Quick: why did you object to the way the Florida recount was handled in 2000, if you did in fact object? Was it some of the Supreme Court justices seeming to contradict their own long-standing principles? Was it the chaos of the recount itself, the lack of preparation for it on the part of Florida? The machinations of one or both parties at various moments? The sense that someone, somehow, had cheated?
I don’t think anyone viewed the way that the election was handled as ideal, but we don’t seem to have learned many general lessons from it. At least, not the lesson that even the perception that someone cheated or broke the rules can have a corrosive effect on the national legitimacy of a political leader.
I hate to keep singing the same tune, but it is incredibly important to me that we have an Administration in 2009 that will bring back a sense of playing by the rules, respecting procedures, and caring about process as much as results. I’m already skeptical about Hilary Clinton in that respect given the kind of campaign she’s run, but if the Clinton campaign continues to maneuver to claim delegates from Michigan and Florida in her column, that would be a final deal-breaker for me, in the sense of my being unable to tolerate her as the eventual nominee at all. I understand that little back-room deals are already being made for superdelegates, as well as various other shenangians. That’s one thing, it happens, that’s politics. This is something else: going back on a very clear agreement about rules in unscrupulous pursuit of personal political advantage, very much to the detriment of the system as a whole. We’ve had enough of that for the last eight years, I think.
Hi Dr. Burke-Long time reader, first time commentator.
I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion, that we desperately need a clean election and that Hillary Clinton probably isn’t going to be the one to deliver it, but I wonder if the reasons why are in doubt. Isn’t one of the lessons to be learned from Florida actually just how little a tainted election affects the legitimacy of, not only a national leader, but of national institutions as well? I mean, most people –and certainly the media–still seem to see the Supreme Court as an neutral arbiter of the constitution even when Bush v Gore showed just how blatantly partisan and ultimately political it is. People are still seen as kinda loony if they draw the logical conclusion that the 2000 election was stolen, despite the fact that Gore not only won the national popular vote, but most likely the Florida vote as well. It seems to me that Americans have far too much faith in our institutions; so much that even something that, by all rights, should have precipitated a major legitimacy crisis, just blew over. In other words, the reason we haven’t learned the “lesson that even the perception that someone cheated or broke the rules can have a corrosive effect on the national legitimacy of a political leader” because that’s not what happened! Instead, we take the lesson that “its just politics” to such an extreme that anything goes, including Hillary Clinton changing the rules midstream.
I actually think it did have an effect on Bush’s perceived legitimacy among his opponents. People opposed Reagan or Bush Senior; with W., from the first moment, there was enormous ill-will that wasn’t just focused on his policies but also on whether or not he had a right to be President at all.
I think you’re right that the effect is on generalized perceptions of politics, of the political system. Clinton, it seems to me, is drawing Democratic voters who are well “inside” the political process and unperturbed at manipulations and tactics. Obama and Huckabee, on the other hand, have among their constituencies people who have a sense of detachment and alienation from political institutions. I honestly don’t think a nation can continue smoothly into the future if it has a sizeable proportion of its citizenry in that category, and the more that any candidate is willing to pursue their own short-term interest with an indifferent regard for further aggravating that alienation, the more bumpy the road ahead will get.
But this is a key part of the word “corrosion”: everything may look ok on the surface, but suddenly one day the bottom disintegrates and everything falls apart.
It is the flagrant disregard for playing by the rules that drove the GOP to distraction in the 90s. I come down on the opposite side of the Florida debacle but it was clear that both sides were using every single tool they could to push those chads through for their guy. It did hurt Bush and it hurt the Supreme Court. Bush never really recovered. He has spent the last 8 years as a 50 + 1 president and the 9/11 bump was far more fleeting than even his dad’s approval ratings after the first Gulf War.
I’d say it hurt Florida, but it is clear as the Fark label for Florida makes clear, I’m not sure there we should have expected otherwise.
Reason #219 why fairness is a bad goal for a culture. It tends to mean that rules will be fudged if they feel unfair.
To answer simply, it was clear that both political parties were far more interested in winning than they were in setting up a fair and thorough recount.
I won’t deny that I’m in that category of people who saw Bush’s election in 2000 as essentially illegitimate, but I also hesitate to draw from that any conclusion that most of his opponents agree with me. We transitioned to politics as usual all too rapidly, it seems to me, for that to be the case. Other than that, I completely agree regarding the dangerous road we’re on and the risks we entail by allowing politicians to pursue short-term goals at the expense of a functioning democracy. However, the complete lack of interest in electoral reform (especially regarding the electoral college and instant runoff voting), for instance, amongst most of the major politicians (Howard Dean being a notable exception) that would hurt both major parties in the short term, while strengthening the system by simply, you know, including a wider variety of opinion, doesn’t give me much hope that anything will change in the near-future.
“If the Clinton campaign continues to maneuver to claim delegates from Michigan and Florida in her column, that would be a final deal-breaker for me, in the sense of my being unable to tolerate her as the eventual nominee at all.
What do you mean by this? Would you then vote for McCain, whose integrity you’ve criticized extensively before, especially with respect to the Iraq war?
No, I think I’d basically sit on my hands and whine a lot, and come November, I might not vote at all. It would make it really hard for me to support Clinton, but I can’t support McCain either.
â€œIf the Clinton campaign continues to maneuver to claim delegates from Michigan and Florida in her column, that would be a final deal-breaker for me, in the sense of my being unable to tolerate her as the eventual nominee at all.”
If Obama were in Hillary’s position, what would you do?
In all of the furor over gender, race, primary tactics, etc. issues really seem to get lost. Our system needs to change the way we select our representatives. Elections should be replaced with random selection of people from each district and state. They should be selected to work on one bill. This process would obliterate, oh joy, the two-party system and the God of Reelection.
Back room dealing resulted in the Compromise of 1877 and nearly of Jim Crow rule in the South. The two parties reversed the results of the Civil War in many respects.
No, I think Iâ€™d basically sit on my hands and whine a lot, and come November, I might not vote at all.
This sort of statement, which I’ve heard a lot recently online, really upsets me, and I say this as someone who spent 3 hours standing in line outside Monday night in Boston to see Obama. Upwards of a million people are dead because of the invasion of Iraq. Voting in elections is not about expressing your approval of the campaign tactics of the candidates, and it’s not about making the voter feel good. Every election, we are given a chance to hopefully influence the world for the better. Sitting on your hands is abdication, and complicity in the results.
Yes, it is. But I’m thinking precisely about what we need to deal with the catastrophe not just of Iraq, but of the entire way that the Presidency has worked for the last seven years. And what we need isn’t just “a Democrat”. Or even someone who has “good policy ideas”. We need someone who is going to do things the right way, who has a respect for process, procedure, the rule of law, for consultative government. Who can put personal and party ambition aside when principle demands.
Setting aside “campaign tactics” as if they exist in a special vacuum that has nothing to do with how the candidate will govern, as if the election happens in an ethical, moral and procedural alternative dimension, is the real complicity.
Anybody who was paying attention to how Karl Rove ran George Bush’s campaign in 2000 would have had a real clue as to how George Bush was going to govern. Anybody who watched that campaign go after John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 would have seen how the Bush Administration was going to treat any whiff of dissent either inside or outside of the White House.
When we get a lot of ends-justifies-means talk from Clinton backers, about how grown-ups accept that politics involves dirty deals, that there are omelettes to be made so never mind the broken eggs, we’re getting a good look at how she’s going to govern. Which won’t do a damn thing to fix the mess in Iraq: it’s the kind of thinking that got us into that mess in the first place.
“When we get a lot of ends-justifies-means talk… ”
Isn’t this the most basic difference between those of us who are a certain kind of Democrat and those people who are a certain kind of Republican? I have always felt that if you ask a classroom of students to raise their hands to the question: Do the ends justify the means? that maybe half will say yes and half no. It is a core belief that influences people forever and in all things. And I believe that this core belief will travel with those students to the grave.
The Clinton folks are posturing about Florida and Michigan because, frankly, they need something to talk about other than losing in pledged delegates (and now having money problems). I suspect that party insiders wouldn’t let them steal the election because it would cause a really damaging revolt among lots of core Democrats who wouldn’t show up to vote in November. And based on the rules as I understand them, it is unlikely that the Clinton folks could seat the delegates without a fairly convincing win in the remaining primaries or Howard Dean’s approval (if the first happens, no one will care and I don’t think that Dean is going to do their dirty work for them if they don’t have a pledged delegate lead).
“We need someone who is going to do things the right way, who has a respect for process, procedure, the rule of law, for consultative government. Who can put personal and party ambition aside when principle demands.”
So I take it you think that the two-party system is capable of producing this person so you can vote him into office.
Do you think that over time it will happen 40% of the time? How often has the present system produced this person since 1800? Since 1900? Since 1952?
I think that the system is decaying. Things will not get better. The R’s have held the WH in 28 of the last 40 years, counting this one. Our nation has taken 28 steps backward and only 12 steps forward, if that many. Since 1980 the backward steps have been really big ones, don’t you think?
In 2006 Ornstein and Mann wrote “Broken Branch.” In 2007 Dean wrote “Broken Government.” They seem to think that things are pretty bad. So who is to blame? The People or the System?
