Guest Column: How Hillary Could Win Fair (And Lock Up The General Election, Too!)

02/13/2008 06:35 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

While I remain officially neutral in the Democratic presidential nomination race, I have been accused lately of writing nice things about Barack Obama, and not doing the same for Hillary Clinton. To tell the truth, I had been formulating an article in my mind on this subject, but I hadn't gotten very far.

Riding to my rescue was one of Huffington Post's own commenters, who not only suggested I write a pro-Hillary article, but also outlined what I should say in it. I thought the idea had merit, but instead of just swiping his idea and writing my own words around it, I offered him the opportunity to write it himself.

I don't do this very often, I should note. This is only the second time in over a year and a half I have "loaned out" my soapbox here. The first time was an article called "Rules Democrats Should Use To Take Back Congress" which is as valid today as when it was written, over a year ago. So without further ado, here is a companion piece to last week's "How Obama Could Wrap It Up" column, written by Joshua L. Eisenstein, Ph.D.


How Hillary Could Win Fair (And Lock Up The General Election Too!)

"This is about fairness." That was the first sentence of Mr. Weigant's post "How Obama Could Wrap It Up," making the case for re-votes in Florida and Michigan. The value we place on fairness goes back millennia, even to the time of King Solomon. George Washington rejected political parties altogether and only served two terms, because he understood how valuable it is to be fair. When you think about it, fairness may be the greatest bedrock American value, on which every woman and man must agree. It is a principle that goes beyond politics, and touches the core of who we as a society want ourselves to be.

Back to King Solomon for a moment: the story of his offer to "split" a baby teaches us that the real mother is the one who really cares, the one who is willing to give up what is most precious to her rather than see it destroyed. As a result, Solomon realizes she must be the real mother, and that the child is hers. Currently there is a very sharp sword that is in danger of splitting the Democratic Party. One side of the blade is the disenfranchisement of Florida and Michigan, and the other is the potential for "super-delegates" to overrule the majority of voting states.

On one side, Hillary Clinton seems to want her "wins" in Florida and Michigan counted exactly as they were voted. However, there was no campaign in either state. In Michigan, Hillary was the only major candidate whose name was even on the ballot. That is not fair. Meanwhile, Obama wants to stick to the party rules, even though it would effectively disenfranchise both states. Here in Florida, we Democrats are a little touchy when it comes to our votes not being counted. That is not fair either.

On the other side of the blade, super-delegates could change the outcome of the Democratic primary. Hillary currently has a commanding lead in this department. So, if Obama were to end up with a slight edge in delegates chosen by the voters, Hillary's support among party "leaders" could in effect reverse the decision of the voters. This would not be fair, would leave half the party feeling cheated, and could cost the general election. Nor is it fair for Obama supporters to decry the party rules on this issue while supporting them on the first.

It's a close race, and both campaigns are lobbying hard for every advantage they can get. Howard Dean, in his infinite wisdom, has drawn his double-edged blade and seems fully prepared to allow the nomination process and its unfair "rules" to cut the party in half. But Hillary Clinton can change that. If on the issue of delegates Hillary could deal from a position of what is fair instead of what's in her immediate self-interest, it could put her on the moral high ground that Barack seems to have monopolized thus far, and allow her to win the nomination outright, with the full support of her party behind her.

Now, Hillary Clinton is a great candidate and a great politician, not to mention a great woman, but somehow she has never been able to shake the right-wing depiction of her as the wicked queen from Snow White. I'm not foolish enough to believe that insanity, but speaking as someone who voted for Obama (for what little good it did here in Florida), her campaign is missing something. She has proven that she is willing to fight and win for the people she cares about, but her campaign has no higher theme that you can put your finger on, no person, place or deeper concept that seems more important to her than winning. If she is willing to act the part, fairness can be Hillary's theme, her identity and her ticket to the White House. The Democratic presidential nomination is a very big, very important baby, and Hillary now has an opportunity to show everyone that it is hers.

Hillary and Bill, who are masters at brokering political deals, can sheath both edges of the party rules by engineering a compromise on Michigan, Florida and the super-delegates. In secret if necessary, in public if possible, they can present Howard Dean with a proposal to meet everyone's concerns, under the mantra of "fairness above all." In this deal, Michigan and Florida would both get to re-do their votes this summer, with full primaries (not caucuses), funded by the party. This might seem costly in the short-term, but it is the fairest option, giving both candidates adequate time to campaign in the two states, and the most voters a chance to vote.

In exchange, Hillary would agree to ask her super-delegates to vote for whoever gets the majority of pledged delegates, even if that person is not her. This may seem self-sacrificing, but it's actually a bold move in a campaign that has been somewhat stagnant lately. If the idea and the public impetus to accomplish this deal comes from Hillary's camp, it will give her the power of principle that she has been missing, and the legitimacy to counter any claims by detractors in the Obama camp (or elsewhere) that she will "do anything to win." Plus, she will once again publicly prove herself to be a competent leader who solves difficult problems.

This approach would benefit Hillary fourfold:

First, the two major divisions in the Democratic primary would be solved, and she would get the bulk of the credit for solving them. You can practically hear Bill Clinton saying, "Barack talks a lot about bringing people together to find common ground, but I think Hillary is the best at actually making it happen."

Second, Hillary would get a bump at the polls in other states, and possibly even do better the second time around in Florida and Michigan than she did the first. Taking a stand on principle, even though it might potentially hurt her chances to win, would tip many voters who like both but can't decide. Ironically, such a bump could tip the balance and make certain that she wins outright.

Third, Hillary would gain the high-minded theme of fairness and wisdom that her campaign has been missing. This would energize her supporters, dominate news cycles, and destroy one of the worst criticisms of her - that she doesn't care about anything more than her ambition. Her status as a leader by example could rise immensely.

Finally, when the general election comes, both she and the Democratic Party would look pristine. Having done the right thing even at the cost of her own advantage, she could gain an even greater advantage, not just for herself but for the entire party. Having paid good money to protect voters' rights, the party would get great press for stepping up and fixing things. And they would owe their good fortune to Hillary.

In summary, standing up for fairness could prove many of Hillary's detractors dead wrong. She could no longer be cast as the wicked queen, but as the real mother from King Solomon's court, who loves the country enough that she would rather give it to someone else than see it destroyed. This could heal the party, lead the nation, and provide a much-needed boost to her own campaign. Barack, having cast himself as a man of principle, would lose the nomination 100% fairly, and have no choice but to follow Clinton's lead. This mutual sense of integrity would result in a strong coalition of both of their supporters. With a fresh new campaign theme and the whole party behind her, Hillary Clinton would become president by a landslide and give a whole new meaning to "fairest" of them all.


Chris Weigant blogs at: