A CONFEDERACY OF WHINERS
Notes on the squabble over
procedures for the next Presidential Nominations
Thursday, August 28, 2008
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
2008 Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama has not yet even given his Acceptance Speech (at least as of the time I am typing these words), the Convention that will nominate John McCain as the 2008 Republican presidential nominee hasn't even gathered yet, and- already- the skirmishing has begun over the presidential nomination process to be used in 2012!
I here refer to a column by one John Deeth of the Iowa Independent entitled 'Calendar “reform” risky for Iowa, mistake for Democrats' (and note well how the very word 'reform' is here in quotes), which can be seen at the URL http://iowaindependent.com/4676/calendar-reform-risky-for-iowa-mistake-for-democrats, and in which Mr. Deeth expresses anger at Florida and Michigan receiving their full voting rights at this year's Democratic National Convention and opines that the presidential nominating process reform group- what has been termed the 'Democratic Change Commission'- announced at this week's Democratic National Convention is, in his own words, Floridian for “Screw Iowa”.
Well, here is my response to Mr. Deeth, in my position as a loyal citizen of the great and sovereign State of New Jersey (which, after all, has much nicer ocean-fronting beaches than can be found in Iowa [;-)]):
Iowa should be so screwed, if only because Iowa has been screwing the rest of America since the emergence of Jimmy Carter (eventually nominated for, and thereafter elected as, President) as the early Democratic front-runner first put the Iowa Caucuses "on the map" back in 1976 (the very first Presidential Election in which I was eligible to vote).
Back when I was a credit manager/accounts receivable at a small electronics wholesaler in New York City circa 1980, my principal responsibility consisted of determining whether or not small retail outlets purchasing product from us could actually pay for their goods after the orders had been shipped: in order to do this, back in the age of no Internet and, thus, no e-mail, I had to actually call a new customer who had placed their very first order with us and get the name of their bank, their corporate bank account number and up to three references from other suppliers of product to them, in order to then call these people and ascertain whether or not the store in question might or might not be a good credit risk.
One time, I had to call a store in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and got to speak to a very pleasant lady who identified herself as the store's owner in order to get this kind of information from her. As she rattled off her bank and other credit information, I told her: "Hold on, hold on! You're telling me all this too fast for me to write it all down!", to which she laughed heartily and said, in a humorous vein, in her sweet accent fairly dripping of palmettos, "Oh, my! And I always heard it was you Yankees who talk so fast!"
Then she paused for a moment and, in a more serious tone, asked: "You weren't at all offended by the fact that we down here in the South call you-all 'Yankees', were you?" Now, it was my turn to laugh and I humorously replied: "No, not at all. After all, I was born in Connecticut and grew up in New Jersey- both of which are, like your own State, one of the 'original 13'. At least I'm not one of those 'Johnny-come-lately' Yankees, such as those in, say, Iowa-- or California!"
But, seriously, folks [;-)]:
When Iowa was first admitted to the Union, it was admitted by formal statute of Congress (9 Stat. 117) which became law on 28 December 1846. In Section 2 of that statute, it reads as follows:
That the State of Iowa shall be one, and is hereby declared to be one, of the United States of America, and admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States in all respects whatsoever.
Note well, my readers, two important phrases therein: first, "equal footing"-- not 'superior to' the original States (including my own State of New Jersey), nor 'better than' any other State (original or no, and whether admitted prior to Iowa or after): but equal; second, "in all respects whatsoever"-- not 'only in some matters, but not in others', but all respects!
As I have pointed out in other Commentaries of mine, posted earlier this year on this website, the U.S. Supreme Court held- in the case of United States v. Classic [313 U.S. 299 (1941)]- that the authority of Congress... includes the authority to regulate primary elections when, as in this case, they are a step in the exercise by the people of their choice of representatives in Congress. Put most simply: a 'primary' is part and parcel of, and not at all separate from, the entire electoral procedure culminating in the General Election (keep in mind that a Caucus, such as held in Iowa, is a 'primary'-- indeed, as I have also pointed out on this website, it is the original definition of 'primary'; in fact, 'primary' has ever had the exact same meaning as the term "first determining step" used by the Democrats! Only when what we now call a Primary- in contradistinction to a Caucus- came to the fore around a century ago was a distinction then made between a 'direct Primary' [that is: a primary election utilizing the secret ballot] and an 'indirect primary'- the original 'primary': that is, a Caucus).
I have also, however, fairly pointed out that the Federal courts have not yet found a constitutional theory, a legal methodology, through which the decision in Classic might be applied to the Presidential Nomination Process itself; further, I have also noted on this website- and often- that Congress currently has no power to at all regulate the procedures through which candidates for President and Vice President of the United States (thus, Congress does not have a power enjoyed by the legislatures of the several States as regards their respective Governors and- where applicable- Lieutenant Governors) and changing this situation would require Constitutional Amendment (of which more later in this piece).
Here, then, is the real deal (and I will boldface it if only for emphasis):
Any presidential nominating process that allows any State to so vette the various and sundry contenders for a presidential nomination, through a formal voting process- whether this be a Primary or a Caucus- before other of its sister States in the American Union is inherently unfair to all States in that Union.
If the Parties wish to have a presidential nomination process that allows Iowa to continue to hold a first-in-the-Nation Caucuses and New Hampshire to retain its first-in-the-Nation Presidential Primary, then fine! After all, as I myself have just pointed out, there does not- right now- seem to be a way to rein the Parties in in this particular regard...
just don't hold some press conference that promotes the enforcement of this and tell everyone how "fair" it is...
because it is not!
For if, indeed, it is a matter of American constitutional jurisprudence that a Primary (or, by extension, a Caucus) is as much a part of the entire process culminating in the General Election (as the decision in Classic seemingly suggests), then it logically follows that my boldfaced statement above is, by very definition, inherently true.
Back when I posted my own National Primary Amendment (which was really a "grant Congress the power to regulate the presidential nominating process" Amendment, since it did not specifically mandate a National Presidential Primary) on this website, I got an e-mail from someone in Iowa who suggested I might be trying to so "gut" (his word, by the way) his State's first-in-the-Nation presidential 'primary' (in the original sense of the term [;-)]) status only because I might be "bitter" (again, his word) that, on the same day Iowa would be holding its State and Local Primaries (early June), my State- back in 2004- was also holding its Presidential Primary: he suggested that, perhaps, the voters here in the Garden State "weren't smart enough" (once more, his own words) to, unlike those in his State, not hold their presidential nominating 'delegate selection event' so late in the Primary/Caucus "season".
Please re-read what I wrote, in boldface, above: allowing any State to pledge delegates in a Primary or begin the delegate selection process in Caucuses is unfair... and my statement applies equally to all States, even my own, since all States are supposed to be, to use the very phrase found in Iowa's own Admission Act, "on an equal footing".
Thus, Iowa screwed (to use Mr. Deeth's word) every other State, including New Hampshire- which, in turn, screwed every other State: except for, of course, Iowa.
If you should happen to peruse my Commentaries for this website early in this year's presidential nominating process, you will notice two things- as regards Florida and Michigan:
1. that I opined, from the very beginning, that Florida and Michigan (despite the Democratic Party's sanctions against them for holding their Presidential Primaries "too early") would, in fact, be seated-- and with their full voting strength to boot!-- in Denver: if this might have been something of a surprise to such as Mr. Deeth, it certainly wasn't to me! In fact, I happen to have had many phone and e-mail contacts with quite a number of more or less well-known correspondents and political pundits in the mainstream media (both electronic and print) late last year into early this, most of whom (though, to be fair, not all of them) pooh-poohed my contention...
well, I ask you: who was right? (I notice, by the way, that none of them have called me to apologize [;-)]).
2. That Florida and Michigan should be seated at the Convention, with their full voting rights... and I also said this from the very beginning, and this even before their Presidential Primaries were actually held!
