MI & FL delegate reinstatement process staggers forward – no thanks to voters
The Democratic voters of Michigan and Florida are unhappy, or so we read. They, or if you will, their representatives, moved up their primary dates and drew a punishment from the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. Since then, what have the voters of Michigan and Florida actually done to try and reverse or repair their problem? Nothing but complain.
But what could they do, these poor little voters, in the face of such a huge hurdle? Isn’t it hopeless, being confronted by such a firm rebuke by such powerful people? Not everyone has thought so. Until Congress passed the federal Voting Rights Act, blacks in Mississippi were systematically and universally excluded from voting and public office. Members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) joined with Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) to form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) in April of 1964, specifically to challenge the credentialing of the existing Mississippi Democratic Party at the Democratic National Convention..
MFDP members and supporters put their lives on the line. Organizers were systematically arrested, routinely beaten, and killed. When Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the MFDP co-chairs, first tried to register, her house was riddled with 16 gunshot rounds while she slept. At her second try she was arrested, held without being charged or arraigned, and beaten repeatedly over many hours.
Three voter organizers, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, were kidnapped in June of 1964 by local police and the KKK, beaten until most of the bones in their bodies were broken, shot and buried in the mud of a delta levee.
Through it all the open-registration, interracial MFDP held district caucuses and a state convention, fielding a full slate of delegates in complete compliance with Democratic Party Rules.
These brave people risked their lives for the right to participate in democracy.
In 2008, faced with far, far less in the way of difficulties, the voters of both states have been content to blame others while waiting for Somebody to fix their problem. People like Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and even Harry Reid have been widely criticized for the debacle, even though none of them has ever had any authority whatsoever to intervene in the process; but each of them is a Somebody, the fault must be with Somebody, and so they get the blame.
The voters themselves, knowing months ago that the elections would be invalidated and their votes would be discounted, could not be bothered to organize themselves as the poor people of Mississippi had in 1964. Easier by far to sit safely at home and complain, hoping that Somebody would take care of them. Assuredly there are fine people in both states; collectively however, I find it very difficult to find much in the way of sympathy for their plight.
But what do I know? Maybe the voters were right to not expend any energy. Maybe they were right to not bother themselves to do anything beyond complain because this year, as it turns out, with a divided party in need of reconciliation, the Somebodies in the Democratic Party are going to take care of the matter. Somebody will, after all, clean up the voters' mess.
A week ago, on Saturday April 19, Michigan Democratic Party members got together for district caucuses. Oh, wait; did you think that the Michigan Democratic primary elections were really what controlled the selection of Michigan Democratic Convention delegates? How quaint; how charming; how innocent. There’s much, much more to it than that.
Under the Jan. 15 vote, Clinton had been assigned 47 delegates by the press and everyone counting heads, while 36 were tagged Uncommitted. Since then, the Obama campaign has been pushing for a 50-50 split based on, well, wanting a 50-50 split. Clinton, on the other hand, has wanted the election results to stand. According to the Detroit Free Press, the caucuses selected 47 delegates committed to Clinton and 18 delegates backed by Michiganders for Obama. Another 18 delegates were selected from union-backed organizations and remain officially Uncommitted. How many of them are secretly for Obama and how many for Hillary is unclear, although Emptywheel has some thoughts.
Still to come is a DMI State Committee meeting on May 17, where PLEO and At-Large delegates will be chosen. Right now, based again on the election, 10 PLEOs and 16 At-Large are assigned to Clinton while 7 PLEO and 12 At-Large are provisionally Uncommitted. On top of that are 28 superdelegates, some named and some not, all of whom are uncommitted by rule but some of whom have expressed leanings.
Down in Florida, people got together to protest and plan a bus trip; a fine thing to do. That it was all arranged by Clinton supporters pushing her agenda is also fine, but speaks far more to her determination than to that of the voters of Florida.
Meantime, some Somebody in the person of Dean, Pelosi and Reid have been talking to the DFL, DMI and the new Rules and Bylaws Committee members (minus Donna Brazile) trying to sort something out. Today on Meet The Press Dean made it crystal clear that a solution will be found and delegates from both states will be seated:
MR. RUSSERT: Will Michigan and Florida be seated?
DR. DEAN: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: In some way, shape or form.
DR. DEAN: In some way. I'm determined to make that happen. I can't--again, I can't, I can't speak for what the rules committee will do. They're 30 very independent-minded people. I can't speak for what the credentials committee at the convention will do. I believe Michigan and Florida should be seated in some way because it was their--their voters did not cause this problem. This was caused by a political problem, not the voters' problem.
I do like Howard Dean. When he gives those one word answers, you can take it to the bank. And when he stutters – “I can't--again, I can't, I can't speak…” you know something is worth giving close attention. I say the stuttering means a deal has been done. There’s a dance now to be danced, a play to be enacted, R&B need to have their independence validated, Dean and Pelosi and Reid need to be seen as hands-off, but the deal is done.
Best guess? All the super-D’s, PLEOs and At-Large delegates will be seated because they have their pride and they won’t settle for anything less. The elected pledged delegates will also get seated, but with only a half-vote each; that will be the 50% penalty. None of that will happen until after the nomination is settled. The FL and MI delegates get to go to the Party, but they don't get to play a direct role.
Somebody has taken care of it. Good thing there are still a few responsible Somebodies around.