It could get ugly for Hillary, and fast, when Obama racks up 10 wins in a row over the next few days and takes a lead in delegates. First, the rules.
The stage was set for the current stalemate over five marathon days of negotiations in June 1988. In the fifth-floor conference room of a Washington law firm, representatives of Michael Dukakis, the party’s nominee, and Jesse Jackson, his unsuccessful challenger, hashed out a new set of delegate selection rules.
Jackson felt aggrieved that he had not amassed as many delegates as his popular vote total would have suggested. In the 1984 primary campaign, for instance, Jackson won 19 percent of the popular vote but received just 10 percent of the delegates. So Jackson’s rules guru, Harold M. Ickes, insisted on adopting proportional representation rules that would award insurgent candidates a bigger share of delegates in future contests.
Twenty years later, the rules Ickes advocated seem to be working against his current candidate, Hillary Clinton, reducing the impact of her wins in delegate-rich states such as California, New York and New Jersey. But Clinton could be saved by an unintended consequence of the move to proportional representation: Because the system tends to produce a stalemate between two strong candidates, it ends up supersizing the role of party pooh-bahs known as superdelegates.
So who are the superdelegates? NY Gov Eliot Spitzer is one, and he’s committed to Hillary. But what about the rest? Over to the Associated (with terrorists) Press, which for the second day in a row is running a Hillary hit piece. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Some are labor leaders still angry that Bill Clinton championed the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of his centrist agenda.
Some are social activists who lobbied unsuccessfully to get him to veto welfare reform legislation, a talking point for his 1996 re-election campaign.
Some served in Congress when the Clintons dismissed their advice on health care reform in 1993. Some called her a bully at the time.
Some are DNC members who saw the party committee weakened under the Clintons and watched President Bush use the White House to build up the Republican National Committee.
Some are senators who had to defend Clinton for lying to the country about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Some are allies of former Vice President Al Gore who still believe the Lewinsky scandal cost him the presidency in 2000.
Some are House members (or former House members) who still blame Clinton for Republicans seizing control of the House in 1994.
And so forth and so on. Basically, the Golden Rule was never a favorite of the Clintons, during the 1990s or now. They may finally learn its value the hard way.