40 years later – why not a floor fight?

Something I haven’t had the time to understand is why everyone seems to think that the floor fight at the Democratic National Convention of 1968 was so bad. I heard tonight an interview of the Governor of Michigan (and superdelegate) who said that everyone wanted the candidate decided before the convention in Denver – Obama, Clinton, and all the party big-wigs.

So, someone care to enlighten me why having a messy but democratic fight for delegates is worse than having a coronation, especially if the superdelegates end up in a position to overturn the popular vote? It makes no sense to me.

9 replies »

  1. First of all, I don’t think Granholm (or anyone for that matter) want to see superdelegates make a decision against the will of the voters. If there is going to be a fight for delegates at the convention, it will be focused on either seating MI and FL or on superdelegates. Either of those is an ugly situation.

    I’d say that you want to avoid any situation in which the nomination is postponed until summer, whether it is due to a brokered convention or not.

    Here are a few reasons:

    1) Our candidate shouldn’t be wasting funds on media buys in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, (Ohio, Texas!), etc.

    2) With McCain already starting to effectively campaign for the general, it would be a shame to give him such a big head start.

    3) Picture McCain saying “The Democrats can’t even get their own house in order and pick a candidate, how do they expect to run the country?”

    4) Party unity. After this already rough primary, the candidate and the DNC will need several months to pull the party back together. There are some bitter divisions that have developed between Clinton and Obama supporters, and I don’t want to wait until September to start healing them.

  2. Seconding Josh. A floor fight is going to create a lot of sensationalist, “is the Democratic party split” press and a journalistic narrative that might stretch to November about the Dems not liking their own candidate. McCain’s delt with similar, but since his candidacy is settled they haven’t spent more time on it.

    Of course, it also means that more people’s voices get heard, that insurgent candidates are having an effect, etc., which are good things if you’re trying to steer the party away from the New Democrat mold. Buit there’s a strategic cost in November as well.

  3. Thanks, Josh, for enlightening us.

    Thanks, Brian, for making S&R even more interactive than it already it is. Like Obama asking the country to help itself, you’re asking our readers to help S&R>

  4. Josh – a few responses and followup questions:
    1. the money thing – primary money is legally separate from general election money, so I’m not sure that this is a real problem. Unless my knowledge on how primary vs. general election funding works, that is.
    2 & 3. I’ve heard a lot of people suggest that McCain having the GOP nomination wrapped up is a big advantage for him, but I’m not sure I believe it. Both Obama and Clinton have an external target – should they choose to avail themselves of it – and yet McCain can’t target either of them independently. So while I get that McCain may have an advantage, I’m not yet convinced that it’s real.
    4. Very good point.

    Thud – Sure, there will be that spin, but I see a way that the Democratic framers can turn it around to their advantage. Something like “The Republicans like having coronations of kings, but the Democrats relish the democratic process so much that we don’t mind the sometimes difficult process that is a hard primary contest. We’re strong enough to handle those divisions and we know how to make our diversity work for us – the Republicans can’t handle the divisions within their own party and hold their party together after a divisive primary contest.” I’m sure a professional framer could do better, but I hope the example is good enough that you at least get my point.

    This one’s tricky either way. Anyone have some perspective on what happened in the convention in 1968?

  5. I believe general election money cannot be spent on the primary but primary money CAN be spent on the general. If I’m mistaken here, someone please correct me.

    His advantage mainly is going to be the ability to get off the campaign trail and rest. I’m sure he’s not campaigning in Ohio and Texas as hard as Obama and Clinton are.

    I don’t know a lot about the ’68 convention other than the fact that it was a huge mess. As a result of this mess, the DNC chair at the time created the the McGovern-Fraser Commission, with the purpose of making the process more fair and representative. As a backlash to this, in 1980, party leaders implemented superdelegates, leaving us with the undemocratic process we have now.

    I’d love to see a new Mcgovern-Fraser Commission with the stated process of reforming the party’s nominating process. I don’t think this should happen during a drawn out primary season though. We should jump on it immediately in 2009, IMO.

    Jason has some more thoughts on this here.

  6. Josh, you’re right on the primary vs. general election money. All that primary money could be used in the general unless Obama sticks to his public financing pledge, in which case the money argument is a moot point.

    (Oh, and I had a strange vision of you giving an Annie impression:
    I know I’m gonna like it here
    Used to room in a tomb
    Where i’d sit and freeze
    Get me now, holy cow
    Could someone pinch me please. )

    I don’t believe that deciding this at the convention would be the worst thing in the world, but having party insiders overturn the popular vote is a shade too close to Florida in 2000 for me.

  7. I don’t understand the hurry to declare a nominee. Florida (4th largest state) & Michigan are already counted out. Now we are being urged to skip over Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, & Puerto Rico to prevent a floor fight in the name of party unity. That doesn’t sound like party unity. What is the likely effect on voters in those states? Will they vote for a pre-emtive nominee? Why vote? What about the GE? If, in the name of unity they are pushed aside, will they even come out to vote in November? We will need a huge turnout to guarentee a Democratic President. As a Florida democrate, it would be an understatement to say that I am dissappointed my vote will not count, not to mention the fact that we were not allowed to see or hear any of the candidates. There has to be a better way.

  8. Friggin hilarious “Day in the Life of a Superdelegate” video for anyone so inclined…