WASHINGTON (AP) - 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.Ickes is not being inconsistent here, it's just that when he voted for the rules changes, he didn't expect Hillary would need those delegates.
In a conference call Saturday, the longtime Democratic Party member contended the DNC should reconsider its tough sanctions on the two states, which held early contests in violation of party rules. He said millions of voters in Michigan and Florida would be otherwise disenfranchised - before acknowledging moments later that he had favored the sanctions...
The backstory here is pretty simple. Starting after the McGovern electoral disaster and reaching completion in 1984, the Democrats significantly restructured their primary process, frontloading a lot of mostly southern states into what became "Super Tuesday" as the first major test after Iowa and New Hampshire, and creating Superdelegates who held a quarter or more of the voting power at the convention. This, it was hoped, would avoid the nomination of another McGovern*, a relatively unknown liberal wildly popular with the northeastern union/leftist grassroots but less so with the average voter. The result was (with a few notable exceptions) as good as could be expected: a pair of southern governors who both won the Presidency. It worked for them because the Dems have not won the presidency without a southern governor since Kennedy and they have not lost with one (except Carter's re-election) in the modern era.
So when the Democrats "disallowed' the delegates of any state that jumped ahead of the preferred order, they did so to maintain that structure. Hillary's commanding national lead in the polls should have allowed her to sail through that process and thus her supporters worked to maintain that status quo. But Michigan and Florida** jumped ahead anyway, and the DNC said that was fine, the delegates you elect just won't count. Rules are rules, and both states understood that ahead of time.
But now Hillary needs the delegates, and a move is beginning that seeks to undo the DNC's hard line. It is exactly the type of blatant power play Hillary watchers have been expecting since the get-go. It will certainly not be the last such.
I don't know that it will matter all that much at this point. If the Messiah Express rolls through Texas and Ohio with big wins, this thing is over. Those black superdelegates like John Lewis, who in expectation of her victory jumped early on the Hillary bandwagon, are starting to publicly back Obama. Should Obama enter the convention with more delegates than Hillary, even if it's not enough to win outright, I fully expect they will not stand by and let the Clinton Machine set aside a popular black candidate. The anti-war liberals are certainly not going to side with Hillary. While it will be a test of how much Clinton clout remains, I'm starting to think there is less there than I previously believed.
But there is significant clout there, and rules can be bent and shaped to help or hinder any candidate. The big question, in the end, will be whether the Democrat party structure believes that Obama can beat McCain. If they do***, then those 'disenfranchised' voters of Michigan and Florida are going to be out of luck****.
* this one named "Obama."
** The former with only Hillary on the ballot (all the campaigns but hers held to the DNC line and didn't get on the ballot) and the latter where only she campaigned (all the campaigns but hers held to the DNC line and didn't go there), were both won by her. Gentleman's agreements are not exactly her forte.
*** and they should: he will, like a hippie's drum.
**** And it will be interesting to watch the party that has screamed for 8 years that every vote should count ignore precisely that argument from the Clinton people. I'm not saying I agree with Clinton (I could not care less how the Democrats choose a candidate I have no intention of voting for). But it does go to show the flexibility of principle in the face of power politics.