Thursday, July 24, 2008

The difference between supporting a person and supporting a principle

Today, one of the political activities with which I am involved, The Denver Group, received some attention from the MSM. Both reporters I spoke with were courteous and professional. But the stories they produced about The Denver Group run the risk of conflating two very different things: supporting a particular candidate and arguing for a certain procedure.

Anybody who reads this blog knows that my preferred candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination is Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. But that is not why I decided to co-found The Denver Group with Marc Rubin.

I have said it here and I say it when interviewed: I do not know whether come August and the Democratic National Convention, Senator Clinton herself will be willing to accept being placed in nomination and thereby being entered into a truly democratic election process.

That choice is Senator Clinton's and I would listen carefully to her reasons for accepting or rejecting being placed in nomination were that opportunity offered to her; just as I would listen carefully to her were she to end up winning a meaningful roll call vote and having to decide whether to accept the nomination. Based on her reasons, I might or might agree that her decision is wise but the decisions involved are hers to make.

But I would want this year's Democratic National Convention to include both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton's names in nomination even if Senator Obama were my preferred candidate. This is because I care about something that has very little to do with either candidate. I would care about it if the two candidates who lasted through the primary season without ending up with enough pledged delegates were Senator Dodd and Governor Richardson.

I care about genuine equality of opportunity under established procedures. I care about this for its own sake but also because I believe that it is only by agreeing upon procedures before the results are in is it likely that people who disagree deeply about the specific results can accept that divide yet then move on to support the actual outcome.

I know that many people think that Senator Obama can win the presidency with lots of money and the unhappiness people have with the current Republican administration. I do not think that will work. Senator Obama needs votes from millions of people like me, people who feel that a process that was established without regard to particular outcome must be followed to its natural conclusion. A rigged or short-circuited process taints the result in a way that I find off-putting. So often this political season the Democratic Party, sometimes at the state level and sometimes at the national one, has seemingly disregarded its own rules because some in the Party find that following those rules is inconvenient or fatiguing or scary. I understand those feelings: they are based largely on the fear of uncertainty. But just because one fears or dislikes uncertainty one cannot wish it away.

The Democratic Party's rules and the people's votes produced an inconclusive result with regard to the nominee going into the Convention. Fortunately the party has a procedures for resolving such a situation: any and all candidates who qualify for and accept being put into nomination can be considered by superdelegates, whose votes end up determining the outcome.

Regardless of who that group would end up electing were they presented with a real and meaningful choice of candidates at the convention, I want to see the superdelegates accept responsibility for their positions. And I want Dr. Dean, Senator Obama, and anybody else who is unwilling to see the the superdelegates take responsibility to get over it. The superdelegates are adults capable of exercising their faculties of reason and judgment. Just like we rank and file Democrats they do not need a sham Convention just because that would comfort some folks. I trust that superdelegates understood from the get-go that they might have to decide the contest. Certainly, I along with many others, understood this.

That understanding makes me committed to something wholly apart from my preference for Senator Clinton. I am committed to enfranchisement, enfranchisement wherever franchise is offered. By exercising the franchise individuals go through a decision making process to resolve a situation that was not previously resolved. I insist that the superdelegates be meaningfully enfranchised at the Democratic National Convention, that they be given a real chance to make a real choice. If they choose my preferred candidate, I will be quite pleased. But even if they do not I will feel able to regard the Democratic Party as an institution committed to democratic principles.


Anonymous sisterdo said...

Dr. Li,

Thank you so much for this principled, logical, reasoned yet heartfelt argument.

I've wanted to read such a thing from a legal mind for quite some time. The process should be agreed upon beforehand and followed to its natural conclusion. Here, here. I wish I'd seen this kind of reasoning at the RBC meeting.

It still seems like the greatest shame that the only one they've ever changed the rules to try to push out, was the first woman.

I believe some of the bloggers supporting democracy could run the country, you're in that category.

Congratulations on the NY Times article, it really was respectful and I'm so moved by all you've done. I really applaud and support all your efforts you're a real hero and an amazing lady.

July 24, 2008 at 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Wonk the Vote said...

"That is is what genuine voting is about: genuine voting is a decision making process. And when it it specified in advance as the process to be used in cases of inconclusive results, it must be respected if voting is to be taken seriously at all."

It's not about the candidates. Really, it's about the voters - it's the franchise, stupid! Try as others might to hope-change and trivialize our efforts by characterizing it as "die-hard Clinton support" and whatnot, the right to a meaningful vote is a much larger driving force behind the PUMA movement. That's why we won't just "get over it." There is nothing to "get over" when standing up for ourselves, for democratic principle, and for our country. Bitter is the new brave!

July 24, 2008 at 3:24 AM  
Anonymous waiting4hrc said...

Dear Professor Li,

I agree with Sisterdo's comments. I have also been thinking recently that you and Marc could lead the country. We need clear thinkers like you to keep the focus on what is important.

July 24, 2008 at 3:57 AM  
Anonymous Mirlo said...

I just don't understand how anyone could dispute what you say so clearly, Heidi. Unless, of course, they don't have the capacity to accept a democratic vote. Funny how so many pundits and so called Democrats turn exactly this around and blame the Clinton supporters of not accepting the outcome. But it is the rigging, the bending and prevarication of the established rules, the selecting beforehand, the strongarming that is not accepted.

Everyone is free to vote for the candidate they choose, or not to vote, but that's not the issue here. It is the credibility of the Democratic party; credibility is one of the prerequisits of unity.

Putting Senator Clinton's candidacy in nomination for a real roll call would reestablish some credibility, even if the recent primaries have left deep concerns and many doubts. It is the only possibility I can see, at this particular time, to move towards unity.

