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Missing the forest
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-04-03 09:41:57
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I never pretended to be an expert on US politics and embarrassingly I have to admit that I learn a big deal on what’s going on in the White House and Capitol Hill from a television series called the “West Wing”. But I have to admit things with the Democratic Party and what’s going on between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have totally confused me, especially when all these calls came last week to Hillary to pull out of the race.

The very same week top officials of the Democratic Party were calling Hillary Clinton to resign from the race, polls between voters were showing her leading by even 15% to Obama whilst coming to party members and delegates Obama was far ahead. And that to my simple calculations means that, despite the fact the actual voters want Hillary for the next president of the United States, there is a big possibility that the Democratic Party will vote Obama to lead them, leaving her aside. Now even compared to cricket, the game seems easy to understand.

Over the last few weeks, the two opponents have been acting like worst enemies - something that is quickly escalating – and they are often attacking each other on very personal issues or using the dirtiest methods. In a way I can understand that doesn’t matter if I like it or not. The Democratic Party, just like the Republicans, is a collective party with many sides and many perspectives. In Europe you go to vote and sometimes you have to deal with twenty and thirty different parties and sometimes the differences between those parties are so small it makes you wonder why they don’t unite to increase their chances. However, this is a different reality in US politics and I can understand that inside the Democratic Party there is a left side, a socialist side, a liberal and even a conservative part. And I suppose there are representatives of all these parts of the party.

I presume Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama represent exactly these different sides of the same party and it is like in Europe, it is easier for the Social-Democrats to communicate, negotiate, even cooperate, with the conservatives than they can even stand in the same room with the socialists. I can understand that and this is the beauty of democracy, these arguments are creative and informative for the voters. You see, again I returned to the voters, not representatives of the voters.

Oddly, as it might sound, the delegates, the members of the parties that have been voting for the last few months, are representatives of the voters and they should represent exactly that. But here we have a missing element: the voters themselves. The party members have their interests and their agendas; agenda is a magic word in politics and with all the lobbies ruling US politics it seems agendas are the most important thing in US politics. However, all these delegates seem to forget one thing that the simple voters might have an agenda and if what the delegates decide the voters don’t find it to their likeness they might do exactly what they did before, ignore the elections and suddenly the Democrats will find a very united Republican party replacing George W. Bush with the worst possible clone, McCain!

As I said in the beginning, most of the time I try hard to understand US politics but I do understand that lobbies have taken gigantic dimensions, especially since these lobbies often represent funding lobbies and also the expenses of each candidate represent the whole budget of some African countries. I don’t expect either of them to pull out, this would be unfair first of all for their supporters and in this case we are talking about millions of active supporters who voluntarily have worked hard for their candidates.

What I do expect from both of them is to listen to the voters, listen to what they want and how they want it. The voters are not sheep and they are not brainless, most of all they have instinct; if you have any doubts just ask John Kerry. George W. Bush’s failure was proven and fact, still nobody trusted that Kerry could be the solution. People voted George W. Bush.

As things have come - this is something we know well in Europe - party members don’t elect governments, usually it is this small percent of the undecided standing in the middle and the last minute deciding. The role of these undecided voters is critical and that should be the target for the Democratic Party and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama with all the things going on lately are losing them. McCain from the other side is no good but at least is the evil …we know!

I imagine that the best thing Hillary and Barack can do is to meet; meet with all these people, the brains of the Democratic Party and see, analyze the forest. I know what I’m writing because I have the feeling that the last few months they see the tree and they miss the forest and then act, act according to voters’ wishes and wants, act now before it is too late because this world will be better without another five years of George W. Bush – it doesn’t matter the name!

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Emanuel Paparella2008-04-03 11:02:58
Indeed Thanos, there is the fiction of the series West Wing (which I am afraid will not take Europeans very far in understanding the intricacies of American politics and distinguish the forest from the trees), and then there is the reality of the language of mathematics, not to speak of that of the US Constitution which does not provide for a direct democracy. That explains why George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 despite Al Gore’s winning of the popular vote; aside from the machination on the part of Republicans which went on in Florida.

At this point in time, from this side of the Atlantic pond, barring a major scandal, it appears numerically impossible for Hillary Clinton to overtake Barack Obama’s lead among elected delegates. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-04-03 11:07:32
And here is the mathematical reality: neither Obama nor Clinton can win the 2,025 delegates required for nomination without some combination of elected delegates (those chosen in primaries and caucuses) and super-delegates (party and elected officials who are automatic delegates to the Democrats' Denver convention this summer). About 800 of the approximately 4,000 delegates are super-delegates and several hundred of them are still uncommitted to either candidate. Given the remaining contests — many with electorates favorable to Obama — Obama's existing hundred-plus delegate lead, and the rules by which Democrats apportion delegates, it is almost a political and mathematical certainty that Obama will have an elected delegate lead at the end of the process. Some of the upcoming states to vote such as North Carolina on May 6 and Oregon on May 20, are likely to swing strongly for Obama, and certainly show no signs of being Clinton blowouts. Other contests might be more favorable for Clinton (Pennsylvania, Indiana, Guam, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Montana, and South Dakota), but even decisive wins in those states — say, in the 60-40 range — would still leave her behind in both elected delegates and the overall count. That remains true even if Clinton somehow succeeds in getting the disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan seated at the convention.

Emanuel Paparella2008-04-03 11:09:48
Clinton's only hope of winning a majority of the delegates is to overtake Obama's elected delegate lead by winning the bulk of the remaining super-delegates. However, Obama has of late signed up more super-delegates than Clinton in part because they are swayed by his lead in elected delegates. Obama is likely to continue accruing super-delegates. So. were Clinton to secure the nomination with unelected convention votes, that would be seen by many Obama supporters as highly undemocratic, thus dividing the party on the eve of the general election and thus paving the way for a Mc Cain presidency. Clinton can of course continue to believe in some unforeseen circumstance or a miracle of sort, which is always a possibility in politics, but if one believes in the logic and power of numbers, then the candidate of inevitability is Obama, not Clinton.

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