Thursday, May 8, 2008

How the Rules Are Helping Clinton

Today Senator Clinton is trying out the line that "If we'd had the Republican rules I'd be the nominee right now, and if the Republicans had had our rules they'd still be fighting." This may be true on both counts (that's uncertain), but it misdirects our attention away from the real differences between the two parties and the real political consequences of those differences. The point of the proportional allocation on the Democrat side was to promote consensus democratic practice. The idea was to force the candidates to negotiate with each other, with the goal of a more inclusive ticket. I very much support this commitment to building a populist Democratic Party, not least because it acknowledges the fact that in our system, the voter is sovereign: we are electing the representative of the people's will, not a king or a queen. And the fact is that the Democratic rules have put Clinton in her current position, namely that Obama really has very little choice but to put her on the ticket. The people have spoken because they were allowed to speak. The primary voters have divided themselves into two halves, and that forces the leaders to bring the two halves back together. This is the people leading, and the leaders following: exactly what the proportional delegate allocation was meant to achieve. In the more pluralistic future that is fast approaching this difference between the parties could be decisive, if the Democrats become the populist party, as we should.

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