Sunday, July 20, 2008

Will the Democratic Convention Be Boring?

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In recent memory, political conventions have been sort of like one long commercial for their candidate - not exactly fascinating for the run of the mill voter. However, this year might be different at the Democratic Convention in Denver next month. (To understand the following, you might want read Convention 101.)

Why? Well, there's this little issue of what to do about Hillary.

This was the closest, longest, and most expensive primary in Democratic Party history. After the primaries were over, Obama had the most delegates but not enough to win, until all the superdelegates piled on at the end. (Superdelegates are not known for their political bravery, so many waited until they knew who the winner would be.)

So you might assume both Obama and Clinton would be nominated at the Convention, there would be a lot of speeches and cheering crowds, and then Obama would win. After all, that's what the rules say is supposed to happen. But you would be wrong.

It seems that the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) have a problem with that scenario. First of all, there is the outside possibility that some of the fickle superdelegates might change their minds - especially since Obama has been making some folks mad with his sudden right turn on many policy issues - and Clinton might win. OMG! That would be a disaster!

But there are more likely scenarios that cause the Obama camp anxiety. Clinton's nomination could create tension and disrupt Party Unity, and Obama would be deprived of his TV images of cheering Democrats all united behind him.

The impassioned response by the Hillary supporters (who are still enthusiastic) might rival that of the response to Obama, since many of his supporters have lost their enthusiasm after his flip flops. That would certainly be embarrassing!

The roll call, with its divergent state speeches, would take away from the Obama unity message. At the very least, it would be time consuming and possibly deprive the Democrats of their scripted prime time program.

The DNC totally controls the convention, and the Obama campaign totally controls the DNC, which packed up and moved into Obama headquarters in Chicago. So you would think they could just tell Hillary to go shove it.

One small problem with that plan. Almost half the delegates in that Convention belong to Hillary, and they are not going to take kindly to their candidate being snubbed. This could conceivably be the worst outcome. (You know: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!" - Shakespeare)

You've got to feel sorry for poor Obama - he's between a rock and a hard place. Of course, he could solve the whole dilemma by picking Hillary as his Vice President. Then the Democrats would have their unity, and everyone would live happily ever after - and go on to a landslide win in November.

But all the talking heads say that won't happen.

So Obama's only solution is to sweet talk Clinton into voluntarily taking her name out of nomination in return for something. In 1988, the Democrats devoted a whole night of the Convention to Jesse Jackson, in return for keeping him off the ballot - and he didn't even come close in his delegate count. Jackson totally outshone mild mannered Michael Dukakis, who went on to ignominious defeat.

The negotiations between the Obama and Clinton camps are ongoing, with no solution so far.

To test the lay of the land, I polled the Mississippi Delegation to the Democratic Convention and asked them: "Do you think Hillary Clinton should be nominated at the Convention with speeches and a roll call vote? " Although the response was not overwhelming, it was predictable and consistent. Clinton delegates said yes and Obama said no. Here are two typical responses:
Lavaree Jones, Obama delegate from Jackson: "NO!!!! Absolutely not. It is over for Hillary for this round. She should bow out gracefully. There is something sick about hanging on like this and it does not sit well for someone seeking leadership at this high level."

Kelly Jacobs, Clinton delegate from Hernando: "Obama has not won the NOMINATION until all of the Superdelegates cast their votes, and they can change their minds. Hillary won the popular vote and as her delegate I want to vote for her!"
So, yes the Democratic Convention could get very interesting. And we'll be bringing it to you live.


Anonymous said...

Casey, this was long but, as a Dem & Hilary supporter, I really enjoyed the read. I'll be watching for more. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"Will the Democratic Convention Be Boring?"