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Susan Estrich
12 Feb 2016
Why We Do It This Way

Who in the world, one of my friends asked, could ever have come up with such a ridiculous way to nominate a president? … Read More.

10 Feb 2016
Why Women Should Be for Hillary

There is one reason young women should support Hillary Clinton for president. It happens to be, in my … Read More.

5 Feb 2016
Donald Trump: Sore Loser

It was the shortest speech anyone can remember him giving. He was clearly in a state of disbelief. How could … Read More.

What Next?


So now what?

The Republicans have their nominee — and the Democrats have a marathon that it's not clear can be won, at least not on conventional terms.

I remember, 20-something years ago, when we cut the first deal establishing a category of automatic unpledged delegates, the back and forth about whether we were undermining small-d democracy, building in a check on a nomination process gone awry, or just making sure that the folks you wanted to come to the convention would be there without having to run for delegate slots. As it turns out, we were doing all of the above.

It's hard to imagine a scenario in which the PLEO's (Party Leaders and Elected Officials), as we used to call them, do not play a decisive role in picking the nominee. The only question is, how decisive.

That depends.

It depends on whether Hillary can ride her wave from Super Tuesday II into Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico; it depends on whether she can put together enough support in the other states to take a significant share of the delegates; it depends on how close the count is in terms of pledged delegates and the popular vote by the first week of June.

But it depends even more, as is becoming clearer each day, on how party leaders and elected officials, not to mention the courts that I'm betting will be involved soon, deal with the problem of the Michigan and Florida delegations.

Other party chairs before Howard Dean have tried to deal with rebellious states that don't want to play by the rules, but in the end, they've all ended up caving and agreeing to let the rebels have their early primary, or open it to non-Democrats, thus avoiding a serious credential challenge. Fortitude is a fine quality in most circumstances, but it's not exactly what's called for here. A fair solution is.

In a race that's shaping up to be the closest any of us have seen to a tie in our lifetimes, disenfranchising two states with the result that the decision on the nomination depends on party leaders just doesn't have the right feel to it. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida has been even more explicit, taking the position that refusing to seat a delegation from Florida at the National Convention is the first step to losing that critical battleground state in the fall.

He's speaking out publicly because, he says, Howard Dean won't take his calls.

Technically speaking, there are two ways out for the party. The first is a redo, which is the obvious answer, except that someone has to pay for it. Trying to force the state to do that seems to be a nonstarter, certainly in Florida, where the Republican governor and legislature have insisted the party should pay the bill, not them.

The second alternative is to wait until the summer for a credentials challenge, which would be decided in the first instance by a credentials committee apportioned to the two candidates according to their share of pledged delegates (dare I suggest, equally divided). The outcome would then be reflected in a committee report — and, of course, a minority report — to be voted on at the opening session of the convention. The report would either call for seating, or not seating, the challenged delegations. The minority report would call for the opposite. How do you spell UGLY? Great for TV ratings, but not for winning elections.

As the coordinator of all 44 of the minority report challenges at the 1980 convention — the last time we had a real fight — dare I suggest what a bad idea this would be for anyone who cares about the Democrats actually winning in the fall? Or to put it another way, the party's paying for Florida and Michigan would be cheap compared to the price it would pay for letting this fight go on until August.

The third alternative, of course, is that someone will go to court to try to force the state and national parties to do something. Frankly, I'm surprised that hasn't happened yet. The power given to parties to supervise the process puts them in a position where they can be challenged for disenfranchising voters from Florida and Michigan — for not giving them the same right to participate in the process as voters from other states. The fact that the national party is blaming the state parties and the state parties are blaming the national party isn't likely to stop some enterprising voters/lawyers from blaming both and suing them in an effort to force them to take action.

Beware what you wish for. Florida and Michigan moved up their contests in the hope that they would have more influence over the selection of the nominee. They may end up with more than they bargained for.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



4 Comments | Post Comment
How dare the DNC seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan! They broke the rules because they wanted to influence the election, and now they want to influence the election again! This is grossly unfair. And now HRC who thought she had this whole thing sowed up is now taking the "moral" high road by insisting the DNC break the rules. How can it be moral and a high road when she is breaking agreed-upon rules? Only she could come up with that line of reasoning. Ob's name wasn't even on the Michigan ballot, plus he didn't even campaign in Florida where he had zero name recognition but always does better whenever he campaigns. This is grossly unfair. We will be marching at the DNC if the DNC violates the very rules THEY set up and by which OB played fairly.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Cal Ford
Fri Mar 7, 2008 3:18 PM
I suggest that a special panel be arranged to deal with this problem and think that president carter should head such a panel Call it the CARTER COMPROMISE. This panel should have five or seven people on it and be give two days to come up with a solution ....It is obvious that Howard Dean , who openly supports Sen. Obama should have nothing to do with a solution to a problem that HE cause with his original decision which was utterly foolish.
Each campaign should have one member of the panel....Sen Clinton could choose her husband if she wanted and Obama could choose a representative.. the other two or four members could then be chosen with each campaign having veto power over anyone presented up to five vetos. Then let them meet in a small room in a hotel someplace.......No note taking allowed or any transcripts taken or made public. Then the results could be presented to the two campaigns for final approval....If either campaign refused to accept the findings of the CARTER COMPROMISE they would be required to present their objections in writing to the general public. After two days the panel would meet again to try to resolve any remaining differences.
Obviously, Sen Obama has put himself over the party by remaining adamant that the Florida voters not be heard...he lost in a landslide. Well the alternative is for the Democrats to lose avery hard-fought general election because Sen. Obama wants to slap these voters in the face. What a sad day for the Democratic party that Sen Obama is so self-centered and short-sighted. Frankly, if the Florida delegates were awarded in the proportions that the primary indicated, Sen Obama would still retain an edge and the rest of the states would decide the nomination
Is Sen Obama afraid that he cannot win the rest of the states??? If he is afraid, then it is obvious that he is not the right candidate for the Democrats to nominate for the general election. Certainly, if he does slap the Florida voters in the face, he puts those twenty-some electoral votes in serious jeopardy and the Democratic party again will not control the White House. Should McCain win and be a one term president, the republican vice-president will gain standing to be a very strong candidate in the next election and a subsequent term.........We democrats could be looking at twelve more years of Republican control thanks to the selfishness of one man.
I urge that a Carter Compromise be considered... God Bless a country were a lowly citizen like myself can make such a humble proposal
robert lipka
Comment: #2
Posted by: robert lipka
Fri Mar 7, 2008 6:31 PM
If the shoe was on the other foot you better believe Hillary would fight to keep things the same. The rules are the rules and Hillary agreed to the situation prior to her struggle to get the nomination. Obama better be careful. Hillary wants this nomination so bad that she might even have Obama assassinated. Sad to say but she will do anything and has had people mysteriously die during Bill's term. Personally, I am enjoying watching Hillary go down.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Kathaleen McCausland
Sat Mar 8, 2008 7:45 PM
Susan: We are so far apart on our politics, but I think you are a brillant woman and I appreciate your opinions.
Also, I think you look beautiful. I am a retired professional woman and we do what is necessary in our lives to keep up with the world whatever day it is in our profession. Keep up the good work. Peggy (junelewis).
Comment: #4
Posted by: June Lewis
Mon Mar 10, 2008 5:11 PM
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