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April 07, 2008

Comments

its troubling when someone whose work you admire becomes a raving lunatic when trying to defend Hillary Clinton, a curious effect she seems to have on a lot of normally coherent, decent people (see: Bob Kerrey).

this crowd must be kept from the white house AT ALL COSTS.

I'd agree with rob! if he hadn't chosen Bob Kerrey as his example.

how so? am i being too harsh, too soft?

Yeah I read that article, it's really rather scary - a professional historian basing an entire argument on stacked counterfactuals.

happily, the responses to that piece are in the same vein as what publius wrote, above.

If the system made sense, Clinton would be ahead
Defining our current system as not "mak[ing] sense" defines and wins its own argument, right there in the headline (which Wilentz, to be sure, almost certainly did not right).

One could otherwise do substitutions to the key points as one likes, for endless equally valid variants: "Under a parlimentary system, [we'd have an entirely different way of doing things, and so the results would be different]," for example.

Just change the opening clause there as you enjoy.

"Under a system where blonde-haired people's votes were counted at 2-1 of redhaired people's votes, Hillary Clinton would have...."

Etc.

It's certainly a possibly accurate argument, on its own terms, insofar as it goes.

But the trick is noticing the tautology. As usual.

As we all know, campaign tactics are completely independent of rules, so there's no reason whatsoever to think that if the rules had been different, Obama and Clinton would have done anything differently themselves.

(Greetings from scenic Karachi...)

and if UNC had tried making a few more two-pointers instead of trying to win it by missing three-pointers, Gore would've won in 2000, and Frank would've driven a little more slowly, going past Grandma Death's house that night.

It is like the plot of a horror movie, and I know I have seen something like this over the years. An object is found in the jungle, and it possesses magical powers and drives people to madness when they come into contact with it. The only thing is that different people experience different forms of madness.

Hillary is that object. Some people are driven stark raving mad in support of her, others are driven stark raving mad by the lunacy of her campaign and her supporters.

No one here gets out alive.

Aggh. I can't follow John Cole!

I started to read that article and got through the first page before I realized I had read it all before on Taylor Marsh's site. I really enjoyed TM's site but have been staying away, and will hopefully get back to reading her regularly after the primaries and maybe even after the convention...

I particularly liked the odd pining for a "winner take all" system, as if that were somehow fair in a 51-49 race. I bet there are some Republicans who are gritting their teeth that McCain picked up a couple too many winner-take-all states, making it impossible for a more conservative candidate to keep it competitive.

If you have two top-tier candidates, with roughly equal support, whoever wins a state by one vote gets all the marbles -- yeah, I can see how that might seem fair to some people....

Wilentz is obviously (maybe even willfully) ignoring the fact that the Obama campaign (and the Clinton campaign) would've acted differently in the face of his proposed rule changes. Of course, his entire article ignores the distinction between rules set up beforehand (eg Obama winning the Nevada delegate count) and rules changes post facto (eg counting a Michigan election with only Clinton on the ballot). So perhaps he doesn't think of rules as things- rules are a way of looking at a situation, so that you see what you want to see.

The article is just a jumble of BS and bad-faith arguments (eg he uses a mashup of month-old and two-week old polling data to show Clinton beating McCain but Obama losing). It's a shame that Clinton supporters have such a difficult time making a positive case for their candidate. Of course, the last time the tried that- well, 'I remember landing under sniper fire', what can I say.

@rob!: BK not coherent or decent, IMO. But your basic point is correct -- and applies to people with candidate fever generally.

Short Wilencz: The corpse is twitching!

making it impossible for a more conservative candidate
Nothing personal zmu. That’s what happens when you follow John Cole.
While we’re killing memes, could we stop calling McCain Not Conservative? So the wingnuts are unhappy about unchecked boxes.
He’s BushBushBushslloveragain. Screw your silly little wonkyboxes.
He’s a danger to ever’ last mother’s son and daughter of us and bull-headed to boot. The Tough Guy.

Hi Hilzoy!

@Nell: oh, ok. i don't know that much about Kerrey, just when i've seen him speak, he always seemed a little less full of the B.S. political non-speak that so many have, but i could be using a flawed methodology to come to my conclusion.

just like Hillary people!

The person I feel sorry for is Hillary Clinton in all this.

A virtually unknown gal with only pluck and a great heart to guide her, she ran against the powerful Obama machine. And, of course, nobody would tell her that Primaries had rules, so the few hundred dollars she raised through Baked Goods Sales and poor people pitching in were soon used up.

Poor Hillary. I mean, think of it: Hillary Clinton vs. that powerful Obama Machine! My heart goes out to the dear woman and I hope we name her President for Life.

I know she is smart and if the old boys club had let her see that their were Caucuses and "winner-takes-all" the dear sweet passive woman would have had a chance.

Hi felix (and everyone else)!

I can not believe Gary Farber is letting me down! Gary, you have to know a movie with the plot I am talking about above. I know I have seen something where everyone is driven to madness by an object.

No offense taken, and I'm sorry to imply McCain is not conservative. I said "more conservative" -- I hope I'm right in labelling Romney and Huckabee as "more conservative" than McCain, though that may be red-state thinking (some even thought Guiliani was conservative, but he was just a fascist).

Wouldn't Romney have had a lot of delegates to keep him in the race longer if the primaries had not been winner-take-all? I doubt McCain would have gotten to the magic delegate count when he did, had he not swooped up so many delegates that could have been portioned out to the other candidates.

Who knows? Rudy might still be in this thing!!

(Full disclosure: I am a terrible prognosticator. In mid-2007 I predicted the race would come down to Edwards vs. Gingrich...)

Well, I'm not Gary (Actually, I am...but a different Gary altogether), but I think that John Cole is thinking of the HRC campaign as the Loc-Nar

a curious effect she seems to have on a lot of normally coherent, decent people

AFAICT both candidates have that effect on a lot of people. I suspect (though I haven't tried it) that discussing the primaries on the interwebs has become about as productive as discussing the history of land ownership in Israel/Palestine or the relative merits of different text editors.

McCain, fortunately, only has that effect on the press corps...

So this guy starts out by saying that just because Obama leads in the popular vote and delegates, it doesn't mean that represents the will of the people. It means that Hillary who is losing the popular vote and in delegates is really the people's choice.

Nice theory.

"both candidates have that effect on a lot of people"

true, but what to me is deranged is when a candidate does/says terrible things, and normally rational people abandon all that to defend them.

make a list of all the disgusting/stupid/pathetic/insulting things each campaign has said, and see which side of the Dem campaign piles up the highest. THAT will be the campaign that has the most ardent, my-candidate-is-perfect defenders.

the Clintons and the Bushes have a Cult of Personality around them that to me is frightening.

sure, Obama has that too, but a lot of that is because he is (to a lot of people, to a large degree) a blank slate--he doesn't have decades of nefarious deeds and words people have to defend.

I know I have seen something where everyone is driven to madness by an object.

i saw such a movie on TNT last night (again!). the object was quite precioussss.

Didn't we have this counter factual earlier?

Counter factuals are a fun game:


If Lee had won at Gettysburg, the Confederacy would have won the Civil War.
If the Germans had won the First Battle of Marne, they would have won World War I
If Hitler had not turned on Russia, he would have won World War II
If Ho Cho Minh dropped dead of a heart attack in 1963, the US would have won the Vietnam War
If my aunt had balls, she would be my uncle.

Wilentz's article fits right in with all of these.


Object that drives men mad:

A mysterious cylinder!

publius: Stick With Early American History Buddy

Stick with Legal Analyis, Pal

Everything Wilentz says is right on: your basketball analysis, however, is skewed -- a double-dribble turn-over, the ball bouncing off your foot, out of bounds.

Under the DNC basketball rules for the Clinton-Obama basketball game, the 'eccentricities of the 3-point shot' is that it's conditional -- sometimes a basket made beyond the 3-point arc counts as 3-points, sometimes it doesn't, the value determined by DNC rule-makers in the stands who hold up cards like judges at a gymnastics meet.

Hillary sinks ten 3-pointers: 30 points for her. Obama makes nine, 27 points for him. Yay, Hillary is ahead!

But wait - the judges disagree, their cards come up, their thumbs go down - and the scoreboard flashes Obama ahead 36 to 26. The Obama fans roar with approval. The rest of America, watching on TV, scratch their heads. Huh? What? How'd that happen?

