Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Michigan Primary

Yesterday, voters in my state had the chance to be heard. Republicans and Democrats* came together in the common cause of democracy to decide who will represent their parties in the run for President this fall. It was a time of great pride in America to partake in such a process--the process that allows me, a common citizen, to make my voice heard and take part in one of the greatest societies on Earth today.

Or it would have been, if only the Democrats* hadn't screwed it up.

What's big in the news today is the fact that Hillary Clinton won the Democrats and Mitt Romney won the Republicans. There's endless analysis and speculation all over the newsphere about what it means, blah blah blah. What's not really in the news except around here is the fact that only one major candidate--Hillary Clinton--was on the Democratic ballot.

Last fall, Michigan's Legislature made the decision to move our primary from (don't know when) to January 15. Apparently, they wanted us to be more like Iowa, one of the early states who gets to be some key indicator and thereby have more influence on the final outcome. It was also supposed to have some effect on our crappy economy. Again I say--blah blah blah. Whatever their intent may have been, it seems they ignored a rule by the Democratic National Committee to start most state primaries after February 4th.

In an act of party loyalty, most Democratic candidates both withdrew their names from Michigan's ballot and banned active campaigning in the state. Now, I'm not big on party loyalty--or any kind of loyalty that lends itself to accepting the wide brushes modern politics apply to what, in my opinion, demands a much more complex, personal approach--but let's face it: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and all the rest of the Democratic candidates are counting on the DNC's support in November, and they sort of have to toe the company line, or (presumably) get left in the political cold of obscure third parties*.

One Democratic candidate, however, while she didn't campaign in the state, did not withdraw her name from the ballot. Have you guessed who? That's right, Hillary Clinton. Let me first say that I love the idea that we could possibly have a female President next year, even if it is Hillary. It doesn't make sense to me that one of the greatest societies on Earth can't bring itself to seriously consider anyone for President who isn't a white man. Hell, we even threw a fit about a Catholic white man, and he turned out to be one of the most popular presidents in our history. It should be a global embarrassment that dozens of other countries (some for centuries) have had female leaders, while in the United States just the idea of a woman running is a novelty.

That said, back to Hillary. The reasons for her campaign's decision to ignore the DNC's hard line are unknown to me (my ears not being very keen to politics), but what's clear is that she obviously didn't give a damn what the party thought. The Obama and Edwards campaigns urged Democratic voters to select "Uncommitted" on their ballots if they supported either candidate. The final outcome of the Democratic primary was 55% Clinton, 40% Uncommitted. I wonder how many people would have voted for either absent candidate if their names had been there. I wonder how many people, confused by both the process and the ballot SNAFU, put a mark down for Hillary just because they didn't see the name they wanted. I wonder how many people opted for the Republican ballot instead. I wonder how significant it is that the bill changing the date was introduced by four Republicans*. I wonder.

And what of Hillary's disposition in her party? Will she be booted because she wasn't a good Democrat by pulling out of Michigan? Do you think, say, the Libertarians would have her now? Or the Greens? Of course this isn't a real issue: she will remain on every Democratic ballot in every other state left, and this will pass mostly unnoticed on the national level. If Hillary ultimately is elected, what does her Michigan decision say about her future administration?

The truth of the matter is that Michigan Democrats were cheated out of their right to choose the candidate of their choice, plain and simple. Writing in a name was not an option. The Michigan Democratic primary was an embarrassment and a farce, and every senator and representative who voted to change the date is to blame. In their effort to make Michigan's primary more important, all they did was undermine what value it already had--at least as far as the DNC was concerned. What's ironic is that Michigan has both a Democratic governor and a Democratic House. I know for a fact at least one lawsuit attempted to block the change, but the case was quickly struck down and got ten seconds airtime on the morning newscast.

"Tonight Michigan Democrats spoke loudly for a new beginning," said Clinton Campaign Manager Patti Solis Doyle (in this article). But that's not what happened at all. What did happen is the good old fashioned political machine kicked in. Voters got trampled, and democracy took the hit. This is exactly why the high estimates for voter turnout were 20%, and the main cause of voter apathy. My usual reaction to a person who doesn't vote is the impulse to slap them, but next time I hear someone say "Why vote? It won't change anything anyway," I might just agree with them. At least if they're a Michigan Democrat.

* Though I'm a huge fan of any good conspiracy theory, I'll make no speculation on the true intent of Michigan Republican senators Michelle McManus, Cameron Brown, Bill Hardiman, and Michael Bishop when they sponsored Senate Bill 0624(2007). Another consequence of the date change was to effectively eliminate any third party participation in the primary. So which party was it that really screwed up the primary election?

More information on Public Act 0052 of 2007, and an excellent resource for Michigan voters.

Seeing as how the Clinton-Obama race has come to a head following all the state's primaries, and with the Big Day approaching for the would-be opponent of John McCain, folks are making quite a stir over Michigan and Florida's discounted primary results. Two articles:

Florida, Michigan seek exit from Democratic penalty box -

If allowed, Florida, Michigan could tip nomination -

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