The argument Jon Ausman made for Florida was one only a lawyer could love. Citing sections of the party Charter and the various rules, he said that the RBC had no authority to deny delegate status to a state’s unpledged ex officio delegates — i.e. DNC members, Senators and Representatives (aka superdelegates). He also claimed that the rules permitted only a 50% reduction in the pledged delegates for a violation. When the RBC took away all of Florida’s votes, it overreached its authority. He accepted a loss of 50% of the votes of the 185 pledged delegates as the price Florida had to pay for violating the rules.
Page Two, Count Every Vote or Play by the Rules?
Florida State Senator Arthenia Joyner, representing the Clinton campaign, and Cong. Robert Wexler, representing the Obama campaign, agreed with the Ausman proposal. However, when Wexler was asked if he would like a decision giving back Florida all of its votes he danced a verbal jig rather than say yes or no. More votes for Florida would mean more votes for Clinton.
Michigan state chairman Mark Brewer asked for all of his state’s 157 seats and votes. The main point of his argument was that New Hampshire shouldn’t always go first (after Iowa), and that it too had violated the rules when it refused to allow Nevada to hold its caucus before the New Hampshire primary, as the RBC had recommended. Michigan claimed that it was being selectively punished.
Brewer also pointed out that Michigan would be a crucial battleground state in November — one the Democrats could ill afford to offend. He asked that Clinton receive 69 of the 128 pledged delegates and Obama receive 59, as recommended by a working group of the state party formed earlier that year to analyze the results of what everyone agreed was a "flawed" primary.
Senator Carl Levin, representing the Obama campaign, and former Michigan Governor James Blanchard, representing the Clinton campaign, gave this their stamp of approval. The Clinton campaign originally said it was entitled to 73 delegates, but accepted the conclusions of the working group that 69 was a fairer allocation. Outside of Michigan, Clinton loyalists continued to protest that four votes had been "stolen."
Statements by the witnesses and questions from the RBC members frequently met with applause and boos. Although most of the floor seats were reserved for the several hundred DNC members, the people in them were about evenly split between Clinton and Obama boosters. They weren’t all DNC members, but had friends who were.
The RBC finally broke for lunch about 3:00 in the afternoon. When it reconvened three hours later, it was clear that disagreements and been hashed out and a consensus reached on action, even if everyone wasn’t happy about it.
Clinton supporter Alice Huffman of California first moved that Florida receive all of its delegate votes. This provided many RBC members an opportunity to make little speeches and declare their personal positions. Its defeat by 15 to 12 was predictable from the fact that a majority of the people on the RBC supported Obama.
Next came a motion to give Florida all of its delegates, with each getting one half vote. The pledged delegates were allocated at 52.5 for Clinton, 6.5 for Edwards and 33.5 for Obama. Unpledged delegates could cast their half vote as they please. This passed unanimously. (Edwards, who has endorsed Obama, can ask his delegates to follow his lead, but can’t compel them to do so).
The same motion for Michigan also passed, but by 19 to 8. The RCB accepted the state party’s recommended allocation and gave 34.5 (half of 69) votes to Clinton and 29.5 to Obama. Harold Ickes of Washington, D.C., who had voted against the Michigan motion, said that "Mrs. Clinton," reserves the right to take the matter to the convention credentials committee.
As the RBC committee adjourned, it stood and applauded itself. Hillary supporters at the back of the room began chanting "Madam — President" over and over. Outside the meeting room, the 'no go' zone guarded by staff had retreated from the hotel’s entrances to the more immediate area. Just outside the perimeter Hillary supporters held up signs saying "Count My Vote, or Count Me Out" while others tried to talk to the media. Their anger was palpable. "Den-Ver," "Den-Ver," they chanted. Nothing less than total victory would suffice.
Jo Freeman is a political scientist and attorney. Jo's new book, We Will Be Heard: Women's Struggles for Political Power in the United States, has been published by Rowman and Littlefield. The previous book is At Berkeley in the Sixties: Education of an Activist (Indiana U. Press 2004) and before that, A Room at a Time: How Women Entered Party Politics, (Rowman and Littlefield, 2000) was reviewed by Emily Mitchell, a Senior Women Web Culture Watch critic.
A Room at a Time has been awarded the Leon Epstein prize. This prize is given by the POP section of the APSA to a recent book that makes an "outstanding contribution to research and scholarship on political organizations and parties." The History Book Club, a division of the Book-of-the-Month Club, selected At Berkeley in the Sixties for one of its paperback book features. For more information about the book visit: http://www.jofreeman.com/books/Berkeley.htm
Jo's other books include: The Politics of Women's Liberation (1975), winner of a 1975 prize from the American Political Science Association for the Best Scholarly Book on Women and Politics; five editions of Women: A Feminist Perspective (ed.). She has also edited Social Movements of the Sixties and Seventies (1983), and (with Victoria Johnson) Waves of Protest: Social Movements Since the Sixties. She has a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago and a J.D. from New York University School of Law. Read more by and about Jo at http://www.jofreeman.com and email her with comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
©2008 Jo Freeman for SeniorWomenWeb