Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dear Hillary,

I've favored Hillary throughout the Democratic Primary race. It's not that I don't like Barack Obama, because I think that he is a very strong candidate with the potential to be a transformative president. Given two differently appealing candidates, I've leaned towards you, Hillary. But it's time to gracefully withdraw.

My wife and I had a long discussion on Super Tuesday about superdelegates and how they should make their decisions. I tried to lay out all the legitimate lines of argument that I could think of.
  • Because they are selected by their constituents, whomever their constituents (i.e. district or state, as appropriate) supported in the primaries/caucuses. 
  • Because they have special responsibility to the party as a whole, whomever wins the national popular vote.
  • Because they have been entrusted by their constituents to use their best judgement, whomever they believe will make the best president for the country.
  • Because they are specially responsible for their constituents' interests, whomever they think will be the best president for their district. 
  • Because they have been entrusted by their constituents to use their best judgement and it is critical that the Dems win the general election, whomever they believe has the best chance of winning in November.  
I respect that their are different arguments. I only asked that they declare their preferred argument and make their thinking transparent. Of course, they'll make some decision or other, and cite whatever logic they think will hurt them the least and perhaps help them the most. But I hate it when people change their argument to suit their pre-ordained conclusion . Hate it!

However, I don't respect the argument that the superdelegates must automatically reinforce the so-called "pledged delegate" count. Were that the case, they would not need to exist. If they exist, they must have some sort of purpose. They are part of the rules. If race is tight enough for a margin in superdelegates to overwhelm a margin in pledged delegates, so be it. That's how the rules were set up. Keep in mind that superdelegates are the elected representatives of the party. Democratic senators, congressmen, governors and former presidents were elected by the people. DNC members were elected by the party members who chose to show up and state party meetings and conventions. Yes, there is a small number of "unpledged add-ons," but the majority of them are elected by state party leadership -- who was elected by state party members.

So, my wife pressed me for which argument I thought was the strongest, which I would use. That wasn't hard for me to answer. I think that the Democratic Party should always nominate the candidate preferred by the members of the party, by which I mean primary voters and caucus-goers. There are lots of rules in each state, inconsistent across states, rules that distort the will of the people. Obama got more delegates out of Texas and Nevada, even though he lost the popular votes in each state. In my view, superdelegates should correct that kind of mistake.

We are the Democratic Party. We should stand for democracy. Especially after the 2000 election. Whomever gets the most votes should win, regardless of which states they came from. Regardless of when they came. More votes is more votes. 

Now, I understand that this argument diminishes the role of caucus states because turnout is lower in caucus states. That does not bother me. I don't care about states; I care about people. Caucus states can adopt primaries or run their caucuses like primaries. A state should have a bigger voice only if it has more people turning out for this election. 

Obviously, a tight three-way race could lead to one candidate having more first place votes, but the other being preferred in a two-way race. Yes, I can foresee that. But that it not what we have today, and I hope we do not have to deal with it. Though, to be honest, computerized voting makes any number of solutions to that problem easy to implement.

So, I've been favoring you, Hillary, all year. And though it has been clear for quite some time that you could not catch Obama in the pledged delegate count, I did not think that you should drop out of the race. If you could pull ahead in the popular vote count, I thought that you should stay in the race. But after the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, it is now clear that you cannot. And without that, you don't have a strong enough argument to sway enough superdelegates to overwhelm your pledged delegate deficit. 

If you could say to John Kerry, "Look, the Democratic voters of your state favor me, the Democratic voters of the nation favor me and I am the party's best matchup again John McCain," you would have an argument. But the matchup argument is not clear, and you don't have the national vote argument. I even buy the the matchup argument. That is, based on exit poll data over the course of the last three months, I don't think that Obama has appealed to swing voters as much as I thought he would and I don't trust the young to turn out. I honestly think that you have a better chance of winning swing voters and base voters with Barack campaigning his heart out for you than he does with you campaigning you heart out for him. 

But you have lost the popular vote. Even with Michigan and Florida, which I believe do count, you cannot win the popular vote. 

And that means that it is time to drop out.

My wife has been a fervent  Obama supporter, but she had not given any money to his campaign. You see, we did not think that it made a lot of sense for us to give offsetting contributions. Moreover, we knew that the winning candidate would need primary money after s/he had the nomination locked up. So, we've been waiting. Well, last time, at 1am, we gave $250 to the Obama campaign. 

I am sorry. I am sorry for the party and the country that my preferred candidate, the one that I think the country needs most at this time, has not won the nomination. However, I am glad that the Democratic Party has an exciting, brilliant and inspiring candidate to lead us to victory in November. I look forward to your campaigning for him. 

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