Monday, February 25, 2008

Why Don't We Just Add A Poll Tax?

Geraldine Ferraro gets silly in the New York Times:

In the Democratic primary in South Carolina, tens of thousands of Republicans and independents no doubt voted, many of them for Mr. Obama. The same rules prevail at the Iowa caucuses, in which Mr. Obama also triumphed.

He won his delegates fair and square, but those delegates represent the wishes not only of grassroots Democrats, but also Republicans and independents. If rank-and-file Democrats should decide who the party’s nominee is, each state should pass a rule allowing only people who have been registered in the Democratic Party for a given time — not nonmembers or day-of registrants — to vote for the party’s nominee.

The notion is that the superdelegates represent grassroots Democratic voters better than voters in a presidential primary -- where turnout often fails to crack 30 percent. This, despite the scandalous fact that each of these elected officials won in a general election in which both Republicans and independents were gratuitously allowed to participate, often after winning uncontested or even more sparsely attended primaries.

In fact, Ferraro is so concerned about these superdelegates winning their primaries that she worries about them being coerced to vote for Obama in order to stave off a primary challenge. Meanwhile, let's keep as many people who might not have their party bona fides together (especially the young people and nonvoters we keep talking about turning out in the general) from participating in the party. Now that's grass-roots democracy.

Ferraro also reminds us of her history in the long tradition of mediocre big-D Democratic politics. The superdelegate system was created after Ted Kennedy tried to introduce amendments to make the party platform more liberal after his unsuccessful primary challenge to Carter in 1980.

In 1984 I headed the party’s platform committee. We produced the longest platform in Democratic history, a document that stated the party’s principles in broad terms that neither the most liberal nor the most conservative elected officials would denounce. It generated no fights at the convention. It was a document that no one would walk away from. We lost in 1984, big time. But that loss had nothing to do with Democratic Party infighting.

Kudos to you, Ms. Ferraro. Democrats lost the Presidency again in '88, needed a third-party challenger to win in 1992 and 1996, quietly accepted a stolen election in 2000 and nominated another unobjectionable and unelectable candidate in 2004. Heaven forbid anyone see Democrats disagree with each other on TV. Let's just bleed for another quarter-century.

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