A Deadlocked Democratic Convention

by Jeff Siegel

Hillary Clinton's victories in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island on Tuesday were the worst news the Democratic Party elite could get. They were the best news for those of us who care about progressive issues.

How unhappy were the party bosses? On Tuesday morning, the Daily Kos, the party's house organ, was playing down Clinton's victories and reminding everyone that Barack Obama still led in delegates. What it ignored, of course, was what the ringmaster here at iVoryTowerz, Rick Rockwell, wrote on Tuesday: "Clinton now makes it almost impossible for either candidate to win the nomination before the convention."

This is what is driving the party leaders crazy. The last thing they want is a convention that isn't scripted, buffed, cut and polished like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. This is because they don't believe in anything other than getting their candidate elected, and they don't care who their candidate is as long as the nominee looks good. They backed Mrs. Clinton when the process started in January, because she seemed inevitable. It's why they were so quick to jump off her bandwagon at the first sign of trouble. See Congressman John Lewis for the perfect example.

Their discomfort is, of course, our pleasure. The voters spoke, and that's the way it should be. It's the height of arrogance to ask voters to do something because it's better for the party – which is, as near as I can tell, the party's attitude after Texas and Ohio.

But there is much more to it than that. As one Daily Kos commenter noted: "There was a time that I thought DKos was at least somewhat reflective of the true nature of progressive politics and values. Not after tonight." The Daily Kos – and, by extension, the Democrats – do not care about progressive issues except when they can be used against the Republicans. Sen. Clinton (D-NY) has supported the war since the beginning, and no one cared until she stumbled in Iowa. Sen. Obama (D-IL) was endorsed by the Dallas newspaper, a long-time Republican bastion, in part because he supports nuclear power. Does anyone who voted for him even know that?

My head hurts from watching TV commercials over the past couple of weeks extolling the virtues of a middle-class tax cut and national security. Those are the same commercials that George W. Bush ran four years ago, and the same ones that John McCain will run this fall. It is Republicans vs. Republican Lites, and we all know how that turns out.

Perhaps, hopefully, finally, in a deadlocked convention, the party will have to discuss the issues and stop pretending that it is just like the Republicans, only more personable. Perhaps, hopefully, finally, it will agree that the war must end, and that Sen. McCain (R-AZ), who supports the war, should lose because of it. Perhaps, hopefully, finally, it will agree that sound fiscal policy is not about tax cuts for the sake of tax cuts, but about a fair and efficient tax code. Can't you imagine McCain, in a debate, being forced to defend tax cuts for people who make millions and pay no real income tax, while the working poor can't afford health insurance? "Is that fair, Senator McCain? Is that the American way, Senator McCain?"

This is how out of touch the Democratic Party is: McCain is a conservative Republican who supports the war, wants more tax cuts for the wealthy, and is against abortion. And they think they'll have a hard time beating him unless we all walk in lockstep and pander to suburban soccer moms.

If that's the case, bring on the deadlock!

(Editor's Note: The 1924 Democratic National Convention is generally regarded as the most divisive deadlocked convention in U.S. political history. The delegates took 103 ballots to reach a decision and none of the frontrunners got the nomination. To read more about it, please go here.)

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:

(The photo of the 1924 Democratic National Convention is from The Chicago Daily News collection of the Chicago Historical Society via the Library of Congress: negative DN-0077184. The photo is regarded as in the public domain, as long as the sources are credited.)

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