Might I recommend you write to the DNC and voice this displeasure? I did so myself after reading your post and a news article about it. If they hear from enough people that this could decide votes for them, surely this would make them consider very carefully. It’s disgraceful that they’re even thinking of it. Heck, who knows: if everyone in Michigan and Florida turned out to vote in a legit primary, maybe she’d even have another 100-300 delegates. Maybe 100-300 less. But to say, “by the way, that meaningless vote that many of you were told you could stay away from? haha. joke’s on you. it counted” sounds like something a corrupt grade 4 teacher would do to impose a favorited student into class president, not something a national democratic party should be entertaining.
The problem lies at the feet of the DNC. The decision to disenfranchise the two states for interfering with the right of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to go first was, to say the least, arrogant. The DNC now seems to regret it. Even those who would prefer the results of the Florida and Michigan primaries not stand advocate a “do-over”. There is reportedly a good deal of pressure on the two states to hold another primary or caucus. The two states are resisting. Their view is they held an election. In Florida’s case, at least, all the candidates were on the ballot and there was a large turnout — much larger than 2000 or 2004. They see no reason to overturn it.
It’s worth pointing out that the Republicans managed this situation better. They don’t have a small army of superdelegates either.
As it happens, I have no preference between Obama and Clinton. On Tuesday I intend to vote for Edwards. Just because he’s suspended his campaign doesn’t mean I don’t still consider him the best choice. But having no preference leaves me in the situation where I feel like the designated driver at a New Year’s Eve party, astonished at the vehemence surrounding me.
It was the DNC that changed the rules midstream. The original rule was a state could lose up to half its delegates if they moved early.
When the DNC rules committee met (I watched it on C-SPAN) to consider Florida, the expectation was that the DNC would impose the maximum sanction (half the delegates). Instead, the DNC shocked Florida by throwing out the DNC’s rulebook and inventing a new rule (loss of all delegates). This action took place well after the polls made it clear Clinton would dominate in Florida. The DNC rules committee was stacked with Obama and Edwards supporters and the most vocal ringleader was Obama supporter Donna Brazile.
That DNC rules meeting was a kangaroo court, stacked and loaded to dilute Clinton’s strength in Florida. So don’t talk about “fairness”.
As a practical matter, the Democratic Party has to be brain-dead to disenfranchise one of the most critical large swing states. Florida has the fourth largest number of electoral college votes. It is this kind of political tone-deafness that explains why the Democratic Party has only mananged one President in the last 28 years.
Prof. Burke and I will offset our votes. I view the disenfranchisement of Florida and Michigan in the same vein as the controlling Shia disenfranchising the Sunni in Iraq. I will absolutely not support a Democratic Party that turns its back on democracy.
Things would be a lot better if Gore would have managed to get himself made president after the 2000 election. Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis better.
I love the idea of a DNC meeting that deliberately set out to dilute Clinton’s strength in Florida, hwc. That’s hilarious. Oh, yes, Clinton is surely the insurgent candidate fighting against the DNC. The meetings you’re talking about took place at a point where the Clinton campaign surely thought that it would be all over by Florida, anyway, in their favor. Plus the absurdity of comparing this to Sunni disenfranchisement–I mean, come on, why not throw in a reference to the Nazis while you’re at it.
I hope you’re working for the Obama (or Huckabee?) campaign, then.
I’m very unwilling to sit out elections based on the candidates’ engagement in pretty normal political stupidity. Mostly this is because I spend a lot of time dealing with the practical effects of government policy (school funding and quality, youth incarceration, abortion/birth control/childcare access for teenagers, what happens when kids don’t have dental care, public transit). The Clinton-McCain choice is absolutely meaningful at that level, and not worth sitting out over one unfair maneuver in a generally unfair process. It’s not like the Democratic nomination process is a model of voter enfrachisement and representation aside from this one issue.
True enough, but like I said, one thing I’m voting for is a commitment to being committed to process and the rule of law. That’s the problem with Bush-style unilateralism, which holds that one commits to a process only as long as it produces a result that one wanted in the first place, otherwise, you abrogate any previous agreements. So this is a test for me of a very very crucial commitment to that vision of governance.
Timothy Burke Says:
February 6th, 2008 at 3:56 pm
“I actually think it did have an effect on Bushâ€™s perceived legitimacy among his opponents. People opposed Reagan or Bush Senior; with W., from the first moment, there was enormous ill-will that wasnâ€™t just focused on his policies but also on whether or not he had a right to be President at all. ”
His opponents? This wouldn’t include the Democratic leadership in Congress; it wouldn’t include such alleged bastions of liberality such as the NYT.
The people who are pissed were the rank-and-file; the elites told them to shut up, and got eagerly down to doing business.
The end lesson of the Bush administration is just how far a GOP president can push it, with no fear of serious consequences.