At her campaign celebration last night in Ohio, Hillary Clinton
raised the specter of a nasty, divisive fight at the Democratic
National Convention, claiming that she should be the party's nominee
based on her big state victories, rather than on the pledged-delegate
count. It was a slick and sophisticated attempt to change the rules
in the middle of the game and declare herself the winner.
She said, "You all know that if we want a Democratic president, we
need a Democratic nominee who can win the battleground states just
like Ohio. And that is what we've done." Then, she listed the states
she "won," boldly including Florida and Michigan in the litany.
Weeks before her boast, Julian Bond, the Chairman of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and one of my
heroes, penned a letter to DNC Chair Howard Dean noting that he is
"deeply concerned" about the "will and intent of the Florida and
But, both Clinton and Bond leave several important facts off the
First, the rules. They were known and agreed to by everyone
involved, well before the first votes were cast in Iowa. All the
campaigns, including the Clinton campaign, pledged to honor the
"early window" that included only four states: Iowa, New Hampshire,
Nevada and South Carolina. Enforcement of the primary timing rule
against Florida and Michigan was necessary to prevent the 2008
nominating calendar from falling into chaos. Moreover, a decision to
overturn this action by the DNC could destroy our nominating process
for 2012 and future years, as states realize that there will be no
penalty for violating the primary timing rule.
Second, the DNC's Rules Bylaws Committee gave both Florida and
Michigan a full and fair hearing, plus an open and transparent vote,
and their efforts to "jump to the head of the line" were soundly
defeated. No other state party organization or Rules Committee
members supported them. None of the campaigns--including the Clinton
campaign, which is very well represented on the Rules Committee--spoke
up for the principle of allowing Florida and Michigan to go ahead of
the other states.
Third, the new 2008 primary calendar was painstakingly worked out for
the very purpose of increasing early voting diversity. Along with
Iowa and New Hampshire, most Democrats agreed that both Latinos and
African Americans should be added to the early voting equation.
Adding Nevada and South Carolina to the early calendar increased
regional and racial diversity while protecting the grassroots, small
state nature of the early primary process. The DNC was right to
protect these two states from encroachment in the calendar by Florida
Fourth, since there was no campaigning in either Florida or Michigan,
and neither the names of Obama nor Edwards even appeared on the
Michigan ballot, the idea that the votes cast there represent "the
will and intent" of the people is nonsense. We must not allow the
uncontested primaries in Florida and Michigan to "nullify" the will
of the large mass of voters in all of the hotly-contested primaries
and caucuses around the country where the candidates did campaign and
the voters had the chance to meet the candidates, ask questions, hear
their message and make an informed decision on who would be the best
nominee for the Democratic Party.
Finally, I want to be clear that this is a disagreement between the
DNC and the Florida and Michigan State Democratic Parties. This is
not--and should not become--an argument between Senator Obama and the
voters of Florida or Michigan. Senator Obama will reach out to the
voters in Florida and Michigan as the presidential nominee of our
Party, and will work hard to carry these two important states for
Democrats in the November election.
Congressman Jackson is serving his seventh term in the US House and
is a National Co-Chairman of the Obama for President Campaign.