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All Roads Lead to Ted

Geraldine Ferraro wrote an Op/Ed piece for the NYTimes today about the role of superdelegates that is bound to stir up some controversy. The piece, Got a Problem? Ask the Super, challenges the conventional wisdom about why the superdelegates were created. It was not intended to put an end to Children’s Crusades to win the nomination for George McGovern in 1968, though the superdelegates might have mitigated that situation as well. No, the superdelegates were created to prevent the kind of highjacking that Senator Ted Kennedy tried to pull off in 1980. It tore the party apart and lead to Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan:

After the 1980 presidential election, the Democratic Party was in disarray. That year, Senator Ted Kennedy had challenged President Jimmy Carter for the presidential nomination, and Mr. Kennedy took the fight to the convention floor by proposing 23 amendments to the party platform. When it was all over, members of Congress who were concerned about their re-election walked away from the president and from the party. The rest of the campaign was plagued by infighting.

Ahh, yes, I remember it not so well, but I *do* remember it. It was the first year I was eligible to vote in a presidential election and George Bush had visited Pittsburgh that campaign season. The cold, arrogant and brusque way he handled that appearance told me everything I ever wanted to know about Republicans. First impressions and all that.

But that Democratic convention was no picnic either. There were bad feelings all around capped by Jimmy Carter standing on stage after having clinched the nomination, extending his hand to Ted Kennedy and Ted, just barely mustering the most insincere handshake imaginable. The two sides couldn’t have been further apart after all the bitter feuding and behind the scenes manipulations. The superdelegates were created to provide cooler heads and prevent that from ever happening again.

Now, here we are in the midst of another contentious party battle. And whose name keeps popping up in the news? None other than that uniter himself, Ted Kennedy. He endorsed Obama last month along with Senator Kerry. The bulk of the Kennedy clan piled on, in fact. Obama and his wife, who have been compared to JFK and Jackie, have been re-packaged accordingly. The Massachusetts connection continues with Obama ripping some of Deval Patrick’s campaign scripts although it is not clear that this repackaging comes with Kennedy’s stamp of approval. But for those wondering how Obama could have racked up so much money to start his campaign, Kennedy and Kerry campaign donor lists would not be an unreasonable place to start. So, Kerry says he just gave Obama his lists only recently. So, he might be fibbing a little. (Should be easy enough to prove with a little cross checking of Obama’s early donors and Kerry’s lists from 2004)

But let’s get back to these superdelegates. Kennedy has demonstrated his reluctance to aim for party unity before. Why start now? He has a Kennedy legend to protect. He wasn’t able to get to the Oval Office in his brothers’ footsteps but, by golly, that doesn’t mean he can’t get there through back door means, right? And here we have a virtual tabula rasa, so spotless. No record, no votes to worry about, no accomplishments. Just a fresh, clean palette. Less a Teflon than a tofu candidate upon which the dreamer in all of us can cast our favorite flavor of Democrat. As long as he stays soft and amorphous, he can be the carrier for all of our tastes. Perfect!

And why worry about those pesky superdelegates. Just lean on them and threaten them with primary challengers as Ms. Ferraro intimates and they’ll follow you everywhere. Because, after all, Obama’s got powerful friends with lots of connections in the liberal end of the pool who could make things very trying indeed. “Nice congressional district you got there. You wouldn’t want anything to *happen* to it, eh?”

So what if your activist nutcase supporters show up in droves to the caucuses, overwhelming their civic minded Democratic regulars with their displays of haka-like intensity? So what if you pad your delegate count with low hanging fruit from states your party doesn’t have prayer of winning in November? You *do* want to win, right? Just threaten to tear the party apart and people will be so scared, they’ll give in to you. “Nice chances of winning the Oval Office in November. You wouldn’t want anything to *happen* to it, eh?”

Like in 1980, you mean?

24 Responses

  1. riverdaughter, I really liked the Ferraro piece and you’ve done a great analysis.

    One thought about what you say towards the end, “So what if your activist nutcase supporters show up in droves to the caucuses, overwhelming their civic minded Democratic regulars with their displays of haka-like intensity? ” is something I’ve been trying to put into words since our (Kansas) caucus.

    Something about how Obama volunteers use their supporters as weapons — flooding the caucuses with thousands of people. So many that not only are the supporters of other candidates discouraged and likely to leave, but also some of their own supporters flake off. For them it’s a numbers game — a game — and the point is the final tally. It’s not the participation. Because in the turmoil of those overwhelmed caucuses, there is no real participation.

    They could have made it clear what sort of numbers were expected. They must have known from their phone calls and the turnout at other states. And the volunteers CAME from those other states so they knew very well what to expect. But, they either lied or mis-represented what they knew.

    Anyway, your comment came as close as I’ve seen about addressing that experience.

    Thank you.

  2. Katiebird: DFA has been behind the move to undermine the supers and I am pretty confident that they were behind organizing the caucus participants for Obama. It’s what they do.

