Back in the fall, when the Florida and Michigan primary debacle was playing itself out, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were playing politics.
Both supported the DNC's sanctions and both pledged not to campaign in those states. It's important to note that there was no rule against their campaigning. And there was no rule that suddenly and irrevocably disqualified and disenfranchised Florida and Michigan. The DNC didn't have the power to make such a rule. What there was was a ruling and Clinton and Obama said they'd abide by that ruling for the scheduled primaries, but neither one ever agreed that Florida and Michigan's voters should never get their say in some way.
In Clinton's case, she was motivated by over-confidence. She and her staff figured they could get by without Florida and Michigan in January. They planned to win big on Super Tuesday, have the nomination pretty well sewed-up, and then deal with getting Michigan's and Florida's delegates seated at the convention later.
But Obama and his camp saw a great opportunity. Taking Michigan and Florida out of the campaign saved him from two big early losses.
There was no principle at stake for either side. It was politics, pure and simple.
At no point, though, did anybody "rule" that Florida and Michigan would not matter at all. They were not going to be "disappeared."
The DNC said that's what it wanted, but it didn't have the power to enforce it. That would be up to the Rules and By-laws Committee and to the Convention's credentials committee.
At any rate, the sanctions punished the wrong people. It punished the Democratic voters of both states. The party leaders in both states, the ones who'd caused the trouble, would be getting off scott free. This was unfair and politically stupid. It would not do the party any good to have the rank and file in two key states feeling disenchanted, disrespected, and disenfranchised come November.
This wasn't about to happen. The trick has always been figuring out how to go about not letting it happen.
The fairest option would have been to hold re-votes in both states. That didn't come about for several reasons, but not the least of them was that Barack Obama made sure it didn't.
Why should he have agreed to his own defeat?
But why should Clinton have agreed to hers? (Because of the math, I know. It was infallible and totally objective and your interpretation of it had nothing to do with your own wishful thinking.) Without a revote, she had only two options, surrender or join in the appeals to the Rules and By-law Committee and the Credentials Comittee to have the "rules" "changed."
Her arguments about how to apportion delegates and whether to give them full votes at the convention or half-votes are self-interested and self-serving but they could only be called unreasonable if there was a reasonable alternative, and they don't consititute cheating.
The only reasonable way to determine how the voters in either state would have voted if the primaries had been "real" primaries was to have held real primaries and, as I said, Obama helped make sure that wouldn't happen.
Which was self-interested and self-serving of him but not unreasonable and does not constitute cheating.
It's not high-minded and principled, though, and it is not very much different than what Clinton's doing.
Both have been trying to work the system to their advantage.
But Obama's had one thing over Clinton.
A National Press Corps that hates the Clintons and is pre-disposed to portray everything they do in the worst possible light.
It didn't take much effort on the part of Obama's team---in fact, it probably took hardly any effort at all---to get the Press Corps and the pundits to start reporting on Clinton's perfectly legitimate and perfectly reasonable decision to continue to campaign as a despicable and borderline treasonous act that only a monster of ego and ambition would have undertaken. Clinton was tearing the party apart by doing the dirty deed of not surrendering and actually going on to win important primaries by large margins. Why, in defeating Obama in the primaries, she was attempting to make him lose...the nomination!
It just showed how all she cared about was her own ambition and ego. She had no concern for his ambtion and ego.
Oh, sorry. I forgot. Obama is a different kind of politician. A humble man of modest ambition who would have been content to remain in the obscurity in which he was so happy and comfortable before DESTINY plucked him out of it and declared him our future President.
No, I haven't forgotten the math.
That was something else Obama had on his side. Not what the math showed. The word itself. The MATH. It sounds so objective and decisive. You can't argue with The MATH. And The MATH showed that Clinton couldn't get enough delegates to win the nomination before the convention.
That the math showed that Obama couldn't get enough either was conveniently ignored.
And now it was Obama who got the "rules" changed.
At least he managed to change key people's perception of what the rules were.
The first rule he got "changed" was the one about the role of super-delegates. Somehow, the votes of the superdelegates became illegitimate if they were going to be used to decide the nomination, particlarly if they would have decided it in Clinton's favor.
That was back when it looked as though Clinton had the edge among super-delegates.
Part of the reason she lost that edge was that a lot of super-delegates became convinced their own votes weren't theirs to give at their own discretion. They had to vote in a way that supported the will of the rank and file in the primaries.
That rule's been changed again since the will of the rank and file is nowheres near as cut and dried in Obama's favor as it appeared to be before Clinton did the unthinkable and actually went out and won all those votes.
The other reason for her losing support among the supers is that Obama managed to get that other big rule change.
The rule used to be that the nominee is the candidate who gets a very specific number of votes cast at the convention.
Obama managed to get it changed to the nominee is the candidate who has the most number of delegates in hand at an arbitrarily declared point in the primary season...say, the end of February, before states like Ohio and Pennsylvania have a chance to vote.
What I'm saying is that Obama managed to create the perception in the Media that he had already won the nomination long before he was even close to winning the nomination and that Clinton in continuing to campaign as if she still had a chance was being a vindictive and egomaniacal spoilsport.
With the help of a Clinton-hating Press Corps, he was able to scare Party leaders into thinking that letting the campaign go on was destroying the party and somehow thwarting the will of the people. He was able to scare enough of the right people into thinking that if they let the nomination be decided by a floor fight they'd be dooming the Party's chances in the fall.
Then, and again I don't think he had to work hard at this, he was able to convince his supporters that if the supers did decide the nomination in Clinton's favor or if she won it in a floor fight at the convention, they would have been robbed! He was able to make party leaders worry that in fact they would be robbing his supporters.
And, amazingly, what was once egregriously unfair, that the super-delegates would decide the nomination, has now become the right and only thing to do.
All of this was self-serving and self-interested and ambitious on Obama's part, all of it was tinged with hypocrisy and double-dealing, and none of it was unfair or constituted cheating or is in any way reprehensible because all of it is just in the nature of politics.
In this campaign, Obama and his team turned out to be the better politicians than Clinton and hers.
That's why he's going to be the nominee and that's why I'm so hopeful that he will win in November.
I think he'll prove to be the better politician than John McCain.
Those of you who wish to think that he won through the pure force of his goodness and the righteousness of his cause and that his beating Hillary was a case of goodness and light triumphing over evil are perfectly free to do so. The rest of us know better. Obama's just another politician with a sharp eye on the main chance, same as Clinton, and that's what we're counting on come November.
Updated: The RBC has ruled that all Florida and Michigan's delegates will be seated but with only a half vote each. It also ruled that all the uncommitted delegates from Michigan will be awarded to Obama. This pretty much sinks it for Clinton.
Updated in the interest of fairness---ha!: The RBC awarded Obama his Michigan delegates as if his name was synonymous with uncommitted. Of course many of those uncommitteds would have voted for him if his name was on the ballot, but back in January a whole bunch of other people's names would have been on the ballot too, and one of them would have been John Edwards, who presumably would have gotten a few votes. There is no way to know how many of those uncommitteds were really votes for Obama and therefore it was wrong to award them all to Obama. The right thing to do would have been to award them to the candidate they voted for, "Uncommitted," and then let Hillary and Obama fight for them. By the way, all the delegates no matter which candidate they're pledged to are free to vote for whomever they want on the first ballot. So this bad and illegitimate ruling by the RBC is unfair and ought to be over-ruled by the Credentials Committee. Do I expect Obama to do the right thing and give up those delegates in the interests of fairness. I don't. But his supporters who are convinced of his superior virtue ought to expect it of him, although why they should expect that he would agree to undermining his own victory is beyond me.
Let me repeat this, because at least one commenter has missed my point. I don't think there's anything wrong with Obama being ambitious or in his playing hardball politics. In fact, I admire him for it.
Updated because I got nothing better to do than repeat myself: In comments, Kevin Hayden writes:
Maybe Clinton's reversal on the delegate count broke no official rule but it violated the spirit and intent of an unwritten agreement between most of the candidates, which is more than standard opportunism.
Sigh. The agreement was that they wouldn't campaign in those states. The agreement was not to leave Michigan and Florida voters out in the cold forever. But let's assume that's in fact what they were all agreeing to. Then, yes, Clinton violated the spirit of the agreement, and I'd go farther, she always intended to, because she always knew that she would need Florida and Michigan in the general election and she wasn't about to stick her finger in those voters' eyes just to make the DNC look good. She just figured she'd be the nominee by then and no one would complain. But all of them had their fingers crossed at the time. All of them. If they didn't, they were stupidly promising to sacrifice their chances to support the DNC's failure. Obama does not deserve a lot of credit for agreeing to something that saved his candidacy nor does he deserve much credit for observing the spirit of the agreement because it was in his best interest to observe that spirit. Self-interest is not a virtue just because by being self-interested you appear to be on the side of the angels.
Kevin thinks that Obama could have won Michigan and I'd guess that's meant to suggest that Obama was in fact being self-sacrificing by agreeing not to campaign. I doubt he'd have won, unless Clinton and Edwards split the non-Obama vote, although it was more likely that Edwards and Obama would have split the non-Clinton vote, but I do think he could have done pretty well there. But there was no way he could have agreed to sanctioning Florida where he'd have gotten clobbered while letting Michigan off the hook. Competing self-interests.
But I'll go Kevin one better. I think Obama could have won the revote in Michigan and done pretty well in a Florida revote. But he didn't need those states anymore, and they would have cost him a lot of time and money, plus it would still have been a big risk. So instead of doing the fair thing or the bold thing, he did the politically smart thing...and I don't see that there's anything wrong with that!