Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Montana Democratic primary -- a question...

After an attempt to move up the Presidential primary to Super Tuesday failed, the Republican Party in Montana created a limited caucus in order to have some kind of say in the Republican Presidential nomination process at a time when the race was still up for grabs. And it took a lot of flack -- not all of it unjust. The party could have done a much better job of publicizing the process, and they could have laid out a multi-election plan for how they were going to move toward increasingly inclusive caucusing processes once the infrastructure for such caucuses were built up.

They could have softened the blow by assigning some delegates to the caucus winner, and others to the primary winner. There are many things that could have been done.

Much of the criticism was understandable, but one of the truly incomprehensible criticisms directed at the Montana caucus process on Super Tuesday was that Montana's voice didn't count. Why? Because Montana went for Romney, who ended up having to drop out a couple of days later. Suprise, surprise... Montana by itself wasn't able to determine the nominee! As if the Montana GOP ever thought it would.

The patent illogicality of these criticisms was stunning -- by this logic, Iowa's vote didn't count, Michigan voters could just as well have stayed home, Nevada should have had a June primary rather than a January caucus, and Super Tuesday voters in the South and West on the Republican side could just as well have stayed home. Why? Because, like Montana, each of these states voted for an eventual loser.

National Republican rules allow individual states to decide for themselves how their own delegates are awarded, including winner-take-all scenarios that ended up making Sen. John McCain the inevitable winner after Florida and Super Tuesday. Republican nominations always lock up faster because of these rules that allow winner-take-all primaries and caucuses, and Montana Republicans thus pretty much have a zero percent chance of voting in a competitive June primary with the nomination still up for grabs.

On the other hand, the Democratic system mandates a 3/5 majority of delegates to win, reserves a whopping 800 delegates to be "superdelegates" who don't have to answer to anyone for their completely independent decisions, and mandates proportional delegation of delegates. This Democratic system does create a situation where it is far more possible for a nomination contest to be alive in June. And as Matt Singer correctly points out, this may actually happen this year on the Democratic side, due to Sen. Clinton's amazing (but, truth to be told, quite expected) comeback.

This would be exciting for Montana Democrats and good for Montana's economy and the Montana Democratic Party.

But our question is this: if Montana Democrats vote in the primary for the candidate who ends up losing the nomination -- what will Democrats and media pundits say who called the Republican caucus "irrelevant" or "useless" just because Gov. Romney won Montana but ended up dropping out of the race two days later?

Will those Democratic and media critics say that Montana's vote was irrelevant? Will they say that Montana could just as well not had a Democratic presidential primary at all? To remain consistent, they should.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It looks like you're not the only one wondering about the Democratic primary process.

I think your question is a good one - but I'm not holding my breath for the media to be fair. They never are. Thats why you bloggers are so darn great!