Small States and Retail Politics

Though I haven't seen any Kos or MyDD straw polls regarding the Florida and Michigan primaries, a number of prominent diaries suggest that the Netroots community isn't too happy about Governor Dean and the DNC sticking up for themselves. Respectfully, I must disagree.

Obviously, the DNC needs to enforce its rules, including the Feb. 5 window, or it becomes a paper tiger capable of nothing more than fundraising. Unfortunately, the denial of delegates is the only practical tool it has. The six viable Democratic candidates for President have now all signed a pledge circulated by the four early states agreeing to respect the party's rules. Biden for President campaign manager Luis Navarro said,

It is time to end all the maneuvering around the dates of the early primaries and caucuses. We intend not only to sign the pledge, but to honor our pledge to Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina to respect their primacy to the process. They played by the rules of the DNC. We respect those rules. The public despises this kind of maneuvering for political advantage. If the Republicans want to play this way, let them. But we will not be a party to it.

More important than rules and discipline, however, is the vital role that these early states play in our primary process. The NH GOP has played a number of dirty tricks over the last few years, but I'm afraid I have to agree with what their Chair, Fergus Cullen, said at the start of last night's NH GOP '08 debate.

Campaigns should be more than 30 second ads. In NH, candidates do the hard work of meeting voters face-to-face, answering questions, debating issues, and earning votes, one by one. [The 2008 candidates]... have been doing that hard work for months, interacting with voters in a process we believe serves America well.

Putting large states first or hosting a national primary day would be a ban on "second tier" candidates like Jimmy Carter and John Kerry. Spacing out the voting allows for these campaigns to gain momentum between primaries and caucuses. Neither Carter nor Kerry would have had the funds to compete nation-wide in expensive media markets like Los Angeles or New York. Even the "top tier" candidates would have to focus on nothing but fundraisers, virtually eliminating the kitchen discussions and diner meet-`n-greets NH and Iowa encourage. Smaller states offer cheaper media markets and more occasions to let the voters actually meet and connect with the candidates (Obama and Clinton rock-star rallies notwithstanding). Already this cycle, I have met Biden, Obama, Edwards (twice), Dodd (twice), Richardson, and Gravel, as well as almost-rans Bayh, Kerry (twice), Warner (twice), and Feingold (twice). This could never happen in a larger state like California or New York (unless YearlyKos is held there, of course). A national primary would also mean the votes of small-state residents would mean little more than they do in the general election--how often do you see the nominees stumping for votes in states with just three or four electoral votes? If we're not going to give the small states a say in the general, can we at least let them matter in the primary? (I have much more to say on the subject of how to hold the primaries, but because this is supposed to be a post about Joe Biden and not the larger race, I will put the rest in the comment section.)

So how is this a campaign blogger post? Retail politics aren't just good for the nation; they're good for the Biden campaign, too. At a meeting with the campaign's NH Steering Committee, Biden's sister and national chairwoman, Valerie Biden-Owens, told us that no one is as good at retail politics as Joe Biden. I summed up that conversation in a previous article,

Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) is the best campaigner of the bunch. The current top three Democrats are relegated to rock-star rallies before audiences of thousands, limiting their ability to truly connect with voters in the kitchen campaign style early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have come to expect. People come to hear the top three speak out of curiosity, but often leave as soon as the speech is over. Biden, on the other hand, may be drawing smaller crowds, but 95% of those who come stay until he leaves, and 85% give their e-mail addresses to the campaigns. When talking to voters, he asks them what they do, what they care about, and how they live their lives. And when you do talk to him, he has an answer. I have never seen anyone with such a strong command of the facts. Biden understands the details of every issue, and has a plan whether it is within his committee purview or not. He never ducks questions; I have seen him given thorough answers about Iraq, Darfur, Hurricane Katrina, climate change, energy, student loans, teacher pay, health care, veterans' benefits, and more. That is true retail politics.

In his memoirs, "Promises to Keep", Joe Biden describes a well-received speech he gave to the AFL-CIO in 1984, and later writes, while describing the 1988 campaign:

Even Jill was telling me we were going to win Iowa... and New Hampshire, too. And when I got on the road for some quick campaign tours, I started to see what she was seeing. At an event at a private home in New Hampshire near the end of August, the crowd that showed up was so big it spilled out into the yard. So I went out on a porch balcony to give my stump speech. In the middle of the talk it started to mist, and I told them I'd stop, but they said no. And nobody left. They stood in the drizzle and listened, rapt, when I explained to them... the `platform' the Democratic Party could provide the American people. It rained and nobody left. This was new territory for me. These people were in. (Biden, 189)

There's a reason the Biden campaign is pouring all its energy into Iowa. A better-than-expected-finish is not out of the question for a guy with his political acumen. In fact, Biden has more Iowa state legislature endorsements than anyone but Clinton. Just today the campaign announced, "Assistant House Majority Leader John Whitaker (D-Hillsboro), whose son was deployed last week to Iraq, today became the 7th Iowa state legislator to endorse Joe Biden for President." Do remember, John Kerry wasn't supposed to finish higher than third a mere two weeks before the caucuses, either.

I'll leave you with a few timely Biden links and videos. Below you'll find two videos, both about three minutes long; one is from the SEIU about Biden's participation in their "Walk a Day in My Shoes" campaign, the other is an interview with CBS' The Early Show, taped just before Biden went to Iraq for his eighth visit. I'll focus on Iraq next week, I think, when Biden begins hearings on the subject. For now, take a look at Foreign Policy magazine's website, which has a good blog post called, "Republicans trashed the Biden plan they now back." You may have seen the campaign's diary about it at Daily Kos yesterday.

UPDATE 09-07-07 2:02 AM: I should make clear that I'm not suggesting Carter and Kerry are examples of good nominees or good campaigns. I'm just proving the point that instituting a national primary, or putting large states first, would abolish second tier candidates without large war chests (unless you also instituted public funding of elections, and without a President Biden or Feingold, how likely is that?).

Tags: 2008, DNC, Iowa, Iraq, joe biden, New Hampshire, president, Primaries (all tags)



More on the primary process

I deleted the following from after the fourth non-blockquote paragraph for the sake of brevity and relevance:

So why must that small state be New Hampshire? The argument is often made that other states would appreciate first-in-the-nation status as much, and that their primary voting rates rise to the same levels. Perhaps, but New Hampshire really is uniquely qualified when it comes to participatory democracy. Residents haven't just been sparring with presidential candidates since 1968; they get involved the other three years--many towns are run by managers and town meetings and, not by mayors and aldermen/city council members. With 424 members, the New Hampshire state legislature is "the third-largest English-speaking legislative body in the world". That from a state with only two Congressmen. The local joke is that if you never serve in the state house, your brother or your best friend will. That spirit is reflected in the local press, which covers the second tier viable candidates almost as much as the top tier--something the national MSM can't claim. You'd be hard pressed to find a more democratic place than New Hampshire. Giving that a prominent role in the presidential nomination process ensures that campaigns will give us more substance than thirty second ads and $100-a-rubber-chicken-plate fundraisers.

Of course, I readily admit that Iowa and New Hampshire lack diversity and that it's unfair to relegate any state to a role of confirming or rubberstamping the early state's decisions. In March, I wrote a 43-page research paper (the bibliography alone was four pages long) exploring the history of U.S. presidential nomination systems and potential solutions to the current front-loading mess. I concluded,

Perhaps the best way to achieve these goals is a cross between the Delaware plan, the National Association of Secretaries of State plan, and a national primary. Eight small to medium states can start the voting, going two per week for four weeks. New Hampshire and Iowa, out of tradition and reason, may take the first week, followed by states with varying politics and greater diversity - such as South Carolina and New Mexico. Enough larger states to bring the total delegate count to 50% will vote two weeks following the small states, and the remaining states will cast their ballots two weeks after that. States voting on the national days should be mixed to provide regional diversity each day.

Although it will be hard for outsider candidates to compete in the final two national primaries, six weeks of spaced out retail primaries, coupled with an amended Federal Election Campaign Act, should provide them with plenty momentum. If a candidate is unable to capitalize on those kinds of resources, he (or she) probably isn't prepared to win the presidency anyway. And by allowing only 50% of the delegates to be chosen before the final states vote, no candidate - short of a unanimous, unstoppable landslide - will be able to clinch the nomination. There is a slight potential that some states will become "confirmers," but virtually no chance that any will wind up as rubberstamps.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-06 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

We would have been better off if Carter and Kerry had NOT won their nominations.

Carter begat Reagan and Kerry gave us four more years of Bush.

by antiHyde 2007-09-06 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Preposterous

Jimmy Carter's Presidency ended when Iranian radicals seized the Embassy in Tehran and held Americans captive. That was hardly Carter's fault. It was his problem to solve, and he tried. But there's considerable belief that his efforts to resolve the crisis before the election were undermined by Repub operatives who wanted the issue to fester until after election day.

Of course, Carter's reelection campaign had already been undermined by Teddy Kennedy's challenge to take the nomination from him. How Ted Kennedy thought that he could win the nomination after his drunken driving escapade ended so badly at Chappaquidick . . .

Meanwhile you are ignoring the fact that Ronald Reagan was a very effective campaigner. And the Repub's racist Southern Strategy, as part of a continuing national Repub trend, carried Reagan to victory over a Southern liberal Democrat.

