Hillary: The Way to Win
by Nobama, Sat May 10, 2008 at 07:53:07 PM EDT
Sen. Hillary Clinton has a better than even chance of winning the Democratic nomination, contrary to popular and uninformed opinion. The goal post has always been 2209 delegates needed to win, not the arbitrary 2025 number that doesn't include MI and FL. The primary process has always been about choosing the best candidate for the general election. That process has changed over the years. Over the past 4 decades, the Democratic party has had a 70% failure rate. Why is that?
Let's take a look at the history of presidential elections as they pertain to changes in the nominating rules, starting with 1968. LBJ's VP, Hubert H. Humphrey, was the heir-apparent, but he was challenged from the far left by Eugene McCarthy. Coming late to the race was RFK who was assassinated by a Palestinian on the night he won the CA primary. The Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago that year and to say it was tumultuous would be putting it mildly. Outside the convention center was what amounted to a police riot. IOW, all hell broke loose.
McCarthy tried in vain to gain the 1968 nomination but it ultimately went to Humphrey who didn't even run in the primaries except through surrogates. He lost to Nixon. Humphrey won 13 states plus DC, totaling 191 electoral votes (EVs). Nixon won 301 and George Wallace won 46. While that may have seemed like a crushing defeat at the time, the party hadn't seen anything yet.
The nominating process for the Democrats up through 1968 used the winner-take-all process that the Republicans still mostly use today. There were no automatic or superdelegates (SDs). George McGovern, not content with the system in place at the time, set up the McGovern Commission that changed the rules to proportional assignment of delegates. That way, a candidate on the far left would have a much better chance of gaining the nomination. Sure enough, McGovern won the 1972 nomination, beating out moderate favorite Emund Muskie, Humphrey's 1968 VP running mate.
Nixon won that election in the biggest landslide ever seen. McGovern won MA and DC, totaling 17 EVs. That was quite an embarrassment to the party so they decided to try something different to help prevent that sort of catastrophe. You see, Muskie had come in a close second to McGovern and had Muskie been given a chance to run against Nixon, he might still have lost but he also would have won a lot more states. Presidential elections are about a lot more than just who gets to be president. They're also about how candidates fare down the ticket but more about that later.
The 1980 election saw another Republican landslide. Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan, 49 to 489 EVs, a factor of nearly 10.
As a result of defeats in 1972 and 1980, the Hunt Commission established a system of superdelegates (AKA automatic or unpledged delegates) in time for the 1984 convention. They consist of party leaders and and elected officials. SDs don't have to declare for a candidate until the convention and they can change their mind once declared.
The 1980 election saw a massive migration of blue collar white people away from the party. They are called Reagan Democrats and they left because they felt the party no longer represented them. Indeed, the Democrats lost in 1984 and 1988 as well. Walter Mondale lost to Reagan 13 to 525 EVs. Mike Dukakis fared somewhat better against George H.W. Bush in 1988, winning 10 states plus DC, 111 to 426 EVs. The reason for these spectacular losses? The party had shifted too far to the left, leaving behind moderate, centrist Democrats that the Republican candidates were happy to have on their side. Are we about to make the same mistakes?
One reason given to have the SDs is to make up the difference and provide a margin of victory in a close race. If that's all they're for, you could simply have a rule that says the one with the most votes wins. Nope, it isn't that simple. A bunch of politicians want to have their say. They want a nominee who is best for them and the party. That means that other things need to be considered besides pledged delegates. Given the history, electability has to be tops on the list. Next comes the electability of politicians down the ticket in light of who's at the top of the ticket.
We have an extremely imperfect method of choosing the nominee for the presidential election. There are open and closed primaries, proportional delegates, and caucuses. IMHO, caucuses should be banned. They're extremely undemocratic and unfair. There are no caucuses in the general election so they're a very poor way to determine who might have the best chance in a real election. The purpose of the primary system is to test and choose the best candidate for the general. The purpose of the superdelegates is to make sure the choice of the people is the best for the party and for other candidates running concurrently with the presidential candidate in the general.
With the goal of 2209 delegates to win the nomination in mind, Obama has 1937.5 and Hillary has 1890, a difference of 47.5. Failing to consider MI and FL is political suicide. Hillary is also near even in the popular vote count. There are a bunch of contests to go so Hillary will gain some delegates and will likely end up with more popular votes. The question becomes, will Hillary lose the nomination because she has fewer delegates gained by winning caucuses in red states that a Democrat has little to no chance of winning? Is the purpose of the nominating process to choose the least qualified, least electable candidate? Would superdelegates squander their chances of winning in November? I think not.
Hillary has demonstrated her strength in key states and in key demographics necessary to win against Sen. McCain. Please see: Swing State Democrats Say Hillary Best For Top Of Ticket
It's worth noting Bill Clinton's spectacular win in 1992. To really appreciate his win vs. other contests, please take a look at this interactive electoral map. He won 32 states plus DC for 370 EVs to Bush's 168. There's a Select the Year pulldown menu just above Michigan. Choose different years and see the results. Neither Gore in 2000 nor Kerry in 2004 could win OH or FL, thus losing those elections. Hillary can win those states plus a whole lot more. Looking at that map, Hillary could well win 339 EVs if she's given the chance. Polls suggest Obama would do far worse and probably lose the election.
If the superdelegates make the right decision for the party, for themselves, and for the country, Hillary will be our nominee. There's too much at stake. Losing again is not an option.