Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hillary's Funny Popular Vote Math

Another worthy read from this week's New Yorker, Hendrick Hertzberg's Memory Lapse. He links the origins of Memorial Day from shortly after the Civil War and weaves an obvious connection to the 2000 FL recount:
thanks to HBO, the remembrances of the Memorial Day weekend encompassed another American civil war, happily less lethal to its combatants but far from trivial in its consequences...It reminds us of some essential truths about the election and its aborted recount: that more Floridians went to their polling places to vote for Al Gore than for George W. Bush; that a full and fair count would have confirmed the voters’ preference; that the White House was awarded to Bush, the half-million-vote loser across the nation, by a 5-4 Supreme Court diktat. The injustice of Bush v. Gore was obvious at the time; its sequel has proved it to be a tragedy...The wound to the country’s civic health remains fresh, though of course it is active, committed Democrats who feel it most keenly.
That's an understatement and hardly approaches the pain of Bush's re-election. (Ohio 2004)

Then, like many others last week, Hertzberg notes Hillary Clinton's frightening similarity to her husband:
“We’re winning the popular vote,” Hillary Clinton said last week, after prevailing in the Kentucky primary by a margin bigger than that by which she lost in Oregon. “More people have voted for me than for anyone who has ever run for the Democratic nomination.” These statements must be read with the sort of close grammatical and definitional care that used to inform her husband’s descriptions of his personal entanglements. They are not quite true in the normal sense, but if made under oath they would not be prosecutable for perjury, either.
He outlines the problems with her calculation of the majority and notes her frightening lunacy and detachment from reality:
In a nominating process, especially this one, the “popular vote” is an elusive phenomenon. RealClearPolitics.com, an independent Web site whose numbers political reporters and operatives tend to trust, maintains six separate tallies. At the moment, Obama leads in four of them. With or without participants in the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington (i.e., states where voters’ preferences were expressed by gathering in corners and the like, and whose numbers can be estimated but are not pinpointed), and with the totals for both Florida (whose primary was unsanctioned by the Democratic Party, with the consent of all the candidates, and where no one campaigned) and Michigan (also unsanctioned, and where Obama’s name was not even on the ballot), Clinton’s claim that more people have “voted” for her is factual. But her claim to be “ahead” depends entirely on a tally for the Michigan primary that is distinctly North Korean: Clinton, 328,309; Obama, 0.
There is an important point buried in there. The point is that we can never have an accurate popular vote count because 4 caucus states don't have a count to report. It's MOOT.

And then the escalation of her rhetoric last week that makes me worry this is going all the way to the convention:

Last Wednesday, Clinton described the Democrats’ long-standing reluctance to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations in their entirety, a reluctance that she shared back when she saw her nomination as inevitable, in these words: “We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe.” In a speech in Florida, she invoked the Declaration of Independence, “the consent of the governed,” the abolition of slavery, “our most fundamental values,” the 1848 Seneca Falls women’s-suffrage convention, the sacrifice of soldiers, the tear gas at Selma, “equal justice under the law,” and the Voting Rights Act. Worse, she invaded the Democratic sacristy, picked up the chalice, and flourished it like a club, saying that
right here in Florida, you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren’t counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner. The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal clear. If any votes aren’t counted, the will of the people is not realized and our democracy is diminished.

I'm scared.

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