March 27, 2008

"We can't let them win more delegates just by not telling us when the convention is!" — more Texas county convention maneuvering.

My son Christopher Althouse Cohen has been keeping me updated about how things look from the perspective of a county convention delegate in Texas. (See here, here, and here.) Now, he sends this rather alarming message:
Here's an e-mail from the Travis County Democrats to all the delegates. This is the first time anyone from the Democratic party, not counting the individual campaigns, contacted the delegates, and it's two days before the convention. The convention is all day on a Saturday, starting at 7:00am:
You are receiving this email because you are probably a delegate to the upcoming Travis County Democratic Party Convention, this Saturday, March 29.

First of all, thank you so much for participating in you March 4th Primary Precinct Convention! The Travis County Democratic Party (TCDP) welcomes those of you who are new to this process. And we also thank you for your patience for seeing it through that evening as we know some of you experienced difficulties due mostly to just the sheer number of Democrats that turned out to caucus.
It goes on to say when and where the convention is, and that they will send out more information, like where to get our delegate credentials, later.

One frustrated delegate sends out this e-mail to the entire mailing list:
I do not understand your suggestion that I am "probably" a delegate. I believe that I was elected to be a delegate and since I have not been notified otherwise, presumably I am a delegate. My guess is that is why you sent me this e-mail. If there is a possibility that my status may change due to some circumstance that you are not publishing please let me know immediately so I can decide whether I want to waste twelve hours on Saturday for no reason.

Do you seriously think that people will be pleased at the notion of spending up to three hours to register for an event that will then take at least another nine hours? A commitment of twelve plus hours is ludicrous in and of itself, as is your notion that you can notify people only two days in advance of an event of this magnitude and that your notification should be devoid of significant information that you will "soon" be sending. When are you going to send it, Friday night?

The caucus that I attended was poorly planned and then, to add insult to injury, the results are not yet known almost a month later. It looks like the county convention will be as bad or worse. Registration at the caucus took over an hour. Knowing that, and since you now have a data base of delegates, why not have us register and be credentialed on-line?
Here's part of an e-mail that I wrote to that delegate:

My name is Chris, and I'm a delegate in another precinct. I got your e-mail to the Travis County Delegates because I'm on their list as a delegate. I just thought I'd talk to you about the convention. First of all, I think they used the word "probably" because they are using a big mailing list of over 10,000 people and they're trying to allow for errors. There is a list online of ALL the delegates and alternates in all the precincts, and I did a quick search for your name and found that you are.

I'm sorry they haven't done a better job making sure all the delegates have all the information they need. Part of the problem is that it's the job of the Delegation Chair in your precinct to let every delegate in that precinct know when and where the convention is. Looking at your precinct, I notice that you are a delegate for Clinton and the Delegation Chair in your precinct supports Obama. The same thing is true in my precinct--I'm for Clinton, and my Delegation Chair, who has never contacted me, is for Obama. It was actually the Obama Precinct Captain who told me, when I asked her a series of questions about the rules a few weeks ago, that it's the Delegation Chair's responsibility. To make up for this, I have made a point of personally calling and e-mailing all the Clinton delegates in my precinct (235), who would be out of the loop if it were left to the Delegation Chair.

Here's the problem: if the Clinton delegates who are in precincts with Delegation Chairs who support Obama (in other words, any precinct with an Obama majority, since those Chairs were voted on at the caucus) don't show up because those Delegation Chairs only contacted the Obama supporters, Obama will get delegates he didn't earn. The race is all about delegates, and those delegates will be determined by those who show up at the county convention, then determined by those who are sent on to the state convention. We can't let them win more delegates just by not telling us when the convention is!



AJ Lynch said...

How sleazy - to win by witholding critical info from fairly elected delegates. Your son is tenacious Ann - bet he got that from you. Good for him to stay at it.

Daryl said...

Althouses: notice also that the original mailing received by Chris identified the date of the convention.

So Obama is telling "his" delegates directly when and where the convention is. That mailing, of course, was only supposed to go to Obama's delegates, and Chris may be the only Clinton delegate in all of Texas to receive it (or one of a very tiny handful).

By sending the messages from the central campaign, rather than from the local leaders tasked with notifying the delegates, the Obama campaign creates plausible deniability that it did anything wrong.

Ann Althouse said...

Daryl, the email from the Travis County Democrats (as Chris indicates) contains more than I copied there. Here's more:

Very soon we will be sending out answers to such questions as:







We are looking forward to seeing you at the largest Democratic County/Senatorial District Convention in Texas!

Thank you all for your understanding and patience during this most unusual, but exciting! primary season.

begins at 7:00 a.m. and ends at 10:00 a.m.

