Accountability Now

I'm excited to let you know that 21st Century Democrats is teaming up with MoveOn, Democracy for America, DailyKos, ColorOfChange.org, SEIU, and BlogPAC to support the new Accountability Now PAC.

Accountability Now is a grassroots effort to hold elected officials accountable for whose interests they're really promoting in DC. Working together, we're going to challenge the Washington power structures that have made it too easy for Congress to hand out cash to corporate America while we, the people they were elected to represent, are losing our jobs, our health care, and our basic constitutional rights.

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Record Turnout in the Primaries

Via Election Law Blog comes an interesting report (.pdf) from the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network on turnout during the 2008 primaries. In short, not only did the numbers blow out of the water those from 2004 and 2000, the last contested primaries for the two parties, but also set the record by about 67 percent. Here are some of the findings from the survey:

  • An unprecedented 58.7 million voters - more than one in four of all eligible voters - participated in a primary or caucus. This number far exceeds the previous primary participation record of over 35 million, set in 1988. This is also well above the 33 million that participated the last time both party nominations were contested in 2000.

  • Voter participation in Democratic primaries was up 112% and caucuses by 223% compared to its last most similar primary season in 2004. The turnout of voters in Democratic primaries doubled and tripled in the caucuses.

  • Voter participation in Republican primaries was up 10% and caucuses rose more modestly by 70% compared to the most similar primary season in 2000.

  • Youth participation rose at a faster rate than any other age group. Youth participation doubled and tripled in primaries and caucuses. Turnout by voters ages 18-29 went up for the third consecutive national election year, also rising in the national elections of 2004 and 2006.

  • Latino voter participation surged in many states, including Texas and California. A report by the Pew Hispanic Center profiles huge increases in turnout of Latino voters in Texas and California where a third of voters turning out in the Democratic primaries were of Hispanic origin. Latino turnout was up but uneven in other states and unchanged in New York and Arizona.

These numbers underscore a couple things. First, the notion that younger voters didn't reliably turn out in 2008 is bunk, pure bunk. It might not be the case that younger voters now vote at rates similar to older voters, but the fact that they were able to double and triple their turnout in this year's primaries from years past is a testament to current environment in which young people are voting on a consistent basis. Second -- and we already had anecdotal evidence of this one -- about two-thirds more voters turned out for the Democratic primaries than did for the Republican primaries (in four fewer contests). The disparity per primary is closer to 85 percent.

Anyway, take a look through the survey if you're interested. It's quite interesting stuff.

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Clinton was a formidable candidate, but then again she really wasn't...

Okay, I just want to vent about a little pet peeve of mine that appeared in the FP story. What does it really mean when Clinton supporters, along with the "pro-Obama media" say things like

But around the same time that Clinton started shining, Obama started faltering, and I don't think he's fully recovered from it yet.

??

In the last two months of the primaries, the Appalachian states came up big for Hillary, and they faught to a virtual draw in Texas. In those Appalachian primaries Hillary scored two huge victories (Kentucky, West Virgina), two states with demographics that favored her heavily. We saw this Appalachian trend early on when Clinton carried Tennessee, and when she dominated the western counties in Virginia and the northern counties in Maryland. For whatever reason, voters in Appalachia identified with her message. And there were many who knew this all along. Remember how everybody said she just had to score big in Texas and Ohio because Appalachia was going to pull through for her?

But it's not as though she took the rest of the Appalachian states as decisively as KY and WV. She won Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana each by less than 10 points. Solid, but unless you are just counting "wins" these were not the kind of clobberings that many expected.

Outside of Appalachia, how did Obama do? He won Oregon, North Carolina, and Montana by a margin of 55 delegates, more than Hillary's delegate margins from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, South Dakota, West Virginia, and the Texas primary combined (with 9 more to spare).

So to say Obama faltered is not exactly true and is borderline disingenuous. Did he come up short of the media's expectations? Certainly. But he most certainly beat the expectations of many Hillary supporters, who declared repeatedly (do I need to link all the diaries?) that Obama was finished and that with her momentum from Ohio and Texas she had turned the tide and would pull even. And in fact the more Obama actually exceded expectations the more we saw the "popular vote" meme foisted upon the media.

But that's not my point.

My point is, Obama was not running against a patsy. Obama was running against one of the greatest fundraisers the party has ever seen (second only to himself). He was running against a candidate who had been a household name for 16 years and who, at least in the democratic party, was considered very favorably. He was running against a senator from the country's second most populous state and who had a huge core of devoted followers. If it were not for Obama, Hillary Clinton would have easily run away with this primary and would likely be our next president.

To suggest that Obama "faltered" is to suggest that Obama should have dominated in every demographic and that he was running against a second-rate candidate who, due to his own shortcomings rather than the strength of his opposition, he couldn't put away. That is simply not the case, and to promote this thinking is to suggest that the once-formidable Hillary Clinton was really not very formidable at all.

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About reforming caucuses out of existence. (Updated for Poll)

This diary has come out of a discussion about caucuses, but my response has become too long for a response so I have changed it into a diary.

http://www.mydd.com/story/2008/6/4/17544 3/8888

1.  Forcing a reform of this nature will not be received well in states that are used to holding primaries and caucuses by their own rules, and their respective ties to historical precedent.

2.  Caucuses are not in and of themselves elitist.  Caucuses are not a measure of the same thing that a Primary is.  This is the fundamental flaw with trying to consolidate the caucus results and the primary results.  Caucus measure excitement/activism for a candidate.  Primaries measure overall support for a candidate.  A candidate needs both overall support, and strong activism to win.

The Caucus is a valid measure for whether a candidate will be a good candidate in the GE since it is the strong activism (people that caucus) that will be most active in supporting and furthering the cause of the candidate during the campaign leading to the election.  This is true above and beyond what most people who vote in a primary would be willing to do (i.e. not get involved beyond the final vote).

There are really a series of complicated issues that need to be dealt with when reforming the primary system.

1.  Popular vote doesn't mean anything in the current system.

For good or bad, this is the case due to the mixed nature of the primaries.

Options for fixing this issue:

a.  Eliminate Caucuses entirely. (Mentioned above and with reservations)

b.  Eliminate Primaries entirely.  (Same sort of objection as above)

c.  Make every state run a binding caucus and primary (like Texas).

Option c. allows every state to retain their traditional selection type while allowing delegates, superdelegates, party insiders, and the country at large to gage both popular vote and activist support for each candidate in each state in an apples-to-apples comparison.  In order for this to work some delegates from each state would have to be won under each contest.

2. Popular vote tallies and contests are not consistent because the contests allow people to participate in different levels.

Primaries allow the following:

a.  Only Registered Democratic voters

b.  Only Registered Democratic voters that voted democratic in the last contest.

c.  Only Democratic and Independent voters

d.  Any voters

As you can see, this variety again imposes an uneven standard to the popular vote and makes the comparison between the votes impossible.  This is just like trying to add fractions without figuring out the common denominator and normalizing them so that they can add up correctly.

The solution, again, is to force one methodology on all of the states so that the contests can be compared evenly.  States will have the same objection to this as they will to other changes (like dropping the caucus system all together), but unfortunately there is no other way to fix this issue without a national standard.  I propose that it become a part of the Democratic Party Charter and that all states vote on the method thought to be most in line with Democratic principles.  This way all states would then have to comply (or suffer the fate, sanctions, of a state that has violated the rules).

3.  US territories that have no effect on the election of a president (since their states command not electoral votes) get greater representation than states that do.  The problem with allowing this is that since the election is won on electoral votes, the party is handicapping their possibility of winning by giving such a large say to territories rather than emphasizing the wishes of those whose votes do count towards the election of a president.

These territories have no reason to come into the fold of the US if they can enjoy the same or greater privileges in terms of candidate selection as do states (and DC) who have to play entirely by federal rules as states.  If they want a say they can join a state, or become a state.  Perhaps have a reduced voice, but this voice should never be larger than states that command actual electoral votes as they are the ones (at this time) that decide the president.

4.  The Number of Superdelegates, and their influence needs to be put into check.  The party has a rightful place in helping to select the best candidate. This becomes necessary from time to time under extreme circumstances.  However, as we have seen in this primary, their influence is far too great.

a.  SDs can give one candidate a lead before any voting has occurred.  This is undemocratic and should be admonished by the party.

b.  SDs comprise 20-25% of the total delegates.  This outsizes and outweighs the legitimate choice of the electorate.  The SDs do not like the role they were forced into this year.  They don't want the power to decide who the nominee is above what the electorate has chosen.  So why are we giving them such a strong say in the decision, it makes no sense.

c. SDs votes are always non-binding, but they cannot effectively be locked in at any time before the convention allowing the present situation to occur again.  That is to say, encouraging a bitter convention floor fight that will doom the party's chances to win the election.

5. Last but not least, the calendar needs to be revamped so that all of the states feel they have had their fair shake at selecting the nominee, while not making things so states feel their history is trampled, and allowing for a diverse section of the populace to influence the early selection process.  This, by far, is the most difficult question politically since states get pitted against states.  I do not pretend to know what the best solution is, but here are some that I thought were interesting:

a.  National primary (everyone goes at once).  

Pros:  no one has an unfair advantage in selecting (or eliminating) a candidate from the running.  Addresses basic fairness issues about which states go first.

Cons:  Small States get overshadowed; Historical precedent for select states is trampled.  Does not allow for enough time to put campaign pressure on candidates to see if they can handle the heat (Vetting).

b.  Regional rotating primaries.  States are divided into 4-6 primary regions and each region rotates from election to election as to which goes first.

Pros:  This levels the playing field, and allows for easier travel (is less cost or wear on candidates).  Addresses basic fairness issues about which state goes first.

Cons:  Tramples historical precedent for some states.  Small states could be overshadowed.

c.  Rotating initial primaries (As we have them now before super Tuesday but with rotating states)

Pros:  Similarity to current familiar system, allows diversity into early nominee selection process.

Cons:  Tramples historical precedent for some states.  Doesn't address the basic scheduling issues and allows for an uneven campaign with inordinately long lulls and ultra-packed periods of time (which at times doesn't give states enough time to consider a candidate seriously).

d. Retain the current system.

Pros:  Familiarity.

Cons:  The current system.

Anyways what do you think?

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What if the election ran like the Democratic primaries?

[Cross-posted (and augmented) from DailyKos]

We've heard ad nauseum about the differences between Democratic delegate allocation and the Republican method, and between delegate allocation and electoral votes. Bill Clinton has suggested that his wife would have the delegate lead if Democrats chose delegates as Republicans do, and Evan Bayh attempted to use electoral votes as a comparative measure.

Suppose, though, that instead of changing the Democratic system to approximate the GOP or the general election, we changed the distribution of electoral votes in the general election to the approach used by the Democratic Party to allocate convention delegates. What would be the outcome of that change?

Follow me below the fold for a look-see...

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Diaries

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