March 16, 2008

Hillary Clinton wants the Democratic Party to check into the irregulaties in the Texas caucuses.

Will there be a postponement? I think Clinton is right to complain about this — because I believe what my own son Chris told me about the Austin caucus he attended. And we need to see that this complaint about Texas implicitly makes a much larger argument that caucuses are suspect — an argument that is extremely important for Clinton, since Obama's lead is largely based on caucus wins. The Clinton campaign is working very hard on many fronts to undermine Obama and even as it seems devious, it may be quite legitimate. There is something wrong with the caucus process, and the association with Jeremiah Wright should trouble us.

42 comments:

Middle Class Guy said...

There is something wrong with the whole process. Texas has always been troublesome in local and national elections. LBJ was a master at gaming their system.

After this election, the FEC should shut out the parties and take a good hard look at the system and develop rules that both parties must adhere to. One would be to eliminate the caucus system.

AllenS said...

And, it would probably be a good idea if people had to be preregistered with a party to vote in their primaries.

AJ Lynch said...

Bill Bradley is acting as Obama's surrogate on MTP this morning. Bradley is a very poor advocate; he lacks energy, has no charisma and is not very convincing in his arguments.

Obama can't win with his "uniter" spiel after sitting in church week after week for 10-15 years listening to a very different tune from his spiritual mentor.

somefeller said...

The whole caucus system needs to be scrapped. It was intended for a much smaller voting pool than what occurred in this election, in order to allow party activists a method to get themselves easily elected delegates to the district and state conventions. For example, about 250 people showed up for my precinct caucus. In 2004, that number was 3.

As of March 11, the vote count for the Democratic caucus in Harris County (biggest county in Texas, where Houston is located) hadn't even started yet. There may or may not be irregularities, but this isn't a system that inspires confidence.

Elliott A said...

Would Hillary be complaining if she had successfully gamed the system and won?

rhhardin said...

I'd run them as a giant capture the flag game.

Tim said...

Too funny.

For a normal person, asking the Democrat Party to check into irregularities in a state's caucuses is akin to asking Fagin if a particular street urchin just picked your pocket.

For Hillary!, it's an appeal to the operation over which she has significant influence, so no one should be surprised by the outcome.

As for Oh-Bah-Muh's troubling association with the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., well, it only confirms that the two remaining candidates for the Democrat nomination are unelectable. Forgive me for delighting in the cannibalistic Blue on Blue, but really, it couldn't happen to a better bunch.

Middle Class Guy said...

Elliott A said...
Would Hillary be complaining if she had successfully gamed the system and won?



Nope. Even if there was outright vote fraud, her response would be the same. The Hillary Clinton stadard canned reply to everything:

"Oh, c'mon now, let's just move on and talk about the issues. Those are more important. Let's talk about my solutions. Let's talk about meeee!"

Elliott A said...

The ability to win the rough and tumble caususes (isn't that some area of Russian Eurasia?) is a good indicator af a candidates ability to organize. Though chaotic, all campaign systems and "organiztion" is chaotic. The ones that reach the most people win. The ones that can't, lose. Of course, things look different now that Obama is self destructing.

EnigmatiCore said...

Iowa's needlessly complicated system just resulted in Iowa giving nine more delegates to Obama than previously anticipated.

Hillary may be trying everything she can, and it is becoming clear that Obama is very much the wrong candidate for the Democrats to nominate, but it is going to be almost impossible for her to pry the nomination from him at this point.

EnigmatiCore said...

"After this election, the FEC should shut out the parties and take a good hard look at the system and develop rules that both parties must adhere to."

Under what law would the FEC be authorized to do this?

madawaskan said...

I watched the caucus first round in Iowa on Cspan and what a mess. There were reports of irregularities there straight out of the shoot.

Worse here in Las Vegas the second round of the caucus process turned into a near riot according to the local reports-the news likes drama but there is evidence that it went bad from the Democratic State party because they decided to cancel it.

Here is a report from The Las Vegas Sun with plenty of public comments.Link

Give that a fair reading and I think all sides look to have legitimate complaints.

I will say this-the caucus process seems tailor made for unions.

Unions know how to work the vote-if you think they don't well...

Could you give me your credit card number?


It's surprising that after the Las Vegas fiasco Obama wouldn't agree that there could also be trouble in Texas.

Middle Class Guy said...

EnigmatiCore said...

Under what law would the FEC be authorized to do this?


Federal Election Law; they are a regulatory agency. We cannot depend on the Legislature to cure a system they allowed to corrupt itself.

Kirby Olson said...

Is Jeremiah Wright worse than feminists like Gloria Steinem, or those even further out there like Judith Butler or Andrea Dworkin? It seems like Wright is part and parcel of the whole identity politics reverse discrimination thing that has now undermined the legitimacy of the universities and more recently the Democratic party itself. It's very much the same thing as the Nazi party: identification through the Aryan race has been changed to identification with blackness or to femaleness or to some other minority configuration, but the principle of plurality and respect for otherness does seem to be what's in jeopardy in the left, although for some reason they try to project this moral problem on to others much as Spitzer tried to project his immorality on to others.

Edwards was at least using a different and somewhat less objectionable marker: class.

What the Democrats are now lacking is any sense of class.

EnigmatiCore said...

"Federal Election Law; they are a regulatory agency."

Which means they have to operate within the bounds of the laws which created it.

What specific law authorizes the type of 'regulation' you suggest?

I believe three things:
1) No such legal authorization exists,
2) If they tried to do so without such legal authorization, the courts would prevent them, and
3) If the legislature tried to enact such a law giving the FEC power to simply tell parties how they can choose their candidates, the Supreme Court would strike the law down as unconstitutional.

And I think this is as it should be. I shudder to think of how a FEC, part of the executive branch, could screw over the opposing party if it had the powers you suggest for them.

It is much safer for all of us to remember that any power given to the government will eventually be abused-- as such it is best to keep it from being concentrated and unconstrained.

EnigmatiCore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
madawaskan said...

*ugh* I just read Chris Althouse Cohen's account of what went on in Austin.

That sounds bad enough but I'm pretty sure it was worse here in Vegas.

Vegas is a large city with some very tough unions.

Kirby Olson-

Not to really get the thread off topic but some military history professors have a theory that the road to acceptance of the Aryan race supremacy was laid philosophically and religiously via the notion of Pre-Determinism.

And with that I'm out!

That ought to catch me all kinds of flak.

ooooh boy!

EnigmatiCore said...

"Is Jeremiah Wright worse than feminists like Gloria Steinem, or those even further out there like Judith Butler"

IMO, yes. He is worse than those two.

"or Andrea Dworkin?"

IMO, no. She is just as bad.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Two points pique my interest.

First, it seems to me that the Clinton machine fairly consistently wins the "machine states," but loses rather badly elsewhere.

Secondly, if the Democrats can't even run a coherent primary system -- and they patently cannot -- why do they think they can effectively run almost a fifth of the entire economy (health care), plus the entire federal government?

Fen said...

Under what law would the FEC be authorized to do this?

Yah, I agree.

This country has always accepted a certain amount of election fraud. Why do we do that?

Florida 2000 spotlighted it, but only because the margin of victory was so tight. Diebold, Caucus shenanigans, Voter IDs. Isn't it time we treated our democratic process the same way we treat national security?

AJ Lynch said...

Fen:

Are you suggesting we spend billions for electronic equipment that does not work? :)

rhhardin said...

Election fraud only matters when the race is close, and if the race is close then in terms of democracy, the particular results don't matter much.

About equal numbers go each way.

Systematic fraud just means that the revolution needs 53% instead of 50.001%, not a big deal.

What does matter much more to democracy is that the result be determinative.

Activist watchdogs do more damage to democracy than the flaw they fix.

Trooper York said...

I agree that we should end the caucus system. But I am old school. Lets have trial by combat. If it was good enough for Ivanhoe it should be good enough for these two political ho's

Middle Class Guy said...

EnigmatiCore said...
And I think this is as it should be. I shudder to think of how a FEC, part of the executive branch, could screw over the opposing party if it had the powers you suggest for them

All regulatory and enforcement agencies and are part of the Executive Branch, but that has not stopped them from working against the interests of the Executive Branch.

Secondly, I am talking about setting standards for all parties to adhere to, not just the Democrats.

There are a few times when government has to step in and change policies that have a deletrious effect.

EnigmatiCore said...

"All regulatory and enforcement agencies and are part of the Executive Branch, but that has not stopped them from working against the interests of the Executive Branch."

Conceded. However, the problems with constitutionality remain, as do the problems with the fact that regulatory agencies work within the specific frameworks authorized by legislation (which doesn't exist in this case) and enforce the laws (which don't exist in this case).

AJ Lynch said...

MCG:

Political parties are in essence fraternal groups. I don't think we want the FEC and other federal bodies meddling with these groups.

I'd like to see the FEC eliminate the ease with which voters can vote a straight party ticket by pulling a single lever. That "enables" the power of the 2 dominant parties.

That said, the answer may be to hope for a 3rd party to form perhaps called the common sense party or some such.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Elliott A: The Caucuses are where the Kossacks live.

Elliott A said...

The FEC or any other governmaental entity cannot have any say since the caucuses are not elections in the sense we are discussing them. They are merely a means that a private entity (a political party) chooses the individuals who will choose their candidate. These individuals are not bound to vote for their candidate anyway. They only become unfair if the party decides they are.

Kirby Olson said...

Madawaskan, what is Pre-Determinism, and who are these military history professors? Can you name two? I've never heard of this.

Bender said...

How very Clintonian of her -- accuse the other side of doing exactly what you have always done.

Hillary's constant bitching and crying reminds me of the poker game scene in "The Sting," where Paul Newman bests Robert Shaw --

Floyd: Doyle, I KNOW I gave him four THREES. He had to make a SWITCH. We can't let him get away with that.
Doyle Lonnegan: What was I supposed to do - call him for cheating better than me, in front of the others?

SteveR said...

Reports from El Paso county indicated that the caucuses went real smooth. You were told to put your name in one spot and Barack Obama's in another. Simple instructions, easily followed.

madawaskan said...

Patton and Rommel: Men Of War in the 20th Century ( New York : Berkeley , 2005) History Book Club selection, BMOC selection, Military Book Club selection.. Polish edition 2006).

Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism, co-authored with William Astore ( Dulles , Va. : Potomac Books, 2005.

The Wars of German Unification. ( London : Arnold , 2004)

Tannenberg: Clash of Empires. Revised edition (Washington D C: Brassey's, 2004. (History Book Club selection). (Original: Hamden , CT : Archon Books, 1990. Military Book Club Selection; Paul Birdsall Prize, AHA. Polish edition, 2005).

The Wars of Frederick the Great, (London: Longmans, 1996).

If it's written you might find it here.

PJ said...

reminds me of the poker game scene in "The Sting,"

That brought a laugh (thanks!) and an afterthought informed by CAC's report from Texas: Clinton may be cheating as best she can, but Obama learned the art in Chicago.

datatroll said...

The Democrat Party has always been involved in substantial voting 'irregularities'. Some out of the pure ignorance of some of their workers; 'our' caucus was an example of that. (I was one of those evil conservatives who helped keep Hillary going just so this political knife fight continued). However, I know for a fact that there are other cases and places (many in minority areas) that any congruence of the process with legality is pretty coincidental. The GOP dares not complain for being labeled racist; only the Dems will be able to finally clean up that particular mess.

Fen said...

Are you suggesting we spend billions for electronic equipment that does not work? :)

Hah. No, paper ballots are the way to go. The problem in Florida wasn't the ballots, it was the Democrat controlled counting boards.

I would start with paper ballots and a valid ID to vote.

Dave said...

"There are a few times when government has to step in and change policies that have a deletrious effect."

Lovely. Just lovely. Who gets to decide when these "few times" are, anyway? Would you let you political opponent choose? If not, then what's the point?

As for caucuses and primaries and such, there is *NO* system that can't be gamed. (Probably relates to Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem). The question is what sorts of problems do you most want to avoid and then what rules you write to avoid them. You'll still get results you don't want, but they should be of the kind you believed to be of lesser importance.

And, of course, the elites within any system will control it almost all the time, that's how you know they're elites.

Man, Democrats crack me up as they attempt to build perfect systems for imperfect people. (Although the people could probably be perfected if we'd only let the *correct* ones choose those "few times" when the government should step in and 'fix' our behavior.)

Daryl said...

To embiggen Fen's remarks, the only proper method of counting votes is to use paper ballots, wherein the candidate is chosen via completing an arrow by coloring in the midsection of said arrow, the pointed head and forked tail of said arrows already printed as part of the ballot, with one such arrow (i.e., one such head/tail pairing with the midsection blank) for each potential candidate for each office. Further the sole standard as to whether a vote should be recorded shall be whether an optical scan machine, untainted by human prejudices in any individual instance, records that the arrow has been completed. Where the machine finds that no such arrow has been substantially completed between all of the candidates for some office, no such vote shall be recorded, and the machine shall deem the ballot an "undervote" as to that particular office. Where the machine finds more than one arrow to have been substantially completed, it will attempt to accord the vote to the arrow that is most substantially completed; if no such arrow is more substantially completed than any other, no vote at all shall be recorded, and the ballot shall be deemed an "overvote" as to that office. The settings of the machines shall be determined well in advance of the election and shall not be altered in a short time prior to the election and shall not be altered, ever, after the election has taken place.

The only proper method of collecting votes to count is via the secret ballot, wherein each potential legitimate voter is given at most one ballot (zero if the voter does not show up; or a so-called "provisional" ballot should someone claiming to be said voter show up at the wrong polling place; or show up at the same polling place twice). Voters shall be required to bring some form of identification corroborating their claim as to their identity. The types of identification acceptable shall be determined well in advance of the election and shall not be altered in the short time before the election and shall not be altered, ever, after the election.

The sole proper method of determining who is a legitimate voter and how to divide up the allocation of delegates, in these elections, is to decide well in advance of the election, not to be altered shortly before or ever after:

(1) the geographic area(s) and total number of delegates to be allocated to those area(s). The number of delegates associated with any given area must reflect one or more of the following, in positive fashion or not at all*:
(a) the proportion of the state's population in that area
(b) the proportion of registered voters in that area
(c) the proportion of registered party members in that area
(d) the number of delegates in the upcoming national election, in that area **
(e) the number of delegates in past elections, from that area
(f) the number of delegates, in past election, from that area, that were sent to D.C. to vote for the party's frontrunner

(2) whether the delegates will be allocated by proportion to the vote, winner-takes-all, or some other means

(3) whether the vote be limited to registered members of the party; limited to registered members and limited independents; open to all voters; or some other such limitation

That's the quick and dirty, back of the napkin, law student definition of free and fair primary elections. To summarize, it should have easy-to-use, secret ballots, and the delegates should be proportioned in some way that reflects the total number of electoral votes at stake in November and/or the total number of electoral votes the Dems can expect that region to deliver for their candidate in November. If I can bang it out, why can't the Dem Central Committee? That's a trick question. They're certainly capable of holding free and fair primary elections . . . they just don't WANT to. The party bigwigs at the national level deliberately created "superdelegates" to give bigwigs more influence, and the party bigwigs at the state level favor caucuses because they have undue influence there.

* "in positive fashion or not at all" shall mean that a coefficient shall be attached to the front of each variable, said coefficient not to be less than zero, because that could allow for gamesmanship in defining how delegates are allocated.

** (subsections d-f are only relevant if national delegates are selected from the same geographical area as the party's nomination delegates are being chosen from, i.e. if there is a statewide primary or if some state has split its national delegates up by regions, such as congressional districts, and the regions by which party nomination delegates are chosen are exactly identical to those regions, individually or more than one of same)

And yes, this is all horrible legal-speak, but I pounded it out in about 15 minutes. A few law profs (or better yet, practicing lawyers!), for a few days, could make this into regular English, without compromising as to freedom and fairness.

M. Simon said...

daryl,

You make one minor error: when deciding between two different arrows or between arrow/no arrow there is no such thing as absolute determination. There will always be noise. Some decisions may be six nines probability of being correct. Some might only be 50-50.

And that is assuming perfect calibration. There could be biases.

Everything that happens in the real world is statistical in nature at some level.

How much perfection do you need?

Mortimer Brezny said...

There is something wrong with Hillary Clinton not dropping out of the race. She is only harming the party. This is pathetic. If she is on the ticket in any way, I am voting for McCain.

Middle Class Guy said...

Dave said...
Man, Democrats crack me up as they attempt to build perfect systems for imperfect people.


Them's fightin words. I ain't no Democrat bro. I just threw that out there because we have a system that is so flawed and broken that something has to be done to fix it.

Kirby Olson said...

Polish edition, 2006. Madawaskan, thanks for this reference. I want the Polish edition. Now I just have to learn Polish.

Seriously, thanks for this list. What a neat bunch of titles: esp. The Wars of German Unification. I always wondered how that worked. I ordered it.

Sordid Business said...

There is something I am not clear about--if you voted for one candidate in the Texas primary, if you went to the caucus, did you have to vote for the same candidate? Furthermore, did you have to vote in the primary to vote in the caucus? Something about allowing someone to vote twice sounds unseemly. Even in Illinois you can't legally vote twice...although you can vote after you are dead.