Thursday, February 28, 2008

Can Michigan Get a 'Do-Over'?

Originally published at

Michigan voters are literally out in the cold when the subject of the state’s confused Democratic primary comes up.

A dozen or so dedicated supporters of presidential candidate Barack Obama alternately marched and huddled outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in downtown Detroit on a freezing 12 degree February afternoon. The group shivered defiantly as they rallied for the state’s Democratic Party to establish a caucus that would settle the fate of Michigan’s 156 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

“We’re pretty upset about the way the primary election was conducted, and the fact that [Obama] wasn’t on the ticket,” said Lawrence Garcia, explaining why he and other members of the grassroots political organizing group Obama Democratic Future were willing to endure these frigid conditions on a Friday afternoon. “Now folks are talking about making those votes count, even though that was not a valid election.”

The decision to stay on the Michigan ballot has turned into something of an ace in the hole for Clinton. Supporters of Obama and former Senator John Edwards encouraged Michiganders to vote “Uncommitted”, but in the resulting confusion, Clinton walked away with 55% of the primary vote.

Garcia and his group are asking for a new caucus in Michigan. If they can’t get one, they don’t want any of Michigan’s delegates to count.

“It wasn’t a fair race,” Garcia contends. “Common folks like us didn’t have any say in moving that primary to January 15th.”

[To learn more about Michigan’s January 15 Democratic Primary check out “Uncommitted: Michigan’s Democratic Primary Fiasco”.]

Though Obama supporters want a ‘do-over’, the prospects aren’t likely. Michigan’s Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, has said there isn’t enough time and it isn’t practical to pull a caucus together.

“So far I haven’t heard any meaningful or trustworthy plan that would indicate to me that we’re going to have a ‘makeover’ or ‘do-over’ caucus,” Jeff Souza, chairman of the Washtenaw County, Michigan Democratic Party says. Souza suspects that Michigan and Florida may be out of it until the last minute.

“I believe that when a clear leader is established, the Michigan and Florida delegates may be seated just as a formality, as a gesture to the people of those two states so that they do have a voice of some sort,” Souza says.

“But the damage has been done. If [the race for the nomination] is tight, it’s going to be very contentious, and you’re going to see a lot of fireworks and it’s going to become extremely unstable,” Souza fears. “It’s going to be a free for all,”

Indeed, after eleven straight primary victories, Senator Barack Obama has taken a commanding 1371 to 1274 lead in the delegate count and the hunt for the nomination. That’s if Michigan and Florida votes are not counted. If the two prodigal states are included, Clinton moves ahead with 1466 to Obama’s 1443 declared delegates, making for a much tighter race.

All discussion about what to do with Michigan’s delegation has been biased, with each side working to gain an advantage for their chosen candidate.

“The Clinton supporters believe they have a built-in advantage,” Souza explains, “and so I don’t think they really want to have a do-over caucus, especially with the congressional districts’ conventions [on March 29] determining the allocation of [delegates].” There’s a strong possibility that uncommitted delegates who are actually Clinton supporters could be elected, and presumably they would vote for Hillary Clinton at the convention.

Conversely, Obama supporters believe a ‘do-over’ caucus would eliminate the confusion by allowing the rank and file of Michigan’s Democratic Party to determine the state’s choice once and for all. “They feel that they need to make it official and take away the wiggle room or the ability of Clinton supporters to get those uncommitted delegates and make sure that Obama supporters are officially elected by the people,” Souza observes.

Michigan state representative Coleman Young II is an Obama supporter who helped organize the February 22 rally outside the building that bears his father’s name. “At first I wanted to move the primary up,” Young admits, “because I wanted the presidential candidates to come here and tell us what their plan was to stimulate the economy, especially here in Michigan with all that we’re going through. There are a lot of different issues that we have that need to be addressed and should be addressed.”

“Our most valuable asset that we have in this country is our democracy, and our right to vote,” Young exclaims. “I think we’re being disenfranchised, and I think one person being disenfranchised is one too many. That’s why I personally believe that we need to have a redo. The citizens of Michigan were robbed horribly in this process.”

“My vote should count,” marcher Cassie Williams says. “For me to be told that my vote doesn’t count, or that the delegates from Michigan won’t be seated, that’s not okay. That’s not the American way. That’s not what democracy is about.”

“For all of our lives we’ve been told, ‘get out and vote, your vote counts, you matter, you have a voice’,” William continues. “Then to be rendered voiceless, that’s a problem. That’s a serious problem.”

Currently Michigan Democrats are in political purgatory. The state’s delegates have become a pawn in this game but they may never be played. Because state party leadership chose to cut line, Michigan Democrats are forced to watch from the sidelines as the most exciting race for the nomination in fifty years has played out everywhere else around the country.

If the state’s party favors one candidate over another and holds a do-over caucus, it could create even more disention in the Democratic Party ranks. If it fails to act, or it seats the delegates in a close race, which could effectively hand the nomination to the other candidate, full-scale riots could break out at the convention. Come November, frustrated Michigan Democrats in this traditional battleground state may turn to presumptive Republican nominee John McCain who has been accused by conservatives of being too liberal.

“It’s quite a mess,” Souza sighs. “It’s almost like Iraq. There’s no good solution at this point.”

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home