Howard Dean explains it at the post game interview, holding up a mimeographed copy of the DNC Rules. "The candidates agreed to abide by the judges discretion," he says.

The Sportscaster says, "But what about the fans at the game, and the ones watching on TV? Don't they have a right to expect that a three point shot is a three point shot?"

"The rules are the rules," Dean repeats stubbornly. "And if the fans don't like it, let them watch wrestling, or golf."

Face it: the Democratic Party nominating process is a crappy, undemocratic system. Clinton wins the Texas popular vote but Obama supporters end up having more to say at the convention? One person, no vote? She who was first ends up being last? Winner gets screwed?

And Wilintz isn't the only one commenting on Winner-Take-All numbers.

from Rassmussen:
"We have to wonder, what would the race look like if the Democrats used the same "winner-take-all" system used in the Republican Party? The results are quite surprising, to say the least."

If the Democrats were to allot their current state delegate totals in a winner-take-all format, Clinton would actually have a significant delegate advantage. Despite having won only 14 recognized contests to Obama's 30, Clinton would currently have a 120 (1738 to 1618) total delegate lead and a remarkable 167 (1427 to 1260) pledged delegate lead. These numbers give Texas' "prima-caucus" delegates to Clinton and do not include Florida, Michigan or the 693 total delegates and 566 pledged delegates still to be won in the next few months.

American Democracy: one person, one vote.
Obama Democracy: flawed system? So what.

It's true, the old boys' club is shutting Hillary out of this contest, let's just hope the superdelegates will fly in to strike a blow for people's power and get Cinderella to the ball!

Jay - do you have anything to add other than "Clinton would have won if the rules were different," which was what Wilentz told us and proves nothing?

g. farber: "But the trick is noticing the tautology. As usual."

The trick is going to be not noticing all the Clinton supporters who ditch the party and either sit out or switch to McCain.

"winning" the primary by getting the unelected superdelgates to give the nod to the loser of the popular vote, the delegate count, the state count, the fund raising numbers, and the result of countless polls: pure Clintonian democracy!

it'd make Bush v Gore look like a ruling that came from Solomon himself.

Jay Jerome:
Your argument would be completely convincing if the DNC rules committee made it's ruling after the primaries in Florida and Michigan had taken place, and candidates had poured resources into the races expecting the delegates to be counted.

Your argument would still have some force if Clinton protested the ruling when it was made, instead of saying at the time of course the unsanctioned primary in Michigan wouldn't count, and even signing a pledge not to participate or campaign in the unsanctioned primaries.

I'd agree with you the nominating process is screwed up, but the solution to that is to fix it. Not hold a race under the rules, and then somehow try to divine what the results would have been under some other set of rules we think would be farer after the fact.

Jay,
If Clinton supporters really will switch to McCain, that is all the more reason NOT to have her as the democratic nominee. If her supporters are such un-loyal democrats, why should she be the DEMOCRATIC nominee?

I've never understood this "if my candidate isn't chosen for this election, I'll vote for the opposition" line. It just shows deceit or complete lack of principle. Either way, it betrays deep character flaws.

"let's just hope the superdelegates will fly in to strike a blow for people's power and get Cinderella to the ball!"

Cinderella? More like a cross between Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley and Tanya Harding.

I've never understood this "if my candidate isn't chosen for this election, I'll vote for the opposition" line. It just shows deceit or complete lack of principle.

remember, though, Obama supporters are the cultists. Hillary supporters are completely rational. that's why so many of them promise to vote for more war, fewer reproductive rights, less regulation, and the opposite of all the rest of the things they claim to stand for, if they don't get their way.

Cleek,

You're right. Of course complete rationality calls for abandoning all of ones principles or trying to manipulate ones peers with scare-tactics.

Excuse me while I go vomit.

American Democracy: one person, one vote.

Which is why, of course, that Rassmussen article tallies up the total number of people who voted for Obama and the total number of people who voted for Clinton and compared the two. Except, oops, no it didn't. Instead, it kept some features of the Dem primary process and discarded others and, voila, Clinton would have a singificant lead in those circumstances!

Cinderella? More like a cross between Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley and Tanya Harding.

Hey, Ripley is one of my heroes, why lump her in that pantheon of suck? I think if Hillary Clinton did show up at the convention with denver in a hydraulic exoskeleton, she would seriously rise in my estimations.

"The trick is going to be not noticing all the Clinton supporters who ditch the party and either sit out or switch to McCain."

I've been travelling, Jay. Did you ever get around to answering my question as to what you'd do?

"I can not believe Gary Farber is letting me down! Gary, you have to know a movie with the plot I am talking about above. I know I have seen something where everyone is driven to madness by an object."

Hey, John, you swine, you dropped me from your blogroll!

Swine. Bastich.

But, okay, there's a jillion of those movies, you're right, particularly if you allow for Transformations and Alien Infestations, and if you'll allow me the liberty of, being very very tired, mixing the three categories indiscriminately and more loosely and casually than I normally would, and without elaborations, but more or less some random examples, in no order whatever: Godzilla and all sequels, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (4 versions), The Blob, endless Mummy movies, every H.P. Lovecraft story Lovecraft ever wrote, Ringu, aka "The Ring," Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom, The Puppet Masters, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World, The Lord of The Rings and the Ring of Sauron, some 82 episodes of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, some 50+ episodes of Angel, the xenite gas in the Star Trek (original series) episode "The Cloud Minders," the Sirens in Ulysses, the Necronomicon, and so on and so forth.

I don't understand supporters of either candidate who vow not to vote for the other Democrat if their candidate doesn't win. A Democrat who votes for McCain will be complicit in the deaths of more soldiers in Iraq and the deaths of the women who die in back alley abortions and the deepening of the current financial crisis.

I will vote for Clinton if she is the nominee. Okay? Having said that, I am awestruck that she is not. She had nearly every advantage, including a super early Super Tuesday that clearly favored candidates with existing name recognition and party machine influence, both of which were hers and hers alone. Saying that she would have won if the rules had been more favorable overlooks the small detail that she squandered a substantial lead even with the rules strongly in her favor. Which is the effect of either incompetence or, more likely, the fact that her support might have been a mile wide but it was an inch deep. This does nothing but highlight Clinton's weakness as a candidate.

I stopped reading when I got to te bottom of the first page and the "prompt" to get me to click through noted "Clinton would defeat McCain in the Electoral College because of her lead in big, electoral-vote-rich states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania"

WTF? To further belabor the basketball analogy, that's like saying the shots Obama missed all rebounded the length of the court and went through McCain's basket.

I don't understand supporters of either candidate who vow not to vote for the other Democrat if their candidate doesn't win.

i've made that vow. i feel no guilt about it though, since i'm counting on NC being, as usual, being solidly in the R column. i'll vote for Obama no matter what, and i won't vote for McCain under any circumstances. but, the only way i could see myself voting for Clinton, is if it's really too close to call in NC and i've develop my thumb and forefinger muscles sufficiently between now and November that i can hold my nose more tightly than any nose has ever been held before.

still, i'm not too worried about that since i don't see any way that Clinton gets the nomination without some kind of horribly awful backroom shenanigans that leaves the party in utter shambles. i know i can count on her to try it, though.

All the above and...

These rules were designed to favor a candidate just like Hillary: well-connected, well-known, and with lots of early cash. Terry Mcauliffe, her campaign chair, was on the DNC when the rules were set. The clear majority of DNC superdelegates (the same ones that wrote the rules) favor Clinton and even declared for Clinton before any voting ever took place.


All the above and...

These rules were designed to favor a candidate just like Hillary: well-connected, well-known, and with lots of early cash. Terry Mcauliffe, her campaign chair, was on the DNC when the rules were set. The clear majority of DNC superdelegates (the same ones that wrote the rules) favor Clinton and even declared for Clinton before any voting ever took place.


"I don't understand supporters of either candidate who vow not to vote for the other Democrat if their candidate doesn't win."

The difference is that almost all of Clinton supporters are traditional voting Democrats, so you are correct that it would be odd for them not to vote for Obama if he wins--they will vote for the party they normally vote for.

Many of Obama's supporters are not traditionally Democratic voters (they may come from the pool of Democratic voters, but they seem to be traditionally non-voters). They will be voting for the party they normally vote for if their candidate is not the nominee--unfortunately for the Democratic party, their normal party vote is 'none'.

