If Anything, The System Was Rigged For Clinton
by animated, Sun May 25, 2008 at 07:12:54 PM EDT
Now that it looks like Clinton will lose, Clinton supporters are up in arms, comparing flaws they see in the system to slavery and rigged elections in Zimbabwe. These comparisons are troubling because, if anything, the system was rigged in Clinton's favor from the beginning.
Undemocratic? What else would you call an election where the establishment candidate started off with a 100-delegate advantage, before the first vote was cast? It's why at the time, many Obama supporters such as myself, viewed him as a longshot even if he were to do well in the early contests, because he'd have to pull ahead by an equal amount in pledged delegates, a nearly impossible feat in a proportional system.
As one journalist put it:
Think 100-yard-dash (I ran track in the pre-metric system days) with Clinton starting 20-yards ahead of Obama. To mix metaphors -- that's not exactly a level playing field.
The Nation had even harsher words, calling the system "rigged:"
The obvious beneficiary of the superdelegates this time around is another establishment favorite, Hillary Clinton. Before Super Tuesday, Obama had sixty-three pledged delegates, compared with Clinton's forty-eight. But as we went to press Clinton had a huge advantage in superdelegates, 184 to ninety-five, according to CNN. "Many of the superdelegates were in and out of the Clinton White House, invited to dinners, have received contributions from Clinton allies," says Hart, who has endorsed Obama. "There will be pressure brought to bear to cash in those chips."
Not only did the Clinton name allow Hillary to create this built in advantage, but the scheduling of the primaries calls into serious question whether the Democratic party should institute some kind of conflict of interest policy re: primary campaigns.
Clinton's campaign chair, Terry McAuliffe, who ran the DNC from 2001 to 2005, is largely responsible for scheduling of the democratic primary system as well as the creation of the Super Tuesday national primary. Few have complained about this, but think about it for a sec. How would Clinton supporters feel if David Axelrod had set up the primary schedule?
Hillary benefited from the accelerated schedule in one huge way - name recognition. While Obama had to spend time and money introducing himself to voters, Clinton could count on being the "default candidate." How else to explain the fact that she had what looked like insurmountable leads in nearly every state, leading front page bloggers on this site to speculate that Obama might only win Illinois and Georgia?As John Nichols puts it:
McAuliffe makes no secret of his desire to have Democrats mirror the Republicans' compressed nominating schedule-- which helped front-runner Bush dispatch the more appealing John McCain in 2000.
"If you tighten up all the primaries at the start, it will limit the serious choices for Democrats to those candidates who are well-known or well-financed, or both. That takes away the range of choices, it makes the process less exciting and, ultimately, less connected to the grassroots," says (Fred) Harris, a former senator and 1976 candidate for the presidency.
There's no doubt - success in the caucuses, which had fewer participants, was instrumental to Obama's ability to overcome Clinton's lead. But Clinton could have easily put substantial resources into the caucuses as well - part of the $30 some million she spent on Iowa, for instance. What Obama couldn't do was replicate the powerful built-in advantage Hillary had at the beginning of the campaign.