by Jeremy Young | 3/10/2008 02:23:00 AM
Okay, here's the situation. An organization representing some sport, say, the International Federation of Table Tennis Players, decides to hold a tournament. There will be fifty one-on-one matches between me and Gil Troy, to be scheduled in different locations whenever the tournament hosts choose to schedule them. Whichever of us wins the most matches -- me or Gil Troy -- wins the tournament. The only stipulation is that no host can hold a match before April 1, because it wouldn't give me or Gil enough time to train.

Gil and I agree to these terms, because they make a lot of sense. So do forty-eight of the hosts. But two of the hosts decide not to play by the rules. They want to go first, no matter whether it's fair to the IFTTP, to the tournament system, to the audience, or to me and Gil. "Me first! Me first!" they cry, like spoiled babies who don't care what happens to anybody but themselves. Luckily, Gil and I have already agreed not to play in any matches that are scheduled before April 1, so we don't show up at the two early matches. The people who organized the two matches are frustrated when nobody shows up, so they decide to award the matches to one of us even though we didn't actually play them. After flipping a coin, they decide to give both matches to Gil.

Gil and I go on and play the rest of the tournament. We're pretty evenly matched, but I win slightly more matches, and at the end of the tournament I'm leading Gil, 25-23 in matches played. So, I win, right? Not so fast, says Gil. What about those two early matches I won? It's not fair to the organizers of those matches if they don't count. By rights, we should be tied, 25-25. Since I've been playing table tennis longer than you, at that point the IFTTP should intervene and give the tournament to me.

I'm perplexed. But Gil, I say, we agreed at the very beginning that those matches wouldn't count. We didn't even play those matches -- they just decided to award them to you. It's ridiculous to say they should count. I've won fair and square.

Hearing this, Gil comes back with a counterproposal. Okay, he says, let's rerun those matches instead. I know the organizers won't want to put up the money a second time, but it's unfair to them if their matches don't count. So, we should ask the IFTTP to foot the bill for the new matches, the ones that we should hold because their organizers chose to break the IFTTP's rules.

If this sounds like a patently ridiculous argument to you, well, join the club. But sadly, it's exactly what Gil Troy's arguing:

I have already complained [here] about the outrageous way millions of voters in Florida and Michigan were disenfranchised, merely to satisfy petty dictators from the small, unrepresentative states of New Hampshire and Iowa. Now, the fact that the Democratic Party poohbahs in their wisdom decided that the delegates who were properly selected in the Florida and Michigan primaries should not be counted is going to take on dramatic significance. Hillary Clinton, who was wrong to buy into the Florida and Michigan boycott, is going to argue for the rights of those voters to be heard. Obviously, this has less to do with a newfound appreciation for democracy and more to do with, shock of all shocks, advancing her self-interest.

To be fair to Gil, the rest of his article is far more thoughtful than the passage I've just quoted, and I actually agree with much of what he says. I'm picking on this paragraph because I've seen a lot of people make just exactly this argument: evil Howard Dean disenfranchised Michigan and Florida voters to stroke his own considerable ego, and he should fix the mess he made. Here, for instance, is how Hillary Clinton's surrogates make this argument, the one that Gil appears to be endorsing:

Two of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s biggest supporters, who are also two of the Democratic Party’s most successful fund-raisers, have offered to help raise millions of dollars to stage new primaries in Florida and Michigan.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey and Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania said Sunday that they would be willing to raise half the $30 million it would take to run new contests in those two states. Mr. Corzine and Mr. Rendell submitted their proposal to The Washington Post.

The two governors argue that the Democratic National Committee, and not taxpayers in Florida and Michigan, should pay for a re-election in those states.

... A spokeswoman for Mr. Corzine, Deborah Howlett, later said: “He doesn’t think that the states or the taxpayers in Michigan or Florida should pay for the election. And he’s glad to help the D.N.C. raise money to cover the costs.”