As we are ex expecting thousands of people, please come as early as possible to sign in. We cannot stress this enough.

Convention call to order is expected to be at 10:00 a.m.

Expect the County Convention to last until at least 7:00p.m

We hope you plan to stay the day enjoying being in arena filled with thousands upon thousands of like-minded Democrats with only one thing on their mind- electing a Democratic President in November!!!

PLACE: Travis County Exposition Center, Luedecke Arena, 7311 Decker Lane

#37 Colony Park bus runs to the Expo Center about every 30 minutes for most of the day on Saturdays.

Concession stand open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

Parking at the Expo Center is $5.

I'm laughing at the line "We hope you plan to stay the day enjoying being in arena filled with thousands upon thousands of like-minded Democrats"... personally, I wouldn't want to do anything with a group of people that went on for 12 hours, but being in arena filled with thousands upon thousands of like-minded Democrats... that's a nightmare!

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

It's very important to distinguish between different groups of people and what they're doing. It doesn't have to be a centralized effort to underhandedly keep Clinton delegates from going to the convention. It can just be the simple fact that, in the thousands of precincts in Texas, the voters elect a Delegation Chair who agrees with the majority in that precinct on Obama vs. Clinton, and Delegation Chairs themselves fail to do what they're supposed to do (which is to get the information to all delegates, not just the ones they agree with). Couple that with a disorganized party that doesn't do its part to make sure all the delegates know what they're supposed to do in time.

ZPS said...

"but being in arena filled with thousands upon thousands of like-minded Democrats...that's a nightmare!"

Oh, Ann. Just because they might not be worshipping you doesn't mean it would be a nightmare.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't want to be in that arena either. But that's because any time you get a group together with like-minded people, chances are, you'll still disagree with some of the nutjobs and complainers. There's a lot of whiny, snobby Democrats.

But can you imagine if they were Republicans?! I think I would spontaneously self-combust if I spent 12 hours in an arena with thousands of Republicans. Come to think of it...I'd rather be raped, repeatedly, by Katrina evacuees in the Superdome! We know they weren't Republicans!

By the way...I can't believe I read all the banter between Chris and these delegates and it didn't occur to me until the end that this is all ridiculous. Hillary lost the nomination weeks ago...there is no way she can catch Obama in delegates, even if she wins every primary by 60% from here on out. Yet the media is still acting like she has a chance!

The super delegates won't override the will of "the people" either. This has all been written about endlessly on Slate (they have a great "Delegate Calculator"), Huff Post, Salon, and then today Reuters put out an article on it.

Memo to Chris and his email buddies: Hillary can't win! But have fun spending 12 hours in an arena with a bunch of maniacs!

Blue Moon said...

As a delegate to the Tarrant County Democratic Party convention let me just say that I just love the fact that I am learning more about the process from the son of a law professor in Wisconsin about what the hell is going on than from, oh I don't know, my local party or my precinct chair.

Chris, I got an Obama card yesterday, but honestly, I know about 58% less information about my convention than you know about yours. There are no shenanigans that I am aware of other than the Hillary robo call and the Obama post card.

Blue Moon said...

Also, my friends who are Clinton delegates know where the convention is, but I do not know if they were in an Obama or Clinton precinct. My precinct was 75% Obama. I'm not saying that there may not be some nefarious things going on, but it could just be good old fashioned incompetence at work. My caucus was an absolute mess wrapped up in a boondoggle.

joated said...

So, Chris, with this expeerience (or at least what you've experienced to date) would you recommend this means of selecting delegates again? Or could there be a simpiler, perhaps more direct method?

Nugget said...

I am a delegate for a Travis County precinct and I guess our precinct is just unusually well-coordinated. Both the Clinton and the Obama contingents of our precinct have had strategy meetings and we're all well coordinated with everyone's contact information, alternate order, and mobile numbers.

My experience has been very unlike those described above -- we're pretty damn organized and ready for Saturday (on both the Clinton and Obama sides.

garage mahal said...

Hillary lost the nomination weeks ago...there is no way she can catch Obama in delegates, even if she wins every primary by 60% from here on out. Yet the media is still acting like she has a chance!

Great! Then presumably Obama can stop grabbing delegates and stop asking for Hillary's tax returns, and calling her unelectable, and attacking her character every day?

It's only over when the superdelegates say it's over. Why haven't they ended this yet?

Rich Beckman said...

The whole mess sounds like it is smack dab in the middle of historical precedent for how America goes about its politics.

I'm not convinced that it makes much difference how democratic the process is by which the parties choose their nominees.

I don't think the quality of the nominees has gone up much with the democratization of the process.

