Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Coulda, woulda, shoulda

Over a Salon, there is an interesting exchange between Sean Wilentz, a professor history at Princeton, and Brad DeLong, an economist at Berkeley, over whether the Democratic primary rules have "favored" Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. Wilentz began the debate by writing that, under a winner-take-all system, Hillary would be comfortably ahead of Obama in pledged delegates, having bested him in the most populous states (New York, California and Texas, for example). The proportional system, according to Wilentz, has favored Obama by allowing him to win delegates in states where he didn't win the popular vote, although that doesn't explain how Hillary managed to stay alive after Obama ran the table on her with 12 straight primary wins after her "comeback" win in New Hampshire, which is a state that should never have been competitive in the first place. DeLong counters with a very sophisticated argument that actually meshes with my initial reaction to the piece, which was, "You can't be serious."

Saying that Hillary Clinton should be winning the Democratic primary makes about much sense to me as the still-tired argument that Al Gore really defeated George W. Bush in 2000. Whether Bush really won Florida is separate than the electoral vs. the popular vote argument. The rules are the rules, and Bush defeated Gore according to the rules. To me, the biggest presidential embarrassment over the past three or four elections was W's re-election in 2004. If Iraq did much to compromise the diplomatic and military bona fides in the post-September 11th era, the nation's decision to re-elect the worst president in American history only compounded the tragic decision to invade Iraq. I don't blame John Kerry for that one, even though he was a stiff and impersonal presence on the campaign trail. The blame belongs with the electorate, shielded and pampered by policies that don't require any national investment in our government's decision to go to war. One legacy of W deserves repeating: he is the only president not raise taxes during a time of war.

I digress. Read the Wilentz and DeLong exchange and decide for yourself who makes the most sense.

No comments: