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Oglesby: Democrats should follow their rules when picking presidential nominee

POSTED: June 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Far be it from this pragmatic conservative to tell Democrats how to select their nominee or who it should be. Their very public, intraparty controversy makes the process itself fair game. Should one of the two left actually become president, he or she will be president of all of us.

Should that become the case, we’d all best pull hard for our next president to succeed. Failure means our country fails. Those who claim our country has failed during the current presidency need remember that the Democratic Congress has spent virtually full time seeking revenge for 2000, blocking every Bush initiative, only rarely making government a cooperative effort.

I strongly believe political parties should select their nominees however they choose: convention, caucus, primary election, a combination, whatever. They should be able to let only party members participate or, if they choose, let members of other parties or even independents help. They’re not electing the president; they’re nominating a candidate to run under their philosophy of governance.

Democrats have patched together what was intended to be an all-inclusive method. Like Republicans, they actually nominate at the national convention. Delegates to that convention are chosen in a variety of methods. Most state parties let everyone, even Republicans, participate.

Rather than winner-take-all, they chose to divide delegates according to the candidates’ respective votes. Not only that, they require the delegates to be broken down in further racial and gender categories. Many states’ laws require delegates to vote through at least two roll calls for the candidate they pledged to support.

This was intended to make the nominee the people’s popular choice, much as the House of Representatives supposedly reflects the popular will of the moment. Then, much like the Senate’s role to be more reflective and deliberate and prevent costly mistakes, they created superdelegates to do this very thing. These are seasoned politicians who understand inner workings of government. They’re the current controversy.

The party established rules when primaries would be. Break them, and delegates wouldn’t be seated. Florida and Michigan defied the rules. Candidates didn’t campaign in either state. As a result, many citizens didn’t vote and no one knows what the results would be had there been campaigning and a normal turnout. Both remaining candidates now want the delegates seated in numbers that favor them.

I believe rules should be followed regardless of how either candidate is hurt or helped. If you’re not going to enforce them, don’t pass them. For the record, following the rules would most hurt the candidate I think would be best for our country should that party win the oval office.

Just as I think delegate selection in the primaries and caucuses should follow the rules, the superdelegates should perform the function for which they were created. Barack Obama’s supporters want them to vote as did their states. Doing that makes them nothing more than an extension "of the House," negating the sobering deliberation of "the Senate" as intended.

This doesn’t claim the superdelegates should vote for Hillary Clinton, whom I believe is the Democrat most likely to defeat John McCain. It says they should consider all factors soberly and cast their votes accordingly.

I realize what I’m saying. I cannot cast my general election vote for either Clinton or Obama. No Democrat in the Senate has a more liberal voting record that Obama, who ranks as the No. 1 liberal. Only 14 Democrat have a more liberal voting record than Clinton. She’s No. 15. Those rankings come from a top-rated liberal vote tracking organization.

The next president will probably nominate three or four Supreme Court justices. Probably more importantly, he or she will select several hundred district and appellate court justices who feed cases to the Supreme Court. Appointments to the lower courts made by the Reagan and two Bush presidencies have fed the cases to today’s Supreme Court. Can you imagine the judicial appointments either Clinton or Obama can be expected to make and what effect it will have a generation from now? I shudder.

Even though I think Clinton is more likely to beat McCain than Obama, I also think if we are destined to have a Democratic president, she would be far superior for our country with McCain double far superior than either, especially on the war, terror, economy and tax issues. Many will disagree for their own reasons.

Ted Oglesby is retired Opinion page editor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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