Kerry's campaign greatly outperformed most challengers in the past 100 years -- Dole in 1996, Dukakis in '88, Mondale in '84, McGovern in '72, Goldwater in '64, Stevenson in '56, Dewey in '44, Willkie in '40, Landon in '36, Davis in '24, Hughes in '16, Parker in '04, and Wm Jennings Bryan in 1896. At least those. He fell short of Clinton in '92.

The results in 2004 were a remarkable achievement for John Kerry and for the Democratic Party. Bush's post-election claim to a "mandate" stands as the epitome of his, and Rove's, technique of boldly asserting the exact opposite of the truth -- and getting away with it. "Mandate" my ass.

And "Kerry gave us four more years of Bush" my ass.

by Woody 2007-09-07 06:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Preposterous

B.S.   Kerry was a terrible campaigner who threw away his lead. And Carter was so ineffective that he turned an entire generation against the Democratic Party. Carter was the reason that the "weak on Defense" meme evolved. Before Carter the meme was that the Democratic Party was "the War Party".

by antiHyde 2007-09-07 08:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Preposterous Nonsense

Gene McCarthy in '68 started it, and McGovern in '72 finished it, remaking the image of the Democrats a peace party. Carter's background as a submarine commander probably helped him win a close election in '76 despite all that.

You say Carter "turned an entire generation against the Democratic Party." Nonsense. The reicht had been rising from the ashes of the Goldwater campaign of '64 -- and the George Wallace campaign of '68, with its disturbing success in blue collar Northern precincts. In the South, two generations of white voters had begun turning against the Democratic Party in resentment over the Civil Rights laws, as LBJ had predicted. Carter did not start those trends, they began before he appeared on the scene, and at best he interrupted their progress when he barely won the White House for one term.

And you say Kerry was the reason we lost in '04. Well, at least it's refreshing to find a comment about that election that does not mention 9/11, the Iraq War, social issues, or Karl Rove.

But then, I don't believe that the reason the German Empire lost the Great War was because it was stabbed in the back by internal enemies. I think the Germans lost the war for other reasons.

by Woody 2007-09-08 07:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Preposterous Nonsense

"But then, I don't believe that the reason the German Empire lost the Great War was because it was stabbed in the back by internal enemies. I think the Germans lost the war for other reasons."

Well, at least we agree on something.

by antiHyde 2007-09-15 03:25PM | 0 recs
Since you have raised the issue
of Florida, I will ask you the question: Why did the DNC take a far more punitive attitude towards Florida than the RNC? The answer is that there is lingering animosity against Florida from 2000, and that this was a way to settle a score. The notion that somehow NH is somehow better at Democracy than other states is in fact an amazing insult, and fundementally incompatable with any notion of one man equals one vote. Moreover, the idea that somehow Iowa and NH "play by the rules :is just plain wrong. In fact, NH uses its state law as a weapon to blackmail the DNC into keeping its status.
by fladem 2007-09-06 07:30PM | 0 recs

The DNC's heavier hand than the RNC's has very little, maybe nothing, to do with 2000. Going back to the McGovern commission set up after the 1968 convention, the DNC has been much more agressive than the RNC at setting rules for the primaries and enforcing them. The RNC either lets the states do their own thing or follows the DNC's lead, while the DNC runs the show for the Democrats.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-06 07:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Since you have raised the issue

They may have taken a heavier hand, but its not one I disagree with. Fundamentally a process that doesn't include order isn't a process  that will help anyone except those with money. Why? because only those with money can weather the mess that this was becoming. I challenge anyone to show to me how this mess would have produced a better result. Even a historical analogy of prior elections with similar issues with hav ebeen useful. Instead, I've mostly seen its good because it mucks up the present system. I don't undersatnd that argue. Its almost to me like the Nadar argument regarding hte Democrats.

by bruh21 2007-09-06 08:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Joe Biden is a joke.  He's never going to be President.  I'd appreciate it if he stopped wasting our time and let the real candidates debate.

by blueryan 2007-09-06 07:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Seems to me the only candidate with a detailed political solution for Iraq is a real candidate who needs to be in the debate. And do remember that in December '03, John Kerry had 3% in the polls, and his campaign finances were a second mortgage on his house. So don't be trollish just because the polls and FEC statements four months out show some candidates have a leg up over others.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-06 07:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

There's no comparison to Kerry and Biden.  Kerry was always seen as a real contender, even before the polls showed it.  

Biden isn't just a joke because he has no support or money, he's a joke because he puts his foot in his mouth all the time.  Well that's when he's not plagerizing someone else's words....

by blueryan 2007-09-06 08:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Biden was the leading fundraiser in '88. The only reason he hasn't gotten more traction this time is Clinton's presence in the race, which can be overcome. So he's seen as a real contendor by most folks not named blueryan.

And he was not guilty of plagerism, that was a smear campaign started by John Sasso. Unfortunately, far too many folks are willing to swallow whatever the MSM tells them...

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-06 10:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Okay any idiot that looks at Neil Kinnock's speech and the nlooks at Biden's in 88 can see Biden plagerized the shit out of it.  You can't seriously be telling me that he didn't?

by blueryan 2007-09-07 07:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Biden quoted Kinnock in every speech he gave. He would describe an ad Kinnock was running at the time and talk about how important Kinnock's message was. At the Iowa State Fair debate, Biden was unable to prepare a proper closing statement like the other candidates because he was tied up with Bork hearing issues all day. Someone suggested use the bit from your stump speech, meaning the Kinnock quote. So he did, but given the rush he was in and the lack of preparation, it was the one time he forgot to say, "As Kinnock said." The one and only time he forgot to cite the quote. He meant no maliciousness or plagiarism, and Sasso himself, the guy who circulated the tape to a number of reporters before finally finding one who would run it without an explanation (Maureen Dowd), said so later.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-07 07:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Yeah, this is accurate from what I can tell, but it's a story that rarely gets told.

Most good Democrats have never heard this side of the story and think that Joe Biden was caught red-handed.  Unfortunately, it's an unfair accusation that is probably too late to rebut now.

The real moral of the story is that unfair attacks during primary season hurt all of us in the end.  But no one ever stops.

by Steve M 2007-09-11 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Sasso even lost his job for it, Dukakis fired him... And you're right, in '04, Dean and Gephardt lost traction Iowa largely because of their mudslinging... and yet...

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-11 09:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

A recent example from 2006 is that Harris Miller's campaign in Virginia made a totally unsubstantiated charge of anti-semitism against Jim Webb, in a desperate move on the eve of the election.  That attack was, naturally, repeated by George Allen's people in the general election, and you'd expect that at least some people were fooled into thinking Webb was anti-semitic.

And then think about how close that election was, and how control of the Senate ultimately hung in the balance, and consider how much harm was almost wreaked by a single, desperate Democrat whose name will be forgotten by history.

by Steve M 2007-09-11 10:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

I may not support Joe Biden's candidacy, but you could not of sound more ignorant.

by RJEvans 2007-09-06 08:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

In what world was John Kerry a "second tier" candidate?  He was the favorite upon entering the race.  

He certainly ran a second tier campaign.  Thanks again Iowa Democrats.  Great work as always.

by Double B 2007-09-06 07:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

The MSM pols I've talked to at campus forums, including folks from ABC, Salon, and Time magazine, chop up the tiers by fundraising and poll numbers. By those standards, Kerry was second tier. And yes, while the elites did consider him the frontrunner at the start of the race, as I recall, it didn't take long before his press coverage lagged behind that of Dean, Gephardt, Lieberman, and Clark for quite awhile.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-06 10:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Then we are remember two completely different races.  He certainly fell from his "early favorite" status, but unlike Lieberman he never fell out of the top tier.

by Double B 2007-09-07 06:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

This is a pretty confused post. There's the odd choice of Carter and Kerry as examples of why the existing system works, and the bemoaning of how little voice residents of small states have (except that they have more weight in the electoral college, and that residents of large non-swing states are also essentially shut out). Aside from that, how exactly is it beneficial to give a leg up to the candidates who come off best in intimate personal contexts when only a miniscule fraction of the rest of the country will actually get to experience the nominee that way?

It's already ridiculous enough that Iowa and New Hampshire are so demographically unrepresentative of the rest of the country. Let's not make it worse by pretending through tortured logic that we yet get the best candidates that way.

Oh, and Biden for President? Please.

by epenthesis 2007-09-06 08:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

In light of your comment and others like it, I just added this update: "I should make clear that I'm not suggesting Carter and Kerry are examples of good nominees or good campaigns. I'm really proving the point that a National Primary, or putting large states first, would abolish second tier candidates without large war chests."

And are you really telling me that Delaware, Alaska, Rhode Island, Maine, and the small states have influence in the general election? And depending on the nominees, the term "swing state" could become a joke. Schwarzenegger could put Cali in play for a moderate. Richardson could put Arizona and Texas in play. This will be even more true in '12. The blue-red map changes; if I may quote another MyDD member, "I'm encouraged by what we can extrapolate from this about swing states--if she can compete in the South, then she (or any Democrat) can compete anywhere in America. This is looking like a potential blowout." (I would be in favor of scrapping the Electoral College, but that's a separate discussion.)

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-06 10:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

"I'm really proving the point that a National Primary, or putting large states first, would abolish second tier candidates without large war chests."

The entire point of your post is that this is a bad thing.  Why?  Do you believe the system we have now has done a great service to Democrats over the past 36 or so years?  I don't.  Two Democrats have won the Presidency since 1972 (the beginning of the primacy of the Iowa/NH system).  One was the greatest politician of the past 25 years.  The other had the best timing of any politician of the last 50 years (off the Watergate fiasco) and won narrowly.    

The goal is for Democrats to win the Presidency.  The current system doesn't help us achieve that goal.  Tweaking it so that other small states have a voice seems the equivalent to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

by Double B 2007-09-07 06:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

I should add, you're absolutely right about diversity. Please see the first comment on this thread.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-06 10:09PM | 0 recs
I've seen a couple of Biden's TV ads here... Iowa. Not bad, not bad at all, especially the one about riding in the C-130 and how the flag-draped coffin turned the cargo hold into a cathedral.

I really think Biden has a chance to surprise people and sneak into the Top 3 in Iowa (and from there, anything's possible -- he has the media savvy to use that as a springboard). I'm not saying I think it will happen -- he does have a history of spontaneous combustion -- but it's not a pipe dream, either.

Kerry came back from the dead in late December 2003, when a lot of people started having doubts about the front-runners. I think when Iowans hear things like the Hsu story rumbling around, it tends to cause some people to have second thoughts and to take another look at the field.

by MeanBoneII 2007-09-06 09:24PM | 0 recs
Re: I've seen a couple of Biden's TV ads here...

Kerry's democratic primary victory in 2004 was about experience and electability.
Howard Dean was percieved as too radical to win the general election. Being anti war,Pro Gay Marriages and Lacking Military Experience.
John Edwards was inexperienced.
Wes Clark was an inept/first time campaigner.
Dick Gephardt was not popular outside his union base.
Kerry was a safe candidate due to his military record. He fit the role as commander in chief.

Looking at Joe Biden. The advantage is experience and electability.
The main problem with Hillary Clinton is electability. She is too polorazing-She has high personal negatives.
The main problem with Barack Obama and John Edwards is inexperience.
The main problem with Bill Richardson is he has had weak performance on television debates.
The advantage Joe Biden has is he has strong law and order and national security credentials- He is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary and Foriegn Relations Committee. He performs well on televison- Meet the Press or Hardball. He has the elder statesman image- Wesley Clark/Bob Graham.
Look at the GOP Candidates.
1)Guiliani is liberal on on social issues- Guns God and Gays but he is Mr Tough on Crime and Terrorism. Biden can neutralize Guiliani's strength as Mr Tough Guy. Biden can turn Guiliani into a drag queen.
2)McCain and Thompson are in the Bob Dole category- They are elder statesman candidate. Biden can easily portray McCain and Thompson as right wing hacks.
3)Romney is a weak general election candidate- Right wing Conservative who lacks foriegn policy experience.  

by nkpolitics 2007-09-07 09:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

The truth is that the political parties are in charge of selecting who their nominee will be and what process there is, if any, to select that person.  A state can hold a primary election whenever they want, but there is absolutely no requirement that a political party recognize that election in any way.

The states can mess with the calendar all they want, but they can not control the process by which a political party operates.  It is completely reasonable that the political parties enforce their own agreed-upon rules and not recognize any delegates that are selected by a process that does not follow the official rules.

It seems to me that both national political parties are acting responsibly, but that the state governments are acting like children.

But that is what happens when campaign cash is involved.

I personally favor not using state-funded primary elections at all.  The political parties themselves should fund primaries and caucuses in whatever manner they wish.

by d 2007-09-07 04:49AM | 0 recs
Why should Iowa and NH

get to be the two, and only two, small states that get to enjoy all this absurd attention?  Why is New Hampshire so inherently more deserving than Vermont?  Why does Iowa deserve so much more attention than Indiana or Nebraska or Missouri?  Why do two states with demographics way out of line with the rest of the country get to have 90% of the say in electing the president?  

by Valatan 2007-09-07 04:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Why should Iowa and NH

An important point, and I completely agree with the diversity argument. See the first comment on this thread, the one I alluded to in the post, as I posted some thoughts on New Hampshire and South Carolina. (I'm not as familiar with the arguments for Iowa.)

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-07 07:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Why should Iowa and NH

Well, damn Iowa anyway. Let's replace Iowa with Minnesota, yeah, that'll do it. Or maybe not. Maybe Iowa is actually a good proxie for Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, and the outside the metro parts of Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri. And what is bad about having a key caucus in the Midwest, a region the Democrats must take to win the election?

And why is New Hampshire so much more desrving than Vermont anyway? Have you heard big compaints from Vermont? Not from John Dean, the former Gov of Vermont. Or from Maine, or any New England state about letting NH carry the ball for this key region? The whiners are from Florida, Michigan, California, big states used to getting things their way.

And demograpic diversity? That's why the DNC carefully added a caucus in Nevada. With its large Hispanic population and strong union presence, it gives a voice to those key constituencies. It's also a good proxy for New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona with very similar demographics but lacking the labor presence.

