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I'm Brendan Loy, a 26-year-old graduate of USC and Notre Dame now living and working in Knoxville, Tennessee. My wife Becky and I are brand-new parents of a beautiful baby girl, born on New Year's Eve.

I'm a big-time sports fan, a politics, media & law junkie, an astronomy buff, a weather nerd, an Apple aficionado, a Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fanatic, and an all-around dork. My blog is best-known for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, but I blog about anything and everything that interests me.

You can contact me at irishtrojan [at] gmail.com, or donate to my "tip jar" by clicking the link below:

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« Comcastic! | Main | Polls show narrow Clinton lead in Indiana »

Quote of the day

"There is no such thing as a pledged delegate." --Hillary Clinton.

This is fascinating -- truly fascinating. Hillary has painted herself as a champion of democracy, both by promoting the supremacy of primaries over caucuses, and by insisting that the illegitimate Florida and Michigan primaries should count, lest millions of voters be disenfranchised. But now, by arguing that the delegates elected in any and all primaries and caucuses shouldn't be considered "pledged," she is quite literally advocating the disenfranchisement of all voters in all states.

After all, what on earth can the purpose of those primaries and caucuses have been, if not to produce "pledged delegates"? What was the point of bothering to have elections at all, if their results can be so casually disregarded when it comes time to actually choose the nominee?

As a technical, procedural matter, of course, she's right: the delegates aren't "pledged" to follow their state's result. Just as there can be "faithless electors" in the Electoral College, there can be "faithless delegates" at the convention, and there's no legal mechanism to stop them from casting their votes however they please. But that's a legalistic, proceduralist argument, which isn't what Hillary is driving at here. She's making a legitimacy argument. She's contending that "there is no such thing as a pledged delegate" in an attempt to convince people that it's perfectly okay for her to try and "flip" Obama's delegates -- that there's nothing normatively wrong with doing that, and so she shouldn't be criticized for it.

Which is fine, if that's what she wants to argue, but then she ought to be called on the carpet for the inevitable logical extension of her argument, which is that Democratic voters have no binding role in the selection of their own nominee. All the primaries and caucuses were, according to Hillary's logic, strictly advisory in nature. Somehow, I don't think Democratic voters will go for this. (Nor is it remotely consistent with her own statements about Michigan and Florida, the popular vote, and many other things.)

This isn't the first time, of course, that Hillary has raised the possibility of "flipping" pledged delegates. But she's never put it in such stark terms until now. In my mind, it's one thing to suggest, as she has implicitly done before, that she might try to flip some pledged delegates if the overall delegate result appears unjust for some reason (e.g., not in line with the "popular vote"). But it's another thing entirely to dismiss the whole concept of pledged delegates as being altogether meaningless. Her underlying strategy may be the same in both cases, but the rhetoric in the latter case is vastly more inflammatory. "No such thing as a pledged delegate." Think about that. Really think about it. She might as well be saying to the 28+ million voters who've already cast ballots in Democratic primaries and caucuses: "Your votes didn't count. You elected nobody and nothing."

Obama needs to hit back on this, hard. It should be the easiest thing in the world to spin Hillary's comment as appallingly antidemocratic. It'll be easy because, unlike the vast majority of Hillary's spin, it's actually true.

(More here and here.)

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Comments

Did Hillary hire Karl Rove as her advisor??

is she still in this? i hope he pulls off a miracle in penn cause i tired of hearing about hillary. her time has passed.

Hillareally (interj.): An expression used to proclaim disbelief at something Hillary Clinton has just said or done. Eg. "Hillary Clinton just said 'There is no such thing as a pledged delegate.' --Hillareally!?!"
Synonym: "WTF?!?"

First, you say, in a previous post

"The broader lesson is that the process matters, and you really shouldn't try to judge an election by a metric other than the intended one"

Then you say

"As a technical, procedural matter, of course, she's right: the delegates aren't "pledged" to follow their state's result. Just as there can be "faithless electors" in the Electoral College, there can be "faithless delegates" at the convention, and there's no legal mechanism to stop them from casting their votes however they please. But that's a legalistic, proceduralist argument"

So, which is it? Do we not judge an election by some other metric than the intended one, or do we call it a legalistic, proceduralist argument?

Again, bed made, lie in it. Best to lie back, enjoy it, and try harder next time.

Nice try, franklinstein, but my two arguments are entirely consistent. In both cases, I'm saying it's the delegates that matter. They are what the process is designed around; they are what count, not the "popular vote" or some other phony metric. This post doesn't contradict that at all. Rather, what I'm saying is simply that, with regard to delegates who are elected in primaries and caucuses, whether they are technically "pledged" or not, the whole point of this entire process is to allocate delegates based on state-by-state and district-by-district votes. That is the very definition of following the process. If we don't honor those systems, the process is a charade! I do not contradict myself by arguing that Hillary is being "undemocratic" by relying on the technical fact that "pledged delegates" aren't legally "pledged," despite the fact that everyone comes into this process understanding that the whole point is for the voters to register their presidential preferences through the election of delegates.

That said, does she have the right to make the hypertechnical argument she's making about whether they're "pledged" or not? Yes. And I'm not criticizing her for the mere fact of making "a legalistic, proceduralist argument." I, obviously, have no problem with such arguments -- hell, I wrote a 77-page paper that was basically one giant legalistic, proceduralist argument in favor of keeping the Electoral College, so clearly I'm not averse to such arguments. :) My point, though, as I said, is that Hillary's clear intent here isn't merely to argue an esoteric proceduralist point. Her intent is to subvert the core nature of the process by arguing, essentially, that all elected delegates ought to be considered blank slates, unpledged to anyone, without reference to the primaries and caucuses that selected them. It would be like arguing that presidential elections should simply ignore the popular vote in each of the states and vote for whoever the hell they want -- technically allowed under the Constitution, but clearly in violation of the whole purpose of the process as it has evolved over the years.

All that said, if Hillary was making this argument from a principled place, I'd be open to it. But the argument is totally hypocritical coming from her, given her ongoing rhetoric about Florida & Michigan, the popular vote, etc. She simply cannot say, on the one hand, that she's the legitimate nominee because she's won X, Y and Z popular-vote metric, and on the other hand, "there's no such thing as pledged delegates" and the delegates should simply vote for whomever they think is the better candidate against John McