"Changing the Rules"

17 February 2008

I was just watching CNN's Wolf Blitzer interview a Hillary Clinton supporter (I forget his name) Lanny Davis this morning, and he kept repeating one talking point over and over. According to this guy, Barack Obama is trying to "change the rules" halfway into the election by urging superdelegates to vote along with the majority of citizen voters.

However, this is just simply wrong. Of course the rules allow superdelegates to exercise their independent judgment, but it is not "changing the rules" to encourage them to vote along with the popular majority in the country. That's just another very significant factor for them to consider. Obama is not saying that the rules should be amended to suddenly strip the superdelegates of their power. He is saying that they should keep in mind that overturning the popular majority would split the Democratic party in half, and possibly cost them the general election in November.

What also struck me is that Wolf Blitzer never once challenged this guy on his assertions.

Moreover, this guy never acknowledged the fact that Hillary Clinton has repeatedly tried to change the rules herself. She first did it by challenging the pre-decided rule to allow at-large precincts in Nevada. She even endorsed a lawsuit to completely shut them down just days before the Nevada election. What is particularly striking about this example is that it wasn't challenged until Obama picked up the culinary union's endorsement, and it looked like he might win those precincts.

Furthermore, when the DNC stripped Florida and Michigan of their delegates for violating party rules and pushing their primaries forward, Clinton said nothing. She even signed a pledge not to "participate or campaign" in Florida or Michigan. Everybody except for Clinton (and Kucinich) took their names off the Michigan ballot. Yet, as soon as she won the essentially uncontested state of Michigan, she had a change of heart and started to explicitly argue that the party rules should be changed to seat Michigan and Florida.

These are two examples of explicitly trying to change the rules. I don't think that Lanny Davis's argument will really gain any traction, but I also think that it's highly disingenuous.

UPDATE: Of course there is less of a chance of party-splintering if the election is reasonably close before the superdelegates weigh in, but there will certainly be lots of outrage over any decision that runs counter to the popular majority.

UPDATE II: More on "changing the rules":

Harold Ickes, a top adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign who voted for Democratic Party rules that stripped Michigan and Florida of their delegates, now is arguing against the very penalty he helped pass.

UPDATE III: I had confused Lanny Davis with Jack Reed earlier. My mistake.

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