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Image before issues backfires on LA Democrats

It seems very likely that Pres. Barack Obama will wrap up the Democrats’ nomination for the presidency after today, regardless of the eventual outcome of an incident in Louisiana where the state branch of the party, famous for its ability to construct omelets on its face, just went and cracked a few more eggs to add to its embarrassment.

Last month, ironically driven by voters who will not support the party in the general election, a hard leftist Tennessee lawyer named John Wolfe appeared to have won delegates in the state’s presidential preference primary, the rules stating that anybody who earned more than 15 percent of the vote in a state congressional district was entitled. By the rules, he seemingly won three, the first that would have been awarded not to Obama.

Democrats at all levels, knowing Obama faces trouble in reelection, desperately want every advantage they can muster and strongly desire the appearance that Obama has perfectly solid support within the party, thus making it imperative that nobody but Obama wins delegates to their national convention. With Wolfe’s results threatening this chimera, the state party decided to shut him out, announcing that his failure to file relatively simple if somewhat tangential requests regarding his candidacy (although no forms are provided in the delegate selection plan) that it claims was available prior to its due dates (an assertion disputed by another candidate) voided his opportunity to receive any delegates.

Of course, this begs the question that, if months prior to the primary, the state party knew these rules had not been followed, then and there why did it not announce that the candidates who had not complied could not receive delegates (the only candidate who complied, by the word of state party officials but unverifiable by independent sources, was Obama)? While state law governs who qualifies for this election, it gives parties, both at the national and state level, discretion to set rules regarding delegate distribution.

This question the state party would rather avoid because it would not want to give the honest answer: it had hoped that Obama would sweep all delegates, creating an impression of invulnerability, while at the same time sidestepping making the party look less open and democratic by immediately disqualifying delegates to other candidates on mere technicalities. Thus, it wished to escape either Obama looking vulnerable or the party looking more totalitarian, banking that it could keep from having to issue disqualifications by no other candidate winning a large enough proportion of the vote in any district.

The only way this strategy could blow up would be what happened, putting the party in a Hobson’s choice of permitting cracks in Obama’s reelection armor or coming off as petty and tyrannical by denying Wolfe delegates. Even then, there seemed to be hesitation about what to do, as the appropriate time to have announced that, despite his results, Wolfe could not receive delegates would have been right after certification of the vote. It was almost a month later when the party felt forced to make the announcement of the denial.

It looks like it won’t get off easily in the arena of public opinion – Wolfe has promised legal action on the basis that the plan also states the primary results are “binding” on delegate selection, keeping the unflattering matter in the public eye. Given the recent demonstrated impotence of the state party – its failure to field any major candidates in statewide elections last year, continued electoral losses in legislative and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education memberships, and deterioration of its number among local elected officials as well – it didn’t need to collect an additional indicator for itself and the public of its ineptitude, but it has managed to do so.

Not that the state should share in it or allow it in the future. A simple statutory change prior to the next presidential preference primaries could mandate that if a candidate qualifies for this election this then automatically qualifies him to receive delegates if he presents a slate of them by party rules, having to meet no other non-numerical party requirements to do so. This ensures electoral results of intra-party competition more faithfully reflects party voters’ will, rather than subject that to shenanigans of party functionaries concerned more with image.

But for now, state Democrats by taking this course must live with another reminder that when you are on the losing side of issues positive image maintenance becomes paramount, and the risk striving for that can backfire remains ever present.


Mr. Harris Plutocrat said...

Boring. Another whiny post from Jeff. He can't contain his excitement over any sort of liberal-tinged scandal. But let this post be a great indication of just how scandal-free this administration has been. Three years into it and barely anything afoot for the professor to write about except for a stray unknown candidate taking a delegate. Frankly, there are meaningful things to write about, such as closing down Gitmo, ending wars, prosecuting torturers, none of which he has done adequately in spite of promises. You don't really see that on this blog, though. Instead, you see tiny insignificant things being blown up into symbols of evil. That's more Jeff's speed. Except that he occasionally tosses in a "study" to give the veneer that he reasoned his way to his position.

You'd think that in letting a pair of black panther nationalists loose into the white house, that they'd do a bit more damage. Maybe all that hysterical outrage was an exaggeration after all, right Jeff?

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