Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rules Are Rules

The Democrats are in a quandary this year. Back in 2000 during the Florida recount debacle, they were arguing that rules weren't really that important. Republicans argued that the rules for vote counting had been set and that it wouldn't be fair to change the rules after the election and institute new counting standards for votes. Democrats believed there was a higher principle at stake and spurned the value rules. They were just too brittle!

Returning to 2008, it seems the Democrats have discovered the good old time religion of rules after all! Each of the leading candidates has their own "rules" argument.

Let's start with Clinton. She argues that we must count the votes in Florida. (Echoes of 2000 there.) A lot of people turned out to vote, and it isn't right to just ignore them. Sure, they broke the party rules, but it was really the nasty Republicans that moved the primary anyway, and the Democratic primary voters have a right to be heard notwithstanding the rules.

For Clinton, it doesn't matter that Obama, the lesser known candidate at the time, didn't get the opportunity to campaign in the state. Tough luck. "I've been on the national stage longer and I deserve the points for my win in this name-recognition competition." That seems to be her argument.

Just like in 2000, Clinton wants to disregard the rules that were set in place before the competition and pick a different outcome that suits her better. Obama is left to argue that "rules are rules." Just like Republicans back in 2000.

On a different front, Obama argues, generally via surrogates, that the "super delegates" must respect (i.e. rubber stamp) the results of the pledged delegate race. After all, if Obama wins more states, gets more total votes, and pledged delegates, he deserves the nomination. The super delegates shouldn't be going against the "will of the people."

The Clinton camp has a ready rebuttal to this line of reasoning: "rules are rules." There isn't any point in having super delegates if they can't make up their own minds. If pledged delegates had to carry the day, then we'd only have pledged delegates. But we don't. We have two types of delegates, each able to vote within different parameters. Those are the rules and they exist for a reason. Furthermore, the popular vote totals are irrelevant. Team Clinton can argue that they would have run a different race if they'd been trying to win over a majority of voters rather than a majority of delegates. You can't change the rules after the game has begun! That argument again sounds a lot like the Republicans back in 2000.

To each candidate, I'd say: rules are rules. If you don't like the rules, work to get them changed within the proper process. Quit trying to change the rules midstream. We need the predictability of a system of rules and laws if we're to have a fair and functioning republic. Let's all agree to play nice and play fair.

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