Why then is this so very hard to understand???

July 24, 2008 at 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Mary Lou said...

This is such a fine clear treatise on
what makes our system so great when it's operating as it should.
Thank you for all you do to
increase understanding, Heidi.

July 24, 2008 at 8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great letter Heidi.

I think our country has just fallen into a pattern where everything has become so "politically correct" that values, principles has been pushed off of a cliff. It's gradually become worse over years but Bush and friends manipulation of the last 2 elections was blatant.

People like Heidi, Marc, PUMA and so many others who are working for this fight for Democracy have my utmost respect. It has given me faith that there are still good people in the world who also are not afraid to fight for what is right.

"Evil prevails when good men do nothing" - William Shakespeare

July 24, 2008 at 9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's so about principle over person , that a big reason you support Hillary, the person ,IS her own committment to principle!

I am committed to enfranchisement, enfranchisement wherever franchise is offered

Person is the sand, but principle is the bedrock and it's where you have stood the whole time....why you went to TX, much less started the Denver group.

You might find this amusing. I remember Pauline Kael, the movie reviewer, saying she once panned a movie of a friend and they called her shocked and upset ... "I thought we were friends!" But then it's was Pauline's turn for shock," but...the movie was bad. "

That's principle over person.
If we haven't got that....what do we have?

I cannot thank you enough for your efforts.

paper doll

July 24, 2008 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Literate and coherent. You can ask for more in a post.

I've been squalling about the "lack of fair play" since December; to me, that's the term that sums up my disgust with the primaries-- very little fair play occurred, either in the voting, the media, or the rules themselves.

July 24, 2008 at 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your eloquent remarks. It is my hope that The Denver Group is successful in achieving a real Democratic Solution to this race and you I will continue to support you in that goal. The Obama people must fear that Hillary might win if her name is placed in nomination. We cannot choose a candidate for President out of fear. If we do, then we will truly become a fascist state. Our Democracy is at stake here and it must prevail.

July 24, 2008 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger democraticjack said...

Brava, Heidi,

Your article is clear, concise and persuasive and gives those of us less articulate brilliant talking points.
Thanks again.

July 24, 2008 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Anna Belle said...

Thank you so much for bringing the voice of reason into this process. I couldn't agree more.

July 24, 2008 at 11:22 AM  
Anonymous cobalt said...

Thank you Heidi Li. You speak for me.

I will only give my support if this condition is met.

I am a citizen of the United States
of America, not of the Democratic Party.

And as a citizen, I expect no less.

July 24, 2008 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Rosann said...

Excellent post.

It is about the Democratic process at this stage, but in the long run, it is about the repair and revival of this great country. Of the original group of candidates, and, particularly, of the last two standing, Obama is the one who is LEAST capable of leading this country out of the mess it is currently in.

I am scared of a McCain presidency, but I am terrified of an Obama one. Not only are his misspeaks and gaffes pathetic, he has proven time and again that his book smarts did not translate to street smart. Then, I wonder how many grades were legitimately earned by his own research and understanding of any subject.

I will not be able to accept his name on the ballot if the Denver convention continues the sham the DNC has perpetrated on the democrats and the country.

July 24, 2008 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Scan said...

Hey Heidi...great post.

I'd love to see a roll call vote for Hillary. She and her 18 million voters deserve nothing less.

But really the bottom line is... what Hillary wants, Hillary should get.

July 24, 2008 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger LVDEM4HILL said...


Miss you at Bitterpoliticz...know you are very busy...

Love your writing, and I soooo agree and hope that Hillary wants to continue the fight...

I know that she has always respected FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt and her position now is a lot like FDR position, the DNC did not want him either, but he fought on and won!!!! Hillary can win too!!!!

Keep up the good work, we all love you...

July 24, 2008 at 7:04 PM  
Anonymous GaGirl said...

Scan addresses an important point and one I wish we all had more information on - what Hillary wants. We all desperately want Senator Clinton to want to have her name placed in nomination. We surely all want her to be the nominee. We all so very much appreciate Heidi's and Marc's efforts to reach that end. We all hope that Hillary shares our thoughts, but we don't really know for certain. We have faith and we have hope and - above all - we have a shared mission. I am grateful to Heidi annd Marc for providing that mission and a way to work toward it.

July 24, 2008 at 7:27 PM  
Anonymous diana said...

It is my very humble opinion that, should Hillary Clinton want us to quit pushing for a truly open convention, that we would have already heard.

Best thing for her to do is what she's doing.

July 25, 2008 at 12:02 AM  
Blogger jbjd said...

So far, exercising the discretion written into their rules and bylaws to juggle votes in this presidential primary in a way most of us consider is capricious and arbitrary, as the means to install Senator Obama as the nominee of the party hasn't triggered judicial scrutiny of the DNC's shenanigans. (I think the right case just hasn't been perfected.) And petitioning the leadership of the DNC to change their minds about the process doesn't guarantee they won't subvert the process in other ways. So, while I continue working tirelessly to influence a fair nominating process at the convention, at what point do I concede that, to paraphrase James Baldwin, the Democratic Party is no longer the Democratic Party to me. And go somewhere else for representation.

July 25, 2008 at 12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HLF, Thank you for all that you are doing. My wishes are not only for the DNC to listen and follow "their" rules but to also follow the intent in which they were written. I also hope that the Denver Group will not just stop at the Convention. The DNC needs some reform. I was very naieve until this primary about how "UnDemocratic" the Democrat Party truly is. You are 101% right that this is not about a candidate.


July 25, 2008 at 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Alix F said...

Very well said.
Too bad more people don't get it.

July 26, 2008 at 10:41 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home