Personally, I think we should dispense with primaries. At least primaries at taxpayer expense.

Why are my tax dollars spent to help the Democrats and the Republicans choose their nominees?

I haven't considered myself a member of a party for some time.

Maybe Obama's people have organized this effort to discourage Clinton delegates and maybe they didn't. But running the country involves knowing how to "pull levers" and be organized. Obama keeps showing that he does that better than Hillary (he has won most of the caucus states I believe).

Katie said...

And THIS (along with the last few months of ickiness) is supposed to make us trust the abilities of the Democratic Party?

Grace, an Independent in California

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

joated: No, I would definitely not support using this method again. But I don't think we should have a delegate system or caucuses at all. I think there should just be one, big primary with a popular vote winner.

L. E. Lee said...

I really think Chris and Ann are hyperventilating and seeing conspiracy theories where none exist. Chris seems to be all bent out of shape that the Obama Campaign sent him a reminder postcard that their convention is coming up. I would think Chris would be happy Clinton delegates are being reminded to show up. What am I missing here?

Concerning caucuses in general, Chris and Ann seem to think that Obama-who only came on to the national stage two years ago-somehow invented the caucus system. What Ann and Chris seem not to know is that the Clintons have been running the Democratic Party for over eighteen years now. Are they unfamiliar that Bill Clinton was president and was the titular head of the party from 1993 to 2001? Terry McAuliffe-the Clinton's main political operative-was head of the DNC from 2001-05. If the Clintons did not want State parties to use the caucus system to select delegates why did they not say something before now?

Under normal circumstances the caucuses should benefit institutional candidates like Hillary Clinton. Now that caucuses are benefiting the better organized insurgent candidate team Clinton is crying foul. Unbelievably shameless.

Trevor Jackson said...

"one, big primary with a popular vote winner."

I agree that states have some bizarre methods of choosing their delegates, Christopher. But your suggestion for a replacement raises some questions.

Are you calling for a popular vote in each state with the winner getting all or a proportion of the delegates to the convention? Or just have it all decided on one big national primary vote day? So, low-recognition candidates are pretty hosed in terms of cutting through the instant run-off the media creates.

L. E. Lee said...

Chris wrote-
"I think there should just be one, big primary with a popular vote winner."

I take it you are not a big fan of federalism...

Ann Althouse said...

I didn't say there was a conspiracy. I'm just laying out the evidence as it comes to me.

Anyone familiar with this blog knows I'm not a Clinton fan. I voted for Obama in the Wisconsin primary. And I've taken a vow of (cruel) neutrality.

CW said...

There are whispers among the Democratic superdelegates that the party will lose the White House if either Clinton or Obama are nominated. Therefore, let's come up with the profile of the likely compromise candidate. First, the candidate would have to subscribe to the economic and foreign policy pronouncements of both of the present candidates. That is easily done, as many Congressional Democrats share the same worldview. The compromise candidate will also have to stanch the bleeding caused by the identity politics practiced by both Obama and Clinton camps. This would have to be done in two stages. First, to counteract the black vs. female battle, the compromise candidate would probably be a black woman. Secondly, the compromise candidate must have a record of backing the Clintons while they were in office but must also be able to reach out to the far left wing of the party. She must be "authentically" black to get support from the Sharpton-Wright subset of the black wing of the party. She must also be a proven fund-raiser from both domestic and foreign sources (just as the Clintons are master fund-raisers from foreign sources). This all points to one woman, and one woman only. The perfect compromise candidate for the Democratic Party would be.......Cynthia McKinney!


M. Simon said...

This looks like a prime example of the superior intelligence and management abilities of Democrats that we all hear so much about.

Given all the "name that party" scandals, this is shaping up as a great year for the Democrats.

Not to mention Obama's Black Power Church.

I used to think the Republican Party was totally incompetent. The Democrats have set a new standard that will be very hard to top.

Daryl said...

Chris wrote: I think there should just be one, big primary with a popular vote winner.

The problem with having a single vote, as opposed to regional primaries (my favored solution) is that it doesn't give politicians a chance to connect with people at the local level.

Your solution would be little more than a national opinion poll. We would end up with candidates like Rudy Giuliani, just because everyone thought everyone else would vote for him.

The other problem with using the popular vote only is that fraud would be very hard to detect and deal with. Any fraud, anywhere, could throw the outcome. At least if we divide it up by states, we can deal with the elections in each one on an individual basis. Can you imagine Florida 2000 if every single state in the country wanted to do "recounts" to discover pregnant chads or other undervotes?

M. Simon said...

I like the commenter who said "Clinton can't win so what does it matter?"

What ever happened to the "count every vote" party?

John McCain is such a lackluster candidate. How the Ds managed to do worse is way beyond me.

Some suspect Obama is a Rovian plot.

You will pardon me if I posted this link earlier:

Is Rove Behind Obama?

Wouldn't it be ironic Ann if Obama was a Trojan Horse sent to drive a wedge into the Democrat Party? Wedging is Rove's SOP. First you divide. Then you conquer.

BTW the Cynthia McKinney idea? ROTFLMAO.

Identity politics is not a long term winner. It promotes intergroup racism. Not good for a party that promotes its anti-racist cred.

Clyde said...

The Democrats can't even run an honest primary election process and they want us to trust them to run the country? Are these the people we want administering the "free" universal health care that they want to impose on us?

"Come in to the doctor's office at 7 a.m. and hang out for three hours, and then we'll see if we can work you in around 7 p.m." Well, that will sure weed out the hypochondriacs.

Ima said...

You gotta admire the Obama folks.

I lived in Vermont. But almost a decade ago. I've moved twice since then, to two different states over a thousand miles away.

But still, Obama-noids tracked down a registered Independent, former Vermont resident and robo-called him to vote for Obama in the Vermont primary.

They're relentless, I'll grant them that.

joated said...

Thanks for answering, Chris. I'm getting the feeling that simpler is better and the one primary--popular vote, winner take all-- without the caucuses and county delegate system you're currently experienceing for better or worse, would be a huge improvement.

Improved understanding of the process, increased transparency, and a giant leap toward trustworthiness of the results would boost the voters' feeling of a fair selection having been made.

As things stand now, who knows exactly what is going on? With all the layers of general voting, caucuses and now county conventions...exactly when is a a decision made as to who the party wants as its candidate?

And Texas isn't the only state to undergo this confusion. I was somewhat taken aback when Iowa (remember Iowa? First in the nation to vote/select? I read it in the papers for years!) suddenly reported on its caucuses...nearly two months after the primary. So much for deciding things early.

Joe Garland said...

I have a question to the author. Where in the party rules does it enumerate the Delegation Chair's responsibilities? I ask because I was elected Delegation Chair from my precinct, but neither at the precinct convention nor at the Texas Democratic Party website was I able to find any information regarding why this position even exists.

Perhaps the failure of some Delegation Chairs to contact delegates for a candidate he or she did not support is not a result of malicious intent, but rather a failure of the state party to disseminate pertinent and timely information.

JohnTaylor88 said...

I think there should just be one, big primary with a popular vote winner.

Then vote for a Republican.

Omaha1 said...

It's hard to say if there are any nefarious motives behind all this or not. I still think it's good to put all of the party machinations under a microscope. No one seems to have a problem with that in the general election.

I don't care for Hillary or Obama but if I had to choose between them I would pick Hillary. Better the devil you know and all that...

patsy said...

If you ask anyone working on either campaign the incompetence is with the local democratic party. The news has told us about all the problems in other states due to the enormous turn out. Apparently they were not listening because they were not prepared for the texas two-step or for the convention.

Ginny said...

I am not at all surprised that Chris experienced what I consider to be election fraud in Texas. Eight days ago CO State Dems released the names and addresses of State Convention Delegates. Our Hillary chair received the Hillary list. The list contained names and addresses but no zip codes or phone numbers. We have spent hours searching for phone numbers and correct addresses. The Obama list was released to the county Obama chair who is ALSO THE COUNTY DELGATION CHAIR! Within hours of receiving the Hillary list, our chair was informed that Obama people were already calling our Hillary delegates. Obviously the Delegation Chair received copies of lists from both groups and released the Hillary list(the one that had phone numbers) to Obama supporters. Our local Democratic Party Chair, when approached by the Hillary leader, said, "What am I supposed to do about that?" Guess who he supports. The Delegation Chair-who is supposed to be unbiased and fair-was asked by two Hillary supporters if he had given Obama's people the Hillary list. He neither confirmed nor denied. What do you think?
I absolutely feel that the same exact thing happened in Chris's county in Texas. Of course Hillary supporters are becoming more assertive. At least we are not sneaky. And now, as Hillary supporters, we are forced to call Obama supporters.
I applaud my Party's unprecedented ground campaign, but if we can't be fair and ethical, we should quit. Obama keeps himself above the mudslinging and accuses Hillary of being negative. I do not believe he is that unaware or unseeing. I do not know whether he initiated this behavior, but he has to know what his supporters are doing. By not stopping this behavior, he must approve.
Supporters of Obama, please stop destroying our party! I know this is politics, but you are essentially burning down your own home.
We are going to end up with another Republican in the White House and heaven help my children. They are the ones who will suffer from this behavior.