mind, the Democratic National Committee did not have concerns like the Framers and should have democratized the party’s presidential primary rules and respected the one-person-one-vote principle. Instead, the party continues to allowed the allotment of delegates in the primaries and caucuses of the states to violate the most fundamental democratic requirement. As a result, with yesterday’s decision by the party’s Rules Committee to recognize the primaries in Michigan and Florida, Senator Hillary Clinton has officially won more popular votes during the nominating process than Senator Obama who was nevertheless allotted more delegates during the intra-party selection process.
To be sure, it is too late for this year’s nomination to design a primary system that does away with the flawed caucuses, does not allow Republicans and Independents to participate in the intra-Democratic competitions, and divvies up delegates according to the popular votes in states and territories.
And don’t expect that this will happen at the Democratic Party’s convention in Denver or thereafter. Yesterday’s meeting of the Rules Committee (now firmly controlled by the Obama camp as is the Democratic National Committee) gave Senator Obama everything he could have hoped for, especially in the case of Michigan primaries. Although Clinton, whose name was on the ballot, won 55% of the vote there and Obama, who took his name on the ballot, did not receive any vote, the Rules Committee awarded Hillary Clinton with 69 delegates and Barack Obama with 59 (each with ½ vote per delegate at the Denver convention). How, in heaven, can you insist that a percentage of the votes is given to a candidate whose name was not on the ballot?
Well, the Obama camp did and prevailed. That's why I would not expect from those responsible for this exercise in the Democratic Party’s undemocratic rules of the game to push for reforms in the service of democracy.
Much was said during and after yesterday’s disappointing meeting
about the need and prospect for party unity by Obama supporters on the Rules
Committee and even some Clinton backers. But in view of the undemocratic primary process, Hillary Clinton’s
lead in popular votes, and the stunningly unfair and undemocratic Michigan
ruling, it will be very difficult—if not impossible—to unite the party—even
against Senator McCain and his Bush-like agenda.