I don't understand how Obama is to blame for the way votes are apportioned in Democratic Primaries. I have voted DEM since 1972 and live in NY. The Presidential Primary is very difficult to understand and has been since I first voted, with delagates running as a group of names only insider-insiders have ever heard of.

Obama was 6 when I voted my first Democratic vote in a Primary, June 1972. How is the fact that the rules are the way they are his fault? and how does it make him a fascist, as some of you suggest with him being against one mane=one vote?


Poor Hillary came out of nowhere with just her pluck and belief in the Democratic Party. All she had was 100 million dollar lead in money raised, name recognition, her husband's 8 years as President, his political machine.


And all the poor Clinton's have to show for their years of selfless service is 110 million dollar income that will rise when Hillary restores them to their rightful place.

The Clinton's are a disease on our soul.

"Under the DNC basketball rules for the Clinton-Obama basketball game, the 'eccentricities of the 3-point shot' is that it's conditional -- sometimes a basket made beyond the 3-point arc counts as 3-points, sometimes it doesn't, the value determined by DNC rule-makers in the stands who hold up cards like judges at a gymnastics meet."

Incorrect analogy. A more apt one would be Clinton trying to claim 3-pointers made from out-of-bounds, and complaining about the pre-defined field of play after the fact.

You know, you might have at least gestured toward some objectivity in this post by also quoting the sentences immediately following the sentences you did quote, reproducing the entire paragraph:

These arguments might be compelling if Obama's leads were not so reliant on certain eccentricities in the current Democratic nominating process, as well as on some blatantly anti-democratic maneuvers by the Obama campaign. Obama's advantage hinges on a system that, whatever the actual intentions behind it, seems custom-made to hobble Democratic chances in the fall. It depends on ignoring one of the central principles of American electoral politics, one that will be operative on a state-by-state basis this November, which is that the winner takes all. If the Democrats ran their nominating process the way we run our general elections, Sen. Hillary Clinton would have a commanding lead in the delegate count, one that will only grow more commanding after the next round of primaries, and all questions about which of the two Democratic contenders is more electable would be moot.

Somehow, the basketball analogy doesn't seem quite to hack it anymore does it? Basketball rules are pretty much contrived out of thin air, being, after all, a purely contrived game. But the Democratic primary process has an absolutely key, uncontrived, goal: producing a candidate with the greatest viability in the general election. Is it too hard to grasp that the rules guiding the Democratic primary process should therefore bear some strong resemblance to rules of the general election?

Maybe if you can't deal with the argument as it is actually stated, you might try criticizing arguments more your own size?

"On the one hand, some claim the CIA aided and abetted the coup (and at a minimum the U.S. looked the other way)"

I'm not clear what you mean by that, but the details of exactly how uninvolved with various coup attempts in Chile are extremely well documented and in the public record, both via official CIA histories, and the various detailed and reputable outside histories.

How many thousands of pages of documentation would you like cites to, please?

I couldn't agree more that close studies of these topics will help prevent misunderstanding and being misinformed or uninformed.

Some superquick links: try here. here, perhaps here, here, here, here, here, and, oh, that's enough trouble for the spam filter.

Try also many books, of which one of the most recent would be Legacy of Ashes; it'll be at your local library.

I've got something in the thing I apparently can't name, but starts with "s," is two four letter words, appropriately enough, and ends with "p," and I'd appreciate someone letting it out.

Thanks.

Is it too hard to grasp that the rules guiding the Democratic primary process should therefore bear some strong resemblance to rules of the general election?

Is it too hard to grasp that this would have been a far more effective argument if it had been raised at the beginning of the primary season, when Clinton was still polling ahead of everyone, rather than only after she lost that lead?

But the Democratic primary process has an absolutely key, uncontrived, goal: producing a candidate with the greatest viability in the general election.

Is that really true? Because the primary contest is not a single contest, but a large number spread out over time and the map, it seems that there are multiple, contradictory goals involved.

Furthermore, basketball rules aren't ab ovo, but relate to a large number of other considerations, which include maintaining parity (remember the Lew Alcindor rule?), ensuring the flow of the game, presenting the appearance of fairness and maintaining historical continuity. I would suggest that all of these also apply to primaries.

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