And poor little South Carolina. The DNC gave it the second primary, mainly to give Black voters a real voice in the process. Blacks will be about 50% of the voters in the SC primary.

But some selfish big states want to blow all that away. Black voters in Florida, for example, will be outnumbered by nice ladies with blue hair among other special interest groups. Will letting Florida get away with breaking the rules advance diversity more than letting SC stand in for Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and similar Dixie states with large numbers of Black voters?

by Woody 2007-09-07 06:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Why should Iowa and NH

Howard Dean. I assume that was a typo, maybe you had some sausuge for dinner? ;)

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-07 11:51PM | 0 recs
I could get behind a Biden nomination.

I do hope if he is not the candidate he is appointed secretary of defense or state.

by bookgrl 2007-09-07 05:40AM | 0 recs
The Senator from MBNA

I have looked all over to get some info about Joe's long and very troubling connection with the financial industry in DE.  Of course, since he is the Senator from DE, he supports this industry.

He just ignores his shameful legacy on his relationship with the banking industry.

The bankruptcy bill was a horrible travesty, and has permanently disqualified Joe in my mind from my support.  He was a driver behind this horrible bill, and this bill has saddled the American people with the finance industry.

We need an updated usury law.  With Biden in as POTUS, we would never get that.

by dataguy 2007-09-07 06:35AM | 0 recs
Re: The Senator from MBNA

The way I see it, Biden had to support that law. As President, he'll represent the whole country, but he wasn't president yet, or even a candidate for it, so he had to keep Delaware's best interests in mind.

Do remember, he did not co-sponsor the bill like Johnson or Be. Nelson, and yet I don't see the Netroots attempting to define those men by just that one bill. Biden's role was no bigger than the other 17 or so Dems who voted for it, including Reid and Landrieu. (Clinton did not vote.) Biden says he voted for it because it strengthened alimony laws, and that is in keeping with his record on women's issues.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-07 07:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

The primary/caucus system is broken.  

We need to find a way of selecting Presidential candidates which both preserves the opportunity of unknown candidates to be heard and grow, but doesn't place overwhelming power in a small number of unrepresentative states.

"One big primary" would preclude the former, maintaining the current system promotes the latter.

The Democratic Party, instead of compressing the process, should spread the process out more.

* have a January primary in a state chosen randomly from blue states in the bottom half by population (to keep costs relatively low to run a campaign),

* then two February primaries separated by at least two weeks from the January primary and from each other in states chosen randomly from those which were blue or within 5% of being blue in the last election.

* The rest of the primary season would be spread out though the beginning of June, with primaries grouped in batches randomly with the two week separation between groups.

In addition, we should eliminate the 15% threshold many states use to force a "winner" on the first ballot. All it does is take away the voices of those who vote for candidates who get fewer than 15%. If someone can't get to 50% + 1 without this kind of "cheating" written into the rules, maybe they're not the best candidate.

Any state that doesn't follow this schedule would lose its delegates to the Democratic National Convention.  Would the states yelp? (see Florida)  Particularly Iowa and New Hampshire?  Sure.  Let them.  The Party can set the rules for the selection of their candidate.  It's time they did.

by rich kolker 2007-09-07 06:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

An interesting proposal. I made my proposal in the first comment on this thread, but I would certainly agree with you about eliminating the 15% threshhold. That's an important thought.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-07 07:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

I suppose you could send this plan to the Democratic National Committee for their consideration.  I don't beleive that this is something that the state governments can legislate.

by d 2007-09-07 08:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

I remember when the parties vetted the candidates and the convention delegates voted for the party's nominee.  It cost less money and took less time and our Nominees were not beholden to any special interest group.  It worked for over 200 years.  

by changehorses08 2007-09-07 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Well, it happened for over 200 years, but I'm not sure I'd say it worked... save Teddy Roosevelt and maybe Woodrow Wilson, there weren't really any good Presidents between Lincoln and FDR.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-07 01:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

The benefit of the nominating convention was that candidates were vetted by their parties and there weren't going to be any unforeseen scandals to derail a candidate. I'm sure you would agree that if the candidates were only beholden to their parties big money retail politics would play no role.  Plus conventions were wonderful -- full of drama and intrigue.  

by changehorses08 2007-09-07 10:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Scandals still happened - look at Nixon, picked by a convention. I think the shorter campaign time frame also had to do with the fewer campaign scandals. The convention drama was great for political junkies and history buffs, but horrible for party unity. And money played a big role in locking up the convention delegates - just look at what Joe Kennedy spent to get his son elected.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-07 11:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Why should it take 1/2 bill to elect a president?  Why should candidates have to campaign 2 years out?  There may have been some problems when candidates were actually nominated at a convention however, the media was unable to play gotcha politics just before an election.  This system better suits the fat cats who can throw all kinds of money and exact all kinds of favors from the candidate they choose.  If a candidate has to be owned by his or her party thats better than to be owned by the special interests.  2 Nominating Conventions Roosevelt who enacted Social Security and Johnson who enacted Medicare. I rest my case.

by changehorses08 2007-09-08 08:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

The fact that you can name one or two good Presidents from nominating conventions doesn't prove they work, it just proves their success rate isn't 0. Besdies, Johnson didn't come about because of a nominating convention. He came about because of a bullet in Dallas. Of course the '64 Convention nominated him, he was the incumbent, no one major ran against him even behind the scenes, and the country needed unity as it still hurt from JFK's deah. And are you really saying Vietnam doesn't put a damper on his Presidency?

It certainly shouldn't take 2 years of campaigning to pick a nominee, I agree with you there, but even with primaries it doesn't have to - it didn't in 72, 76, 84, 88, or 92. Front loading started in 88 and reached a crescendo this year. The increasing role of money in the system and the 24-hour news media also make for a longer campaign season, but some DNC-imposed discipline and an overhaul of campaign finance reform

And given that you rested your case, you're not technically allowed to respond. ;)

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-08 10:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

I will respond anyway--When JFK was nominated Lyndon Johnson came in second in the number of delegates -- JFK decided for the good of the party to pick Johnson as his VP.  The bullet made him President.  

by changehorses08 2007-09-09 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

The real race that year was Humphrey-JFK, not JFK-LBJ. JFK didn't take him because of convention delegates or battles, he took him to win Texas and have help dealing with the Senate after the election.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-09 05:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

In 1960 the schools in the South were being integrated.  The South was furious over the Government's intervention.  I think that Kennedy picked Johnson to placate the South, in addition to the fact that Johnson came in Second in Senate delegates. In those days a Vice President didn't have much to say about policy. Johnson had been the Majority Leader with a reputation of pulling out all the stops when it came to passing bills.  He found being VP a meaningless position with little to keep him occupied. In short I believe that Johnson who had been the most powerful man in the Senate felt that the Vice Presidency was a dead end job.  

by changehorses08 2007-09-10 09:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

Oh, he very much felt that about the job. He took it because he felt he had used up all his capital as majority leader - you can only strongarm for so long. But reputations last even after capital is gone, so Kennedy used him to negotiate with Senators and press that he didn't have the same longstanding relationship with.

I should also note that conventions didn't really pick the VP - they picked the President, who usually picked his own running mate, which the Convention would rubberstamp. So I really don't think you can credit the Convention with selecting LBJ, his 400-some odd Southern delegates aside. It was almost entirely JFK's decision, and that was because he beat Humphrey in West Virginia and Wisconsin.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-11 07:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

It was Kennedy's decision to make Johnson VP but it was a strategic one.  Johnson liked JFK so he took the position for him.  He hated Bobby however, because he felt that Bobby treated him like a retard.  I disagree however, that Johnson had lost his clout as a Senate Majority leader.  After JFK was killed Johnson made it his mission to pass every bill that JFK wanted passed. How did he get those bills passed.  He made it his business to know everything about every Senator.  He used his clout to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and under his reign Medicare was enacted in 1967.  Had it not been for the Vietnam War I think he could have been one of the greatest Presidents of the 20th Century.

I still believe however, that we were better off with strong party conventions and delegates selecting our Presidents.  I decry the fact that fatcats can install a President to do their bidding.  

by changehorses08 2007-09-11 09:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

LBJ didn't lose his personal clout, just his capital as majority leader. I seem to recall that he himself thought so. Becoming President gained him a different kind of capital. He wasn't washed up as a person, he just had to move to the next job. He got those bills passed, but not as Majority Leader. None of that, however, has to do with conventions, we've gotten ourselves on a rabbit trail. :)

I agree with you about fatcats - problem is, conventions are the perfect way for them to install Presidents. Before primaries started to matter circa 1972, delegates tended to be party bigwigs. They were either party appointed superdelegates, and it doesn't get any more fatcat than that, or they were local bigwigs who dominated the party system and local conventions in such a way that there was no way they weren't going to be the nominees. There were instances in the 60s of local party chairmen holdy conventions on moving buses so no one could get in, not announcing the location of the convention until that morning, locking convention hall doors, and sometimes literally phyiscally beating unwelcome Democrats out the door. The primaries helped alleviate those problems, but have since spiraled out of control. The current system is not the answer, but neither are conventions. They provide drama, but there's a reason our party was more fractious than ever back then.

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-11 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

I agree that we have gone off in another direction.  But I find those Johnson years so interesting because he has become an enigmatic character for me.  I can't decide how I feel about his presidency.

As to conventions I agree with you that party bigwigs chose the candidates however, we didn't have to worry whether a scandal was going to take a candidate down just before the election--because they were well and truly vetted.  My problem with primaries is that they are getting to be more and more frontloaded.  They are over before they start and candidates like Biden, Dodd and Richardson never have a chance.  You have to admit that half a bill is too much money to raise to run for president.

One last thing -- Do you think Obama would have been allowed to run with so little experience?  We know almost nothing about him and people will vote for him trusting him to be what they hope for.  This is the scariest thing about Media anointed candidates and primaries.  If you throw together an expensive soft focus commercial you can sell anyone.  

by changehorses08 2007-09-12 10:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Small States and Retail Politics

It's possible Obama would be allowed to run, but it's certainly not a lock. Clinton controls the party, but is also seen as divisive and unable to win by many. The ability to win was important. And while experience mattered, the GOP convention did nominate Wendell Wilkie in 1940, and he was just a Wall Street lawyer.

I do think we can keep the primaries without the frontloading, it will just require a specific set system rather than general guidelines that get minor tweaks every four years with lots of state autonomy.

As this thread gets narrower and narrower on the side of the page, I think it's time I bow out. Nice chatting with you. :)

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-13 10:52AM | 0 recs
Woodrow Wilson? He's among the worst of them!

"save Teddy Roosevelt and maybe Woodrow Wilson, there weren't really any good Presidents between Lincoln and FDR."

Woodrow Wilson as a good President?  Where exactly do you get your history from, Transplanted Texan?  Wilson was by far among the worst of all US Presidents.  He was a furious segregationist and a hater of African-Americans, even by the standards of his time, though he also had enough hate to spread it around to other groups, namely Irish-Americans and German-Americans.

My own Irish-American grandparents had vivid memories when I was growing up, about how Wilson viciously persecuted Irish-Americans as he maneuvered to take the USA into a war on the side of the imperialistic, bloodthirsty British in World War I-- supposedly a war for "freedom" even though Wilson was perfectly happy to ensure further subjugation of the Irish, Indians, Black South Africans, Kenyans, Malaysians and others being massacred by the British Imperial boot.  (Over 10 million Indians dying in British work camps and artificially-made famines at the end of the 19th century, Irish suffering proportionally similar brutality.)  

Woodrow Wilson was also among the very worst persecutors of American organized labor, essentially violating the Constitution and denying many labor leaders habeas corpus after they were arrested as political prisoners, while giving the green light to lynchings of Blacks and labor leaders throughout the country.

Besides all this, Wilson was an abject, complete failure.  He was denied his cherished League of Nations, and he was responsible for the idiotic entry of the United States into World War I-- a war that should have ended in an armistice to basically go back to the status quo, and remind all sides, the French, British, Germans and Russians alike that they would pay a heavy price for imperialism and starting stupid wars.  Had the USA stayed out and such an armistice come in, we would have been spared all the resentment that the Treaty of Versailles caused as well as the essential validation of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, both of which led to totalitarianism in Russia and Germany and the disaster of World War II, all of which are squarely at Wilson's feet.  

Woodrow Wilson is burning in hell right now for his crimes, which are too numerous to name.  He was one of the political leaders chiefly responsible for so much of the wretchedness of the 20th century.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson may not have been the worst American President, but he's one of the worst.  This is increasingly being pointed out by historians, who are realizing what my own Irish-American grandparents could see many decades ago.

by ArkanDem 2007-09-07 05:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Woodrow Wilson? He's among the worst of them!

Wilson an enemy of organized labor? Are you kidding me? Half the progressive movement happened on his watch! He advocated and signed tougher anti-trust laws than either TR or Taft, saw the abolition of child labor, and ushered in both women's suffrage and the income tax. And yes, he got us into WWI, but only after the Lusitania was sunk and the Zimmermann Telegram came about. He really had no choice but to get us involved at that point, and he did delay our involvement by several years and no doubt many casualties. And given that Russia capitulated to Germany with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, your claim that our anti-German entry into the war had anything to do with encouraging Russian totalitarianism strikes me as very odd.

The Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations were a failure, that much is obvious so no argument from me there, but it's a pipe dream to think there was any chance of a status quo armistice. You may also be right about Irish-Americans and other minorities, it's been a long time since I read Zinn, but that sounds to me more like the overall system of the times than the one man and his purposeful efforts. (And surely you don't blame him for the policies of the Brits. He wasn't PM and they weren't yet our lapdogs!)

And the presidential historians I have taken classes under, including Robert Dallek, leave me under the impression that historians are gaining respect for Wilson, not the opposite as you claim.

On a completely seperate note, I notice this is your first comment on MyDD, so welcome to the site! :)

by Nathan Empsall 2007-09-08 12:09AM | 0 recs


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