Bush v. Gore, Nevada Caucus Edition

While I was on my way out to dinner last night, something very interesting happened: Barack Obama secured more delegates from Nevada than Hillary Clinton. Disconnected from the outcome of the popular vote, the Nevada Democratic Party awards delegates on a geographically weighted basis.

Chris Bowers at Open Left makes a strong case for why we need to recognize that Barack Obama won Nevada and Hillary Clinton did not (as well as why we need to call Iowa Obama/Clinton/Edwards and New Hampshire a tie between Obama and Clinton).

Imagine if, the day after the 2000 election, the national media simply didn’t care about what happened in Florida, and instead acted as though Al Gore had won the election because he won the popular vote. Imagine if all cries from the Bush campaign about something called “The Electoral College” fell on deaf ears, and everyone just acted like Gore won and the popular vote was the only thing that mattered. States? Who cares about the results of individual states? Only the popular vote matters, dummies!

While that would have been perfectly fine with me, since I think the Electoral College is an anti-democratic institution that favors the will of geographic areas over the will of American citizens, it isn’t what happened. The reason it isn’t what happened is that everyone knows Presidency in America is determined by electoral votes, not popular votes. As such, electoral votes, not popular votes, are the main focus during any Presidential general election.

However, today the media decided that the Electoral College doesn’t matter, and because Al Gore won the popular vote he won the election. Or, more accurately, the media decided that because more delegates to the Nevada state Democratic Party convention in April indicated they would support Clinton than Obama, it doesn’t matter that the way the state delegates are arranged by geography actually projects to Barack Obama sending more pledged delegates from Nevada to the Democratic National Convention. Just as the Constitution indicates that the Electoral College, not the popular vote, determines the winner of the Presidency, Democratic Party by-laws make it quite clear that delegates to the national convention, not the popular vote and not delegates to the state convention, determine the winner of the presidential nomination campaign. Strangely, however, even though Obama is projected to win the most delegates to the national convention, Clinton is projected as the winner.

Bowers goes on to make two points that I whole heartily agree with:

First, the Democratic presidential nomination system is not particularly democratic, since the system of delegate selection is different than the concept of one person one vote. Second, I have learned that the national media is not actually covering the Democratic presidential nomination campaign.

I woke up prepared to write a post defending Clinton’s win on the popular vote because it was decisive and because the majority of delegates Obama is likely to get remains a projection for the time being. But it isn’t the popular vote in a particular primary that gets sent to a massive tally board at the Democratic National Convention. If that were the case the Democratic primary would effectively be determined by national popular vote, excepting for the states that hold caucuses. Of course, that’s not what happens.

Likewise, the argument against Obama not retaining delegates who will vote for him between now and May when Nevada’s 25 delegates are chosen is premised on a disjointed assumption: there will be a clear frontrunner by May and it will not be Barack Obama. Making that assumption today about who delegates coming from Nevada to the DNC will be in support of based on who wins subsequent primaries outside of Nevada strikes me as contrary to the point of having a democratic event on January 19th in Nevada to determine apportionment of delegates to the DNC.

If the media was really covering the nomination of the Democratic Party’s choice for President, they would have reported Obama as the winner of Nevada. Unless and until the Nevada delegate selection in May produces a block of delegates that is for Clinton in larger numbers than Obama, I’m continue to hold that Obama has won Nevada.

Also, now that Obama has finished first in Iowa and Nevada, and tied for first in New Hampshire, I think we should be asking the question, is it possible for Obama to run the table in the Democratic primary? Has Obama already overcome a full year of dedicated media coverage of the anointed candidate, Hillary Clinton? To answer my own questions, no to the former and yes to the latter. This is going to be a real dogfight, but we have to recognize beyond a doubt that Obama has proven he can beat Hillary Clinton.

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