Monday, April 07, 2008

Sometimes things are Complicated

Just finished reading Sean Wilentz's latest article for Salon (well I finished it sometime in the last two hours) and I'm not sure what I think. It is about how if the rules in the Democratic Party Primary were more like the rules in the general election, Clinton would have already won and Obama would be out to lunch.
Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats in primary states choose their nominee on the basis of a convoluted system of proportional distribution of delegates that varies from state to state and that obtains in neither congressional nor presidential elections. It is this eccentric system that has given Obama his lead in the delegate count. If the Democrats heeded the "winner takes all" democracy that prevails in American politics, and that determines the president, Clinton would be comfortably in front. In a popular-vote winner-take-all system, Clinton would now have 1,743 pledged delegates to Obama's 1,257.
My initial response was very negative. I don't like the winner-take-all approach because it puts the minority under the rule of the majority, particularly in the large states. In a state like California or Texas or Florida, you could have millions of votes essentially not counting because they had the temerity to vote for the wrong person.

But upon reflection, that is how our general elections are done. You can't win half a state in the General Election; it's winner take all (except in Maine and Nebraska where the electoral votes go to the candidate who eats the most Cod and Corn respectively (no just kidding, here's the real answer). So are we kneecapping ourselves as a party when we run our primary process differently from the general election? I mean if we know that Florida is going to be winner take all in the general election, and we know that the majority of the voters in Florida prefer, say, Hillary Clinton, what is the strategic value of giving those of us who prefer someone else a voice?

But perhaps there is a moral value to it. The Democratic Party Primary process of proportional representation is more democratic than a winner take all system. So perhaps the Democratic Party is leading the way towards changing the way we settle presidential elections. One can only hope.

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