"This body of 30 individuals has decided they're going to substitute their judgment for 600,000 voters. Now that's what I call democracy...There's been a lot of rhetoric about democracy and on and on and on; I am stunned that we have the gall and chutzpah to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters." (Harold Ickes, 5/31/2008: RBC Meeting)
After a tense and sometimes raucus morning session of the DNC's Rules & Bylaws Committee, at which state Democratic Party leaders and officials from both the Clinton and Obama campaigns gave logical, legal and impassioned oral arguments to seat Florida and Michigan delegates, committee members broke for a long lunch and returned at approximately 3:15 p.m. (PDT) to vote on motions.
The afternoon session also was raucus. Anger was palpable by observers in attendance, at what they perceived to be the Committee's injustice regarding delegate seating and voter disenfranchisement. They again broke out in shouts of "Denver" "Denver" several times during debate on the motions - an ominous foretelling of Harold Ickes' angry response to the decision on Michigan's status (below). Co-chairs James Roosevelt and Alexis Herman gaveled the protesters to silence a number of times and called for silence and a request to allow members to speak.
FIRST UP: Florida
A motion by Alice Huffman (CA) to restore the state's voting delegation to full status was defeated, 15 to 12. After the vote, protestors stood up and shouted "Denver, Denver" to committee members - implying that the fight would go to the convention in Denver.
Tina Flournoy (DC): "We are supposed to be a party of inclusion; I find it incredibly sad that this body won't bring them back in with a full vote." It is something I will strongly support even though I know it will not pass."
Alternate motion by Ralph Dawson (NY): To lift the sanctions and impose a 50-percent reduction; that all pledged delegate positions be restored, provided that each pledged delegate is entitled to cast 1/2 vote; in addition, all pledged delegates shall be allocated taking into consideration the following: 52.5 votes, Clinton; 6.5 votes, Edwards; 33.5 votes, Obama; Unpledged will be awarded 1/2 vote each at convention. Further, we will instruct the state party to fill pledged delegates as per the rules.
Alternate motion: In favor: 27 (unanimous).
Huffman said prior to voting on the alternate motion, "If you believe in democracy then this is the next best thing and I encourage you to respect it and to please conduct yourselves like proper men and women." She continued, "The rules are not perfect, but they're good."
Harold Ickes (DC): "Disappointed we didn't get a full vote but we'll take half of it."
Alice Germond: (DC): "Rules are how we, with dignity, conduct our business. We are not this administration that plays fast and loose with the rules."
Mona Pasquil (CA): "I fully support you, Alice, but I also want to be responsible to these voters. As important as the rules are - I'm Asian and I was raised strictly and to follow the rules - but sometimes there are larger principles at stake and sometimes we have to look beyond the rules."
NEXT UP: Michigan
Mame Reilly (VA): Motion that all pledged delegate positions be restored to full seating provided that they cast 1/2 votes and that all pledged delegate positions be restored provided they cast 1/2 vote. Clinton received 69 votes which would translate to 34.5 votes; Obama would receive 59 votes, that would translate to 29.5 votes. The Michigan Democratic Party will conduct a process to fill pledged delegate positions in accordance with Rules 5, 6, 7, and 12, including candidate right of approval.
In favor: 19
Clinton supporters were visibly angered by the vote. Harold Ickes and Liz Smith articulated what for many observers in attendance was missing and what was key: the will of voters.
Don Fowler (SC) said, "This is not my first choice and it is not the first choice of Hillary Clinton. In the best interests of the Party and of electing a president in November this is what I think we should do..."
Harold Ickes (DC): "I rise in opposition, but I sit." "I've already stated my views on this and I represent Sen. Clinton in this regard. We find it inexplicable that this body that is devoted to rules is going to fly in the face of the single most fundamental rule of fair reflection. This motion will hijack - remove - four delegates won by Hillary Clinton and most importantly that reflects the preferences of 600,000 MI voters. This body of 30 individuals has decided they're going to substitute their judgement for 600,000 voters. Now that's what I call democracy..." "There's been a lot of rhetoric about democracy and on and on and on; I am stunned that we have the gall and chutzpah to substitute our judgement for 600,000 voters. Was the process flawed? You bet your ass it was flawed. It's hard to find a process in the United States that isn't flawed. Look at the voting statistics. This country has one of the lowest participation rates of any country in the world."
"...You can't take delegates from one candidate and give them to another; not only will this hijack delegates from Hillary Clinton and give them to another candidate, it will take them and give them to Barack Obama. I am going to vote against this motion and I hope others will join me."
"Finally, there's been a lot of talk about party unity and about coming together. I suspect that hijacking four votes and giving them to another is not a good path to start down toward unity."
"Mrs. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her rights to take this to Credentials Committee."
Everett Ward (NC): (In response to Ickes): "For a colleague who uses selective amnesia to try to suggest that this blocks voters and the voting process - I find that somewhat subjective," a snide reference to Clinton's push to seat delegates from the two states. "I ask that as we continue this process, to do so with honesty and in the spirit of Ella Baker - openly and honestly. I hope we will end further political posturing that suggests we are doing otherwise."
Liz Smith (DC): "Fellow members of Rules Committee, I want to address this to my friends in MI. Carl Levin, David Bonoir, Debbie Dingle." "When they applied to go outside the window I supported their decision to let them go outside this window and I came here to support them. I thought this motion was going to be in two parts...But I cannot support this motion on this challenge; to me the democratic process is all about the voters in America. Voters rule. They are the highest government in this country and I cannot accept a comprisme that neglects the will of 600,000 voters. This party will be unified, but this is not the way to do it. I regret that I have to vote against this motion."
(More later on updated delegate counts, the new "magic" number, popular vote totals).