Friday, March 14, 2008

Of Rules and Revotes

All the sturm und drang regarding the Florida and Michigan primaries has made me think about an interview I heard once with a Major League Baseball umpire. The interviewer asked what was the hardest call the umpire had to make. The ump replied, "Throwing the coach out of the game when he comes out to argue my bad call." What a great answer, I thought. The ump knows that you can't back down and try to change the rules midway through the game, even if it was a bad call. Once the call is made, it's made. Anything else leads to anarchy.

Which brings us to Florida and Michigan. Just in case you haven't been paying attention this year, those two states lost their delegates to the Democratic convention by scheduling primaries too early in the year. They were trying to increase their own importance in the process by getting in the game early. The DNC stripped both states of their delegates and the candidates agreed not to campaign there. Clinton won both primaries (though with only about 55% of the vote in Michigan, shocking since hers was the only name on the ballot) and now says that either the votes should be counted or that some sort of revote should take place. Not a terribly surprising stance for her to take given the increasing desperation with which she needs to win delegates.

I hear the arguments that the Democratic Party shouldn't alienate two battleground states right off the bat and should probably try to come up with some sort of compromise. I also agree that stripping the states of all their delegates was probably not the wisest move Howard Dean and his crew could have made. But I can't shake the feeling that the rules are the rules. I say this not just as an unashamed Obama partisan, but also as someone who thinks we have to actually abide by the rules we agree to abide by.

The fact is, Michigan and Florida tried to cheat. Now, maybe they're right that the system is wrong to invest so much importance in Iowa and New Hampshire. But that's not a justification. Just because the SAT may be culturally biased doesn't mean we should let poor and minority kids cheat on it. These two states knew the rules and tried to beat them for their own ends. Now that they got caught and suffered the consequences, they want a do-over. This do-over would likely give them more clout than had they been allowed to vote early when their primaries were scheduled. Is that fair? You can bet that some super Tuesday states sure wish right now that they hadn't rushed to the front and could hold a crucial, late in the game election on a day all to themselves right now. Should we allow them to hold a re-vote?

The fact is that 48 states followed the rules for better or worse. And the thing about rules is we can't go around bending or breaking them when it's convenient. Then we don't have rules at all. We have anarchy.

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