Clinton die-hards want floor vote at convention

Some supporters of Hillary Clinton are clamoring for her name to be included in the roll call vote at the Democratic convention, even though she's already endorsed Barack Obama.

Published July 15, 2008 12:45AM (EDT)

CQ Politics reported Sunday on the efforts of two supporters of Hillary Clinton, who've formed the Denver Group, a 527 organization that will lobby -- among other things -- for Clinton's name to be included in the roll call vote at the Democratic convention this summer.

As the Huffington Post's Tom Edsall notes, the two people behind the Denver Group -- Heidi Li Feldman, a Georgetown Law professor, and Marc Rubin, who works in advertising -- also placed an ad in the Chicago Tribune in which they said, "Senator Clinton's name must be put in nomination. Her supporters must be allowed to make speeches on her behalf of her candidacy. There must be an honest roll call vote, not a symbolic one, so superdelegates can cast their votes honestly, for either candidate, as their judgment, conscience and democratic principles dictate."

In the ad, the two also made repeated reference to "democratic principle[s]" and said, "If the situation were reversed, there is no doubt there would be an outcry if Senator Obama's name were not allowed to be placed in nomination."

These sentiments, which have been echoed throughout the parts of the blogosphere that still cling desperately to hope of a Clinton victory, have some factual problems. First, and most obviously, there's the assumption that Clinton even wants her name in consideration, something that would break with recent tradition and could potentially embarrass Obama and the party. She's made no statement to that effect.

Then, there's the common assertion that Clinton is being treated unfairly, and that keeping her name out of the roll call vote is a radical break with precedent and democracy. In fact, as one Wall Stret Journal reporter noted earlier this month, "Minor candidates typically get a few votes at the conventions. But no party has had a roll call with two candidates since the 1976 Republican convention, when then-President Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan by 57 votes." In recent years, the roll call votes at the Democratic convention haven't been a chance to re-fight the primary -- they're a chance for the various state delegations to perform for the cameras, to compete to see who can offer the best endorsement of the party's candidate.

Finally, there's the assertion that "democratic principles" will be violated if Clinton is not included in the roll call. That assumes that "democratic principles" ever come into play in the primary, and there's no requirement for that. The proposal for the system in which states hold binding primaries and caucuses that play a major role in deciding the presidential nominee was first codified by the McGovern-Fraser Committee, which concluded its work in 1972. And that was a party committee; to this day, there's no national requirement that the selection of a party's presidential nominee be done using a democratic process. (And if, watching either party's primary process over the past few years, you thought democratic principles came into play, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to talk to you about.)

This seems to come down to something else, something other than principle. As Edsall explained, the movement towards a roll call vote that includes Clinton looks more like a last-ditch effort to win her the Democratic presidential nomination than a real fight on behalf of democracy. On that score, barring some massive scandal or disaster for Obama, these last holdouts have all but no chance of success.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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