Let's ger serious for a moment. To my mind, this is very simple. Howard Dean told the state parties, you break the rules, you lose your delegates. Michigan and Florida chose to break the rules anyway; they should lose their delegates. Howard Dean and Barack Obama are not responsible for disenfranchising the voters of these states; their state parties are, because they decided to break the rules knowing full well what would happen if they did. You break the rules, you lose your delegates. That simple. There have to be consequences for subverting the party for personal gain.

No one has a God-given right, or even a Constitutional right, to vote in a primary -- but it stands to reason that people should want to. If the voters of Michigan and Florida are unhappy that their primary votes didn't count, they should turn out their state party leaders who decided to break the rules and disenfranchise them in exchange for cheap publicity. It's not Howard Dean's fault, or Barack Obama's fault, that those state party officials were so selfish that they didn't care whether their constituents' votes counted or not, so long as they themselves could get in the news. Dean was pretty weak on this issue, and he has a lot of explaining to do, but the one good thing he did was draw a line in the sand for those two states and say, if you break the rules, you lose your delegates. To turn around and ask Dean to foot the bill for a revote because the state parties disobeyed Dean's orders is as ridiculous as, well, me playing a table tennis tournament with Gil Troy.



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Blogger Ahistoricality on 3/10/2008 5:48 AM:

No one has a God-given right, or even a Constitutional right, to vote in a primary -- but it stands to reason that people should want to.

"Nobody should be kept from being a Queen if she wants to be one! It's undemocratic!" -- Lucy, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

It's too bad that the Democratic Party doesn't have some sort of higher authority to which it could appeal questions about procedure, some .... committee, perhaps, who dealt with rules. We could call it a "Rules Committee"!

I think the revote is the best idea out there at the moment, and I think both candidates should announce the creation of a special fundraising drive to help pay for it. Lots of Democrats would give a couple of bucks to keep the party from obliterating itself: I would, and I haven't given money to any of the candidates yet.


Anonymous Geschichte Grad on 3/10/2008 10:17 AM:

It bears mentioning that the Clinton campaign has been positioning for this sort of thing (getting Michigan and Florida to count somehow) since the campaign got the beat-down in Iowa (then South Carolina, then Nevada, then...). It's another example of how the Clinton campaign will do anything--anything--to win, even if that means tearing apart the national party. One wonders how effective such a campaign would be at uniting the party in a national election, when it's so willing to destroy the party in a primary.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 3/10/2008 1:52 PM:

I'll support the re-vote because otherwise the Hillary people will never stop screaming, but really the equitable thing is for it to remain just as it is. You don't hear Puerto Rico screaming about how its votes probably won't count because they don't vote until June; like Michigan and Florida, the primary organizers made a choice as to when to hold their primary, and they should abide by the consequences. It's ridiculous that the Obama campaign should have to take time out of their busy fundraising schedule to raise money for some stupid re-vote, but you're right, it does seem it may have to be done.

BTW, there is a "rules committee." It's called the Credentials Committee, and Howard Dean's pretty sure it's going to vote not to seat the original delegates from the two states. Hillary, as usual, doesn't care what the rules say.

GG, the Clintons have made a career out of dividing the Dems for their own personal gain -- viz. Sistah Souljah back in 1992. What would make anyone think they're going to stop now? This is why we shouldn't make conservative Dems from red states our Presidential nominees. Say what you will about John Kerry, and I've said it all, he never divided the party the way the Clintons have done.


Blogger Ahistoricality on 3/10/2008 3:47 PM:

I know about the credential committee: that's the point I was trying to make.

There are three kinds of politicians: those who will sell out their own party to get elected, those who will sell out their own party after they get elected, and party hacks. It's possible to span categories, but not to transcend them.....


Blogger Jeremy Young on 3/10/2008 10:17 PM:

Apparently I have a sarcasm deficit today. Sorry about that...

The Spitzer news dovetails nicely with your theory, by the way. I'm very disappointed by that one -- I expected better from him.