Saturday, August 16, 2008

Howard Dean? Nancy Pelosi? Earth to Dean and Pelosi, please tune in and speak up.

At a time when the Democratic Party needs leadership, what do we hear from its Chair, Howard Dean, and the planned Chair of its upcoming convention, Nancy Pelosi? Nada, nothing, zippo. A resounding silence. I cannot say I find it surprising. I can say that it is outrageously irresponsible.

Nobody seems terribly satisfied with the joint announcement issued by Senator Obama and Senator Clinton stating that Senator Clinton's name will be placed in nomination and a roll call vote will be held even though both Senators seem to adopt the position that this roll call will in no way affect the outcome of the nomination process (????). Senator Obama's supporters are unhappy. Senator Clinton's supporters are unhappy. Each candidate is taking heat from all sides.

But nobody seems to be asking this very basic question. Why are the two Senators expected to figure out the Democratic National Convention, an event held by and controlled by the Democratic National Committee (although the funding mechanism is one step removed from the DNC itself)?

I believe that the vast majority of each Senator's supporters are in complete good faith. Each group has tremendous confidence in its candidate, would like to see him or her the nominee and ultimately the President of the United States. I even believe that the vast majority would prefer to see a Democrat in the White House rather than the election of John McCain.

So, why is the Democratic Party in the middle of melodrama a week before the kick-off of its convention? Because of the incompent and/or absent leadership from the Party's leadership that has characterized this entire Presidential election cycle from the beginning. The present situation is not Senator Obama's fault. It is not Senator Clinton's fault. The blame should go to Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and a variety of other DNC so-called leaders (Donna Brazile, Harry Reid, and less well-known power figures within the current DNC leadership).

I believe that people can learn. Even now, Dr. Dean and the others listed above could take a look at the current situation, learn from their mistakes over this campaign season, step up and take responsibility, and lead the Party through an honest, open nomination convention. A couple of weeks ago, I slogged through one of several attempts to reach Howard Dean's office that I have made over the course of the primary season and post-primary period. This slog was more successful in that I eventually communicated with fairly high ranking people in the Chairman's and other DNC officials' offices. And these people told me the truth, as it turns out - that Dr. Dean was not going to do or say anything with regard to the nomination/roll call matter, that he was just going to keep a low profile.

Dr. Dean's profile has been so low that if sunk another inch, it would be below sea level.

But that is a problem, not a solution to the current problems facing the Party. Both because it is his job and therefore his responsibility and because it is simply foolish to abdicate this responsibility, Dr. Dean should - possibly along with other DNC officials - be making it clear that the DNC will decide how to run its convention. By failing to do or say anything, Dr. Dean is placing both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton in the impossible position of having to do his job. The candidates are candidates. This means that even though they share some goals and interests, their perspective is not the perspective of the Democratic National Commitee. The Democratic National Committee presumably has the following perspective - or one would hope it does - which is that the most important thing now is for a Democrat to win the White House in November. It is not the job of the Democratic National Committee to care which Democrat manages this feat, it is the job of the DNC to make it as easy as possible for the Party's eventual nominee to accomplish it.

I realize that throughout the primary season Dr. Dean and the rest of the DNC crew seemingly failed to take the perspective I just outlined. But it is not yet too late. They could restore credibility to each candidate simply by doing the jobs one would expect of them, and doing them with just a minimal degree of competence. That is, Dr. Dean and Speaker Pelosi need to tune in to reality. They need to take note of what is obvious to absolutely every observer of the current state of affairs, obvious to observers who favor Senator Obama, those who favor Senator Clinton, and those not too taken with either of them: that unless the Democratic Party does something fast, there is a good chance that not enough voters (whatever their party affiliation) will come out and vote Democrat in the fall to ensure that the Democratic candidate beats Senator McCain.

My own view as to what the DNC leadership should do to guard against this prospect: the DNC must insist, to both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton and to all the delegates who will participate, that the DNC is going to use its nominating convention to offer delegates a genuine opportunity to freely and fairly elect a candidate to represent the Party against John McCain in the general election. But even if you do not agree with this solution, surely you do not think that simply standing idly by is an intelligent move on the part of Dr. Dean, et al.

