March 13, 2008
A Modest Proposal
I was running an errand on Capitol Hill when this letter flew out a window and landed at my feet.
Howard Dean, Chairman
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol Street, S .E.
Washington, D. C. 20003
Dear Mr. Dean:
At first I was taken aback when I heard through mutual friends that you were seeking advice from me on your present substantial dilemma, but for old times' sake I'm happy to offer my advice for what it's worth to you.
I've been watching the state Democratic primary election returns with considerable interest, but I share your stated concern that your party is heading inexorably in one direction -- a contentious and brokered convention, one notable for violent street protests and bitter credential committee fights.
The eleven weeks between the June 7 Puerto Rico primary and the August 25 convention will be the high point of a brutal battle by Obama and Clinton to secure the votes of the super-delegates while hanging on to the votes of the regular delegates. This promises to be at least as bloody a battlefield as the brokered convention. In the meantime long knives are being whetted for credentials fights over Florida and Michigan. (And how do you ascertain the caucus winners in Texas when 40% of the polling places refused to report?)
Even before this point, the constant stirring up of identity politics grievances threatens to alienate any number of branches of those presently taking shelter in your big unity tent -- and I'm not even getting into the split between the SEIU and the AFL-CIO . You, sir, have a major and growing headache facing you.
I'd pass on my friend Jeff Dobbs' suggestion that you nominate both Obama and Clinton, one each for each of John Edwards' two Americas, but I don't think that'll fly really. Even if you could sell it to the public, it is hard to imagine this working, given the already manifested great acrimony between them.
I figure you have to be bold, and that you have to act no later than June 7 to keep your party from totally disintegrating. Here's my suggestion : Put Jimmy Carter in charge of the entire nomination mess.
You and I both know that the Democratic Party rules have created exactly the kind of atmosphere best suited for Carter's magic touch: utter chaos. Infinite fiddling state-by-state with the rules to achieve minutely-calibrated "proportional representation" by delegates not even bound to follow the voters' wishes, topped by potentially nullifying, appointed super-delegates, accountable to no one but themselves.
Fantastic! Mugabe could not have set this up better
By the way, it's a good idea for you to keep floating the notion to the punditry that the Florida and Michigan voters aren't "disenfranchised" if their votes are not counted. Keep saying they are simply paying for their arrogant disregard of the rules. (None of them seem to have caught on that the officials who okayed the early primaries knowing that would nullify the votes are super-delegates whose votes will count anyway, even if they fixed it so the ordinary party members in their states will lose their votes. Way to go!)
This approach completely distracts people from realizing what an absolute joke the position is that Florida was stolen in 2000.
In any event Obama doesn't think he wants to trust a party-run mail-in re-vote for Florida and Michigan, and the Florida Congressional delegation (all super-delegates) say no to the notion , too.
Have Carter rerun the entire damn primary before June 7. Really, Carter can do this.
I suppose right now you're saying," Where did he get this idea?" I'll tell you, friend. it came to me listening to Carl Levin who asked, "How can you make sure that hundreds of thousands , perhaps a million or more ballots can be properly counted and that duplicate ballots can be avoided?"
See, I read that and remembered that Carter does this all the time. He's the election certifier extraordinaire. From his supervision of the 1990 election in the Dominican Republic to his oversight of the Chavez recall collection in Venezuela he's become the one man in the world who can, with the acquiescence of the entire world, put a gold stamp of approval and purity on a completely unfair and corrupt election. Fraud in counting votes? In registering voters? Discrepancies between the number of cast ballots and voter registration lists? Jiggered machines? Doesn't matter. The guy will keep his eyes and ears closed and stamp the entire thing kosher.
See, what I'm saying, is that there's no way you can resolve the present contretemps without at least half your party claiming the result is unfair. They will always believe the nomination was "stolen" from their candidate and given the players and so-called rules of your party's nomination process, they will have a point. So why not go whole hog. Have the process planned, overseen and supervised by the man who's given his stamp of approval to crooked elections everywhere else on earth. He was YOUR president, after all. He's good enough for East Timor and not for his own party?
As soon as he's done, the winner can get to work on the general election campaign where the Dem frontrunners have wisely set the central issue as experience on national security. How great is that?
Hope this helps.
Bill Z. Bub
Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC.