A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


The Crabby (aka Krabby) Patty primaries

Washington, D.C.,and surroundings vote today (Mark Shields has called them theCrab Cake Primaries; here in tribute to Sponge Bob is a slightly altered version).And here is E.J. Dionne on what's up for the two Democratic campaigns. He is on the mark, as usual,for the challenges eachfaces; and a little alarming on what the Democrats face when one of them wins--orfalls in exhaustion.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

Nice to see this column as an adjunct to the excelent piece in the new Commonweal. The seating of Florida/Michigan has been decribed by some as the "elephant in the (democratic party) room."The issue of superdelegates continues to fester as well, not helped by Donna Brazile's comments on the front page of Sunday's NYT.The issue of how the candidate finally chosen is really the one speaking for the peopel wil be so crucial, especially among the young getting involved for the first time.And all the racial/ gender/ class divide and exploitation of that stuff will only maximize that problem!

Does anyone know the last time superdelegates mattered? Were they an issue in 68? Obviously, they are usually irrelevant to the selection process, and so their status is honorary and symbolic. History suggests that they were not intended ever to have an actual impact on the nominating process.Thus, I utterly fail to see why it is not obvious to all Democrats, and so widely affirmed by all Democrats, that the superdelegates should simply vote with the candidate who goes into the convention with the most state delegates. In so far as a Democrat fails to affirm this position, she/he should immediately be required to explain why the voices of few should be allowed to override the voices of many.Margaret: Here in Maryland, we take our crab cakes very seriously. Jumbo lump crab cakes are held together with a special kind of magic, for it seems that only crab is to be found in the cake. Most Americans are, alas, familiar only with cakes made of backfin meat and far, far, too much that is other than crab.

Joe Petit: maybe Your SUPER Crabby Patties are still alive clinging to one another!Any superdelegate experts out there?? If memory serves (sometimes it doesn't), superdelegates were introduced because of the 1968 Democratic convention debacle when the likes of Mayor Richard Daley I and his delegations were thrown out by the insurgents. Weren't superdelegates introduced to allow elected officials a say in the altered primary process introduced after '68. John McGreevy are you there? Bob Nunz: I agree that Donna Brazile's comment were ill-consdiered; it would be much better if the super-Ds were seen to come to their own conclusions in the matter. And ditto the Florida/ Michigan Democratic Party. I think EJ's suggestions that they hold another primary (if that be legal) in each state; it would certainly solve the fight likely to erupt at the national level if those delegates would turn the tide for one candidate or the other.

I thought the supers were instituted after the 1980 election as a supposed corrective to McGovern-Fraser reforms post-1968, which weakened the role of party elders in the selection process. Brazile's overheated comments notwithstanding, the superdelegate rule makes for a strange way to pick a nominee.I don't see how FL and MI can hold a new round of primaries. When? How? Would the DNC allow it? Why? With what money? Does Clinton really want new elections at this point in the campaign?

The polls notwithstanding it is a big question whether Obama can win a general election. Some of his votes are anti-Hillary and no one can say for certain how much that will play in November. His playing on apparent Bill Clinton negative is really deceitful. Right now he is a biq question mark in that regard.Despite the rhetoric he is emerging as a cool, calculating politician. And this is just the beginning.

Bill: cool, calculating politicians who know how to count the votes are what the Dems need. That's what the sainted Richard Daley knew how to do.

As a Republican, I must say this all quite fun to watch. After decades of practicing the divisiveness of "identity politics," the Democrats now find themselves with the first truly viable female candidate running against the first truly viable African-American candidate ... and they're tearing the party apart! What happens next? Will they really duke it out at the convention over which delegates should be counted--the ones picked by the people or the "elite" Superdelegates? Will Florida and Michigan be taught their lesson, denied their rightful place, or forgiven? Can Hillary and Obama run with each other after all this? If not, will each have to choose a surrogate for the other (i.e., will Hillary have to pick some other African-American as her running mate or risk alienating that part of the Democratic base? Or will Obama have to name some other woman as his running mate or alienate that part?) Iornically, the Democrats have been thinking that 2008 was 1968 all over again (unpopular war, unpopular president) but it may turn out to be 1968 in ways they don't enjoy--as in a chaotic Democratic convention, possibly disrupted by anti-war demonstrators, that leaves the American public with a very uneasy feeling about trusting such childish politicians with the White House.

VP?: How about Colin Powell if Hillary wins and Elizabeth Edwards for Obama.

After decades of practicing the divisiveness of identity politics, the Democrats now find themselves with the first truly viable female candidate running against the first truly viable African-American candidate and theyre tearing the party apart!Robert,The last statistics I heard were that over 70 percent of Democrats, both Obama and Hillary Clinton supporters, would be happy to have either as the candidate. That doesn't sound like a party being torn apart. Meanwhile, you have people like Ann Coulter saying that if McCain is the nominee, she will consider supporting Hillary Clinton. All the talk about McCain is about if he can win over the "base." Democrats seem to be a lot happier about the choices they have right now than Republicans. I think you're taking Democratic lemonade and trying to turn it back into lemons!

Some here have asked about the superdelegates when were they instituted, and why. This, from the same Sunday N.Y. Times story referred to above:

Superdelegates, created in 1982, were intended to restore some of the power over the nomination process to party insiders, tempering the zeal of party activists. About 15 to 20 percent of the delegates at Democratic conventions are superdelegates.

David:Ann Coulter and her ilk (the self-identified "very conservative" voters") consitute less than 4 percent of the total electorate, according to The Weekly Standard. Thus, McCain does not need them, given that his support has always been among moderates, independents, and less-left-of-center Democrats. Moreover, the grousing of talk radio/Cable news pundits will only make it harder for the Dems and their wholly owned subsidiary (i.e., the major media) to declare that McCain is some kind of rightwing extremist when the Far Right so vocally rejects him ...As far as the Democrats' identity politics problem, it is a genuine dilemma that is being written about and commented on frequently--the Democrats stand and extremely good chance of either alienating one of the major groups within their base--and I didn't even mention the Hispanics who don't like the fact that Hillary just dumped her leading Hispanic female. I also find it fascinating (re: Margaret Steinfels's suggestion of Colin Powell as Hillary's veep) that Democrats keep thinking the best way to win is with a Republican on their ticket (i.e., Kerry's attempts to woo McCain in 2004) ... seems like their own nominees leave you wanting for something more!

I don't think Powell is a Republican! I don't think Dick Cheney thinks so either.

The Republicans have their own elephant in the room, if you'll pardon the expression - the heavy shadow of GWB.And, just for fun... how about a Hillary and Charley Rangel ticket? All New York! Would that rattle loads of folks chains! And the Bishops would have a Catholic on the ticket to try to intimidate!

This from Ann Olivier about the Louisiana vote (this was connected to the post below: The Nuns did it).Hi, Ms. Steinfels,(I'm the Commonweal blogger who can't always get back to a thread.)You asked me about the women's and Catholics' voting patterns in the primary last week in Louisiana. I haven't been able to find any data about the Catholic voting, but here is a bit about how women voted:"Unlike other in Democratic contests, there was no significant gender gap in Louisiana, according to the AP. Clinton, who is seeking to become the nation's first female president, won the votes of most white men, a group she has lost to Obama in some states but has tended to win in the South. Just more than half of women who said gender was important to their vote went for Clinton, while women who said gender wasn't important went almost 6 in 10 for Obama."From: for all of your interesting and informative posts on the blog,Ann OlivierNew Orleans

Charlie Rangel is a great idea (Hope that would be okay with the Mrs. who came out for Obama). Charlie is my Congressperson; I think he's great. Reminds me of Richard Daley.

Robert,It seems to me that the major media are extraordinarily fond of McCain, went awfully easy on W for quite a long time, were very hard on Bill Clinton and are being hard on Hillary, and loved Ronald Reagan. In spite of the personal politics of many in the mainstream media, I think they are more influenced by what might make a good story than what might help liberal causes.

Wow, it is fascinating to see your perspective on media bias David. The major media "loved" Reagan? Maybe at his funeral. They were "hard" on Bill Clinton? How so? Sure, he took some shots, but you can't really believe they were unfair or overly harsh. I would love to hear some examples of this harshness.As far as Hillary, it is not so much that they are hard on her, but that so many of them seem to be having Obama-crushes.On McCain, they love him when he's sticking it to the GOP, but come this summer, he will just be a crazy old man - remember, you heard it here.

"As far as the Democrats identity politics problem, it is a genuine dilemma that is being written about and commented on frequentlythe Democrats stand and extremely good chance of either alienating one of the major groups within their baseand I didnt even mention the Hispanics who dont like the fact that Hillary just dumped her leading Hispanic female."I think "alienting" is Dobson saying that he won't support McCain (and suggesting to his followers that they don't do the same), despite the fact that McCain is going to be the Republican nominee. Despite certain interest groups lining up behind one or the other Democratic candidate, I don't see any significant leaders of major groups saying that they will sit the election out if their choice does not win. Do you?

Unagidon: Do you think that men, anglo and african-american, or some critical proportion, will sit it out if Hillary is the nominee? Or go for the warrior--John McCain?

David:As a rare breed--a Republican who also holds two degrees in journalism and has worked only in the media all my life--I must praise you for unlocking the one great secret to the way the media works: although the media is at heart liberally biased, you are right that there is one thing that trumps even that bias--a great story! If you recall, early on in this election cycle--I mean last summer--when McCain was the presumed frontrunner, the media was extremely hard on him, pointing out--shock and horror!--that he is a conservative Republican. Then he was a failed candidate, so he was no longer of interest. But his "resurrection" is a great story--thus, whatever positive coverage he currently receives.

I most Democratic men of any and all stripes are so anxious to clean house of the Republican influence, particularly "more of the same GWB s**t" that McCain will bring, that we will gladly vote for Hillary if Obama is not the candidate.

Margaret: My 12 year old son informs me that there is a spelling error in the title of your post. It seems that the sandwich of choice in Bikini Bottom is the Krabby Patty.

"Unagidon: Do you think that men, anglo and african-american, or some critical proportion, will sit it out if Hillary is the nominee? Or go for the warriorJohn McCain?"No.There are really three political parties in the United States. The main party is the business party with a Republican and Democratic branch. On the right is a small party made up of religious "conservatives". On the left is a small party made up of "progressives". The small party candidates have been knocked out. Romney was to the right of McCain in the business party, and now he's out. So there is one Republican and tow Democratic business party people left, with Obama being to the left of Hillary.People have strong preferences for Hillary and Obama (or I should say that there are vocal groups that have strong preferences; I think that this idea of polarization is overstated.) But the real racist and sexist votes (in the sense of people wanting to support racism and sexism institutionally) moved to the far right a long time ago. So men will vote for Hillary if she is nominated and whites will vote for Obama. No doubt about it.I will say that this is helped along by the Republicans having had a sad run of remarkably incompetent people in high office over the last 7 years; not just in the White House but in Congress and in Bush's choices for the Supreme Court. They really don't have anything positive to run on, so we hear the old tired 1980's themes of "tax and spend liberals" and stuff like that. If Congress had been competently run under the Republicans, they would not be in this boat. They could have claimed to be replacing a bad leader with a good one. But now they are being forced to distance themselves from themselves. The best they can come up with is something we see in business with losers all the time. That is, the claim that however bad it was under the incumbent, it will be worse under someone iwith a different approach. I live in Illinois 14, Dennis Hastert's old district. He has had to endorse one of his worst enemies because the GOP gene pool is rather thin out here. This person is running as a "reform" candidate, despite being so endorsed. It's too bad Evelyn Waugh is dead.So the Republican fantasy that the Democratic Party will somehow self destruct in time for their mediocre candidate to win, the country in general is tired of Republican rule. The last substantive hope of the GOP, that the economy would not tank while they were still in control, is being dashed at this moment.

Thanks to all for a lively discussion. And since questions have been raised, let me add, I do not believe that Charlies Rangel will be Hillary's VP--but that's fine, he'll go on being my Congressmen. Except for the Harvard Law degree (Rangel's is from St. John's), his story is not that different from Obama's. You can read it all in "And I haven't Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress," his autobiography.

Charlie Rangel is also, I believe, a decorated war veteran (Korea) who has been married for more than 50 years. A good guy all the way around.

Yes, Korea. The title "And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since," is a reference to his suviving combat there. He also has a great broad New York accent; I once ran into him on the shuttle and recognized his voice before I say him; let's just say he is the consumate campaigner. And as I recall from a post below, he has introduced legislation to bring back the draft. I do believe we'd have better demonstrations if more people were confronted by the reality of serving in Iraq.

Just want to chime in that I rember Charley from my days working in Harlem long ago - a great congressional rep. a fine Christian gentleman and a helluva funy guy.When I lok at some of the blowhards in Congress today...

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment