When CityBeat interviewed Terry McAuliffe, campaign chairman for Hillary Rodham Clinton, shortly before Ohio's primary last month he made the astonishing comment that he wouldn't recommend changing the Democratic Party's nomination process for future presidential races.
As everyone interested in U.S. politics knows, the race between Clinton and Barack Obama is close enough that it probably won't be settled until the Democrats' super-delegates — a group of 795 party insiders — decide who they support. The decision likely won't come until late June or July, just weeks before the party's convention in Denver.
Some people consider the impasse a boon for democracy that lets all states weigh in on the selection. Others, though, say it damages the eventual Democratic nominee and gives fodder to Republican John McCain to use in the general election campaign.
Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats don’t have a “winner take all” system for its primary and caucus contests in an effort to foster diversity and fairness.
After the party’s disastrous 1968 convention in Chicago, some critics believed the party overreacted in trying stop backroom deals and undermined the role of party leaders and elected officials. That was borne out by the weak showings of George McGovern in 1972 and Jimmy Carter in 1980, they said.
As a result, the Democrats created the so-called super-delegates in 1982 to wield some power and — as McAuliffe puts it — prevent a potentially “catastrophic candidate” from emerging as the front-runner. “It was sort of a safety valve,” said McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee chairman.
At least one Democratic lawmaker is proposing a change to how the party selects its presidential nominee that would end the jockeying among states to move their primaries earlier in the process.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) wants to end the current process and replace it with six large regional primaries, held between March and June of every presidential election year, with the order determined by a random drawing.
Also, Nelson — a Clinton supporter — proposes abolishing the Electoral College in favor of deciding who becomes president by the popular vote.
When discussing his proposal on CNN late last week, Nelson conceded that Iowa and New Hampshire would object. But he added, “those states are not representative of America as a whole and why should they have an outsized influence?”
Both proposals deserve consideration, regardless of who wins in November.
(By the way, McAuliffe assured CityBeat Feb. 22 that the nominating contest wouldn’t spill over into the party’s convention this summer. Now, of course, Clinton is threatening to take the fight to the party’s Credentials Committee at the gathering. It’s worth noting how many times in the campaign that Clinton has changed her game plan.)
— Kevin Osborne