Why should these have been seated? Because, as Mr. Deeth so disingenuously does not at all tell us, his Iowa broke the rules, too! For they were scheduled to hold their Caucuses on a certain date under Democratic Party rules and- just like Florida and Michigan- the Hawkeye State showed just as much a disregard for the rules as Mr. Deeth complains about re: Florida and Michigan!... the only difference is that Iowa was permitted to get away with it from the get-go!... how hypocritical to now complain that Florida and Michigan got away with the very same thing!
The only one of the pre-'Super Duper' Tuesday (5 February this year) States to have held to the original rules (for which, by the way, they should be justly commended) was Nevada!
Now, having said all this, let me make my main point in this piece ever more clear:
Michigan- while, yes, still screwed by Iowa and New Hampshire- screwed Florida (as well as Nevada and South Carolina), along with all the States that voted thereafter; while Florida, likewise, screwed all the 'Super Duper' Tuesday States (including my own State of New Jersey) and all the States that followed. Even Nevada- which I had only just praised- screwed all the States that followed its own 19 January Caucuses (though, to be fair to the Silver State, it at least was following rules that allowed it do so-- but "I was just following orders" simply doesn't cut it in the end).
And, to make it absolutely clear that I am not at all "playing favorites" here- nor am I the least bit bitter [;-)]- let me here state, for the record, that my own, much beloved Garden State (along with all the other States that held their Primaries or Caucuses on 5 February 2008's 'Super Duper' Tuesday) screwed States such as Texas-- and Ohio-- and Pennsylvania-- Indiana and North Carolina-- Kentucky and Oregon-- right down to Montana (on the Democratic side), New Mexico (on the Republican side) and South Dakota, all of which got screwed most of all!
How is this at all "equal footing" amongst sister States of this Union? How is this at all fair where a nominating process is, as in the Classic case, considered an inherent part of the entire process culminating in a General Election?
Just the other night, at the Democratic Convention in Denver itself, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr, of Illinois (though he was not at all speaking about the presidential nominating process) made a good point, when he said "while America is not always perfect, our Union can always be perfected". Well... here is an area where the American Union not only can, but should be perfected!
Here's another "real deal"-- one that should be most clear to those who might, this coming Fall, find themselves hanging on the fortunes of the FBS college football schools such as the University of Iowa 'Hawkeyes' or Iowa State 'Cyclones':
Just take a look at the potential final score: in the U.S. House of Representatives, it is Iowa/New Hampshire 7, rest of America 428; in the United States Senate, it is Iowa/New Hampshire 4, rest of America 96... either score would be a drubbing in Football... more to the point: both 428 and 96 are far more than the 2/3 of the vote in each House needed to report a Constitutional Amendment giving Congress power to regulate the presidential nominating process out to the States for potential Ratification... and, as for such Ratification, 48 to 2 is more than the 3/4 required there, too!
Fact is: Iowa and New Hampshire only go first at the sufferance of all those Americans who reside in neither State.
As I have often said- on this website, as well as during radio interviews I gave just before, and during, the most recent Primary/Caucus "season"- if the vast majority of Americans are willing to roll up their sleeves and actually break a sweat as regards this issue, Iowa and New Hampshire will not be going first ere long.
Again, "We, the People of the United States" "do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America"... it wasn't ordained and established Once upon a Time, long long ago... it continues to be ordained and established anew, with every decision we who make up "We, the People" today might make as political citizens of this Nation.
But, at least so far- as I type this, Americans as a whole haven't really gotten themselves all worked up into a lather about Iowa (and New Hampshire) going first when it comes to getting to choose from the widest possible menu of presidential contenders, being able to purchase that last Belgian Waffle before anyone else even gets to set foot in the restaurant!
And, until my fellow Americans come to realize that there is something inherently wrong about the current presidential nominating process, nothing at all is going to change in any event. Instead, we will yet remain this veritable 'confederacy of whiners'- with State after State complaining about how other States might go about pledging and choosing delegates to the Major Party National Conventions... now, even Iowa has gotten into the act (think about it, gentle reader: Mr. Deeth is seething because both Michigan and Florida got to hold their Primaries after Iowa's own Caucuses in any event)
But don't worry, Mr. Deeth: Spare your invective! For your Iowa will still come first re: 2012.
However: deservedly so?...