Clinton’s Michigan and Florida Hypocrisy

by on March 18th, 2008

Suppose that the Dallas Cowboys play the Houston Texans in an exhibition game next August and the Texans win. Then suppose that the Texans subsequently appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to have the game counted in the regular season standings. How fair would that be? Of course, it wouldn’t be fair at all as the Cowboys would rightly argue that, had they known the game was going to count, they would have put more resources into it and tried a lot harder to win it.

As we all should know, it’s not fair to change the rules after the fact, but that’s exactly what Hillary Clinton is arguing to have done. It’s no different than what the Houston Texans would be arguing for in my supposition above. Last August, the Democratic National Committee decided to strip Michigan and Florida of all of their convention delegates because they scheduled their primaries before February 5 (a date that only Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina were allowed to precede). That reduced Michigan’s and Florida’s primaries to mere beauty contests (that’s what exhibition games in politics are called).

When that decision was made, every contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, including Clinton, agreed to it. Not one word of dissent was heard from any of them. Clinton (or any of the rest of them) could very easily have stood up at that time and argued that it wasn’t right to deny those two states a voice in the nominating process — but none of them did. Now that she has won both of those primaries, she is arguing that they should count and that delegates from those states should be seated at the convention, based on the results of those primaries. Barack Obama, on the other hand, rightly argues that, had he known their primaries were going to count, he would have campaigned and run radio and TV ads in both of those states. As it turned out, he did none of that and didn’t even have his name on the ballot in Michigan.

But why did Clinton wait until the last month or so to start arguing the unfairness of not giving these states a voice in the nominating process when we never heard a peep out of her last August? I think it was because, last August, she didn’t believe those states were going to matter. She believed that she was going to steamroll to the nomination in such a way that not counting those states would be totally inconsequential to the nominating process. So, at that time, she didn’t feel that it was worth rocking the boat to speak up. Why, in her mind, should she risk ruffling the feathers of the Democratic National Committee, when she could just sit back and cruise to the nomination? That’s what she thought. But, like I’ve often been told, that’s what you get for thinking.

Once she realized that the race for Democratic presidential nomination was developing into a neck-and-neck contest between herself and Obama, she quickly got religion and began to see the unfairness of stripping Michigan and Florida of their delegates. Actually, of course, she began to realize that she had no chance of winning the nomination without them — thus the conversion. However, it’s too late the change the rules now. The best she can hope for now is the so-called “do-over” of Michigan’s primary. Even that would constitute a change in the rules. Florida’s Democratic Party has recently ruled out such a scenario there.

Terry Mitchell