  3. Really? I’m on the DFA mailing list but I don’t remember anything in particular from them in the time leading up to the caucus.

    I did see their petition about the Superdelegates and I resigned in protest (they’ve ignored my resignation and continue to send me messages which I’ve been deleting) I would have resigned months ago if I knew about these shenanigans.

  4. Hi and thanks for your site.

    I am new at this (never blogged bofore) and tried sending a comment some minutes ago but I am not sure it went through, so here it goes again. Hopefully this one will show up.

    Anyway, your insightful comments and your sense of humour keep me “saner” in this otherwise upside down electoral season. Enhorabuena and keep up the good work.

    PS, sorry for my spelling and butchering of your language, but I am not a native speaker of English.

  5. UpstateNY: You speak English much better than I speak Spanish, in spite of my four years of it in High School. Senor Grillo would be so disappointed. 😦
    Anyway, I don’t have to tell you to get a second opinion. Keep reading different blogs and sources and make up your own mind.
    Thanks for your support!

  6. I like your analysis, and thought instead of commenting on what is already spot on, I’d offer a link of a important discussion that is passing by: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=19315153 .

    Keep the good work!

  7. Wow. Thank you for this analysis. I am going to e-mail this to a bunch of people. There is so much going on behind the curtain. Must have been a kick in the head to Kennedy and Kerry that MA went for Clinton.

  8. Very much on point, especially this:

    Less a Teflon than a tofu candidate upon which the dreamer in all of us can cast our favorite flavor of Democrat. As long as he stays soft and amorphous, he can be the carrier for all of our tastes. Perfect!

    Obama08 is indeed the blank screen upon which everyone’s next-version PowerPoint feature list can be projected without fear of contradiction.

  9. Brilliant. When Ted, “passed the torch” it angered me that he thought the torch was his to pass. How arrogant to not let the people decide. I will not forgive Kerry, Kennedy and the DFA. I also resigned in protest. I am tired of the bullying and the idea that there should be a coronation or they will not vote for the Democratic candidate.

    Funny how the aristocrats, the Kennedy’s and a plutocrat, Oprah, think they should tell us what the agenda should be and who should be leading America. They have diverted from the Democratic agenda, and made the primary a battle of personality. Shame on them.

    Great analysis and thanks for creating a refuge.

  10. Great historical analysis and review, riverdaughter!

    I don’t know of anyone here in Massachusett s who is all that impressed with either Kennedy or Kerry. They are decent enough Democratic senators, but they are both boring old fellows from the old New England aristocracy. .. basically very wealthy old snobs. Kennedy is the current patriarch of the Kennedy clan, and we all remember his younger days as a boozer and skirt chaser, not too impressive (yes we know he’s a hard working senator). Then there is Kerry who is from a less well off wing of his family , they were only upper middle class, poor things. Fortunately for him a relative from the wealthy side paid for all his elite schooling. Then after getting divorced from his first wife who hated politics, Kerry ends up marrying Teresa Heinz and between that money and his inheritances from the wealthy side of his family Kerry is now considered to be the wealthiest US senator according to Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_kerry . It’s pretty obvious that other than his anti-war activites in youth, Kerry has always “followed the money” and it was more important for him to be rich and hang out with the rich crowd than anything else.

    Our senators are not exactly “of the people” and we all know that. So we don’t really listen to them very much and never have.

  11. This is without a doubt the worst political scene I’ve ever witnessed.
    Ever. Right when we need the Democratic Party the most it is decompensating before our eyes.

    I can’t stand the way the press hasn’t given Hillary a chance. Or feminists. Anyway, I found a couple of other views from across the world. Interesting about Michelle Obama. She owns a pair of Jimmy Choo’s according to the London press. And she is more upwardly mobile than she spins herself. Sad.

    For all those millions why aren’t they down in Katrina land actually doing something. My sense is they just want the votes of poor blacks, especially after seeing her thesis on Politico. There is more to the Obamas than the press is letting out. Oh well, going over to see Taylor Marsh now…thanks Riverdaughter, for your posts and for introducing me to her through your blog.

  12. dragoneyes,

    Kerry is a war hero and anti-war activist. He’s also been a good senator in my book. that he endorsed Obama does not detract in anyway from that. His silence on the horrendous treatmeant of Hillary, however, does.

    When you talk about the “well off wing” of the Party, Maxine Waters nails down the difference, IMO, of Obama and Hillary supporters whe she said, “my supporters have a lot of hope. What they need is help”. By and large, Obama’s supporters are more well off and Hillary’s are less so. If you can afford to live off Hope–that is, if you don’t worry about paying the bills, going bankrupt for hospital bills, etc.–then you can live off of some abstract, asinine crap like “unity”. If you’re worried about your situation, you need more. Hillary offers more.

  13. gqmartinez: I can’t comment on how well the senator has performed for the state of Massachusetts. That is for the MA voters to decide. Not my business.
    What I *do* have an issue with is the nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that there is a cabal of people, at least two of them from MA who actually believed the polls that Hillary was unelectable. So, they are running a stealth candidate to move the party right and hoping that no one will notice while at the same time, they are falling right into a trap that Republicans are laying for them.
    I have never had any doubt where Clinton stands on the issues. She has a solidly progressive voting record and her past comes with a quality seal of approval. There is nothing in her closet and her husband’s administration was known for good governmental practices.
    But Obama is a complete mystery to many people. And he is courting the independents and Republicans without the branding of who he really is and where he stands.
    What we are going to get is independents and moderate Republicans abandoning him for *actual* Republicans when the fear/terror thing starts. And he’ll be left with a splintered party on the left, thanks to Kennedy-esque shenanigans.
    And yes, if Kerry is letting the sexist rhetoric persist so that Obama wins, he is collaborating with those reactionary forces that want to take us back to the fifties.
    This strategy is not going to work. If Obama gets the nomination, it’s going to be an uphill battle. If he wins, the women of this country lose. If he wins, the press is empowered. It’s an all around disaster and some responsible people, we are calling them superdelegates, should put a stop to it.

  14. Quick update on Texas:

    ARG has a new poll out showing Obama up by 8 points. There aren’t many useful internals. SurveyUSA will have a poll out tonight and I’ll give my take on that later. One thing to note, the last SurveyUSA poll had Hispanics making up 32% of the electorate and Black voters at 18%. ARG has 24-23 split. The other thing is that the SurveyUSA poll has Hillary winning Dems 55-41 and making up 78% of the electorate. SurveyUSA was dead on in CA because they nailed down the demographics. It will be useful to compare the new SurveyUSA numbers to the previous and to see if that reinforces the ARG numbers.

    More later…

  15. rd, I could have swore I posted something on the Texas polling a short while ago, but it seems to have been lost in the ether…

    I’m keeping my eye on the upcoming SurveyUSA poll. The Dems were at about 80% of likely voters in that poll from last week. The question is, how much are they in the new poll. Lots of intersting numbers to watch.

  16. I totally agree with you on women losing and press winning, rd. A Hillary win will be a testament to women’s strength in our system and it will be a real knock-out blow to the media who likes to chose presidents for us.

  17. gqmartinez: Did you post to the comments or did you accept an invitation to contribute? I may have to tweak configuration. In the meantime, there are no comments awaiting moderation.

  18. I never got an invitation. I posted a few sentences on TX and the ARG poll. I’ll have more to say after the SUSA comes out tonight. Some of the other recent TX polls don’t have subcategories so its hard to make comparisons.

  19. ??? I sent an invitation to you according to your email address in the comments page that I have access to. Are you using an email address for junk?

  20. I found your comment. It went to the spam filter for some unknown reason. FWIW, isn’t ARG one of the least reliable polls out there?
    Texas is going to be hairy, no doubt about it but I don’t think he’s up THAT much.

  21. […] SurveyUSA will have a poll out tonight and I’ll give my take on that later. One thing to note, the last SurveyUSA poll had Hispanics making up 32% of the electorate and Black voters at 18%. ARG has 24-23 split. The […]

  22. Stellaa — It’s Teddy’s torch to pass … the same torch he used to light up his scorched-earth challenge to Carter in 1980 … the torch that lit the way to 12 years of Republican rule, and a conservative-dominated judiciary with Roe v Wade constantly on the bubble.

  23. Good point ronk…it’s the same torch.

  24. I think I need to try and make my point in a different way. I am perfectly fine with having Kerry and Kennedy as my senators. They are against the war and generally vote in a way I’m happy with. I live in a wonderful ‘Democrats rule’ state.

    Then there is the reality that class is still an issue, despite how many would like to pretend that it’s not. Both Clinton and Carter came from the south, from working and middle class families, respectively, and both used more religious language than is normal in the north. I read an article last year (can’t remember where) that made a good case for class issues being a significant reason that Bill Clinton was not popular within a certain element of the Democratic party, who viewed Clinton as little better than “white trash.”

    Then you’ve got Carter, an southern evangelical Christian, and some of you may not aware how much antipathy there can be between Catholics and born-agains. So with Ted vs. Jimmy you have undertones of both class issues and religious issues, as well as regionalism (North vs South). That has to have been part of what was driving Kennedy in 1980. Only southern Democrats have been elected president since Johnson and this bothers a certain wing of the Democratic party..

    Also think how George Bush presents himself… not as the rich oil guy from New England that is his background, but as this “aw shucks” Texas frat-boy regular joe. That was smart, not acting like his class or region of birth. In many parts of the country, Kerry’s class and the way he carries it worked against him.

    Please note that I don’t personally care that much about class, but lots of voters do (even if its mostly unconscious) and it does impact perception and likeability. These realizations come out of my studying up on sociology the past couple of years.

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