Where is the Party leadership when the Party is foundering? I keep listening for Dr. Dean and Speaker Pelosi to comment on this question: will the Convention be for real or will it simply be a rubber stamp for a candidate who did not actually secure the nomination by gaining sufficient votes from primaries and caucuses to qualify as the automatic nominee?

And I all I am hearing is...silence.


Blogger Valhalla said...

I wonder if both candidates have told Dean to butt out of the negotiations altogether.

Not that that would be an excuse for Dean not to fulfill his responsibilities as DNC chairman, of course. But it would take a strong and true leaders to competently handle the situation at this point, and I have not seen those qualities in Dean so far. Their absence is what allowed the situation get so out of control.

As voters it is our responsibility to hold the party accountable and support the party when justly called on to do so. But it should not be our responsibility to have to call on party leaders to simply do their jobs.

August 16, 2008 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger justsaynotoBO said...

Heidi - I think the DNC's silence speaks volumes.

They allowed the media to run roughshod over Clinton. They allowed Obama's campaign to slander both her and her husband. They joined hands with Obama to let the clock run out on any possibility for revotes in MI and FL and sat by while the Bylaws Committee disenfranchised those voters and broke their own rules by shifting delegates from Clinton to their preferred candidate. They furtively pressured super delegates and bought their votes. And they allowed the media and the Obama campaign to claim victory when no victory had been won. Now that they have Clinton on puppet strings they are simply running out the clock. Silence is golden.

August 17, 2008 at 12:06 AM  
Blogger CognitiveDissonance said...

I share your frustration, Heidi. Unfortunately, though, I doubt that most Obama supporters are clamoring for a convention that gives both sides a fair chance to be heard and for delegates to fairly vote for who they are pledged to or who their conscience dictates (SD's). Everything I hear on the Obama side is that this should be a coronation, that Obama won - Hillary should be tarred and feathered, basically. And it sounds to me like the supposed leadership agrees with that.

I will be shocked at this stage if we end up with a fair convention. It has taken the work of the Denver Group, PUMA, and other groups just to get them to say we'll have a roll call vote. But they're still saying it is just symbolic. So I don't see any softening of the rhetoric that Obama has won.

August 17, 2008 at 1:49 AM  
Blogger democraticjack said...

Whatever the DNC's intent was when they set this up; it has turned into a political nightmare of epic proportions. You couldn't plan a f**kup this monstrous. If their plan was to divide the party then they have succeeded. They need to go and after the elections no matter the outcome that should be our After November Group challenge.

August 17, 2008 at 2:27 AM  
Blogger JessinWis said...

In June, everything was about the DNC Rules regarding recognizing delegates. What are the DNC Rules for the Convention? What is "Fair Reflection" at the convention? Why are Clinton pledged and super-delegates even bothering with the expense to go? Let's follow the process, and have a democratic vote at the Democratic Convention. That simple!! Follow the DNC's rules. And I really hope I was misreading when I read that Hillary would cast her OWN vote for Obama (perhaps just another purposeful bit of misinformation meant to demoralize Hillary supporters)!! Some suggest that Hillary is being spared the embarrassment of possibly not garnering the full number of delegate votes she held in June--that some of her delegates have been pressured to switch to Obama. So be it--let's see who those individuals are!

August 17, 2008 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger G. said...

Yeah, jessinwis -- Hillary can't even vote for herself? Is O going to return the favor, or does only one of them have to show she's a good sport?

August 17, 2008 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Marsha said...

From the Audacity of Hope to the Irony of Oppression. Does anyone else find it ironic that the candidate who talks the most about hope has become the one who oppresses? We know he had to oppress to be elected in Chicago, we know he had to oppress to become the presumptive nominee, and now he has to oppress to actually gain the nomination. The supreme irony is that someone who, to the rest of the world, symbolizes the utlimate triumph over oppression, repeatedly resorts to tactics that stiffle the rights of others.

August 17, 2008 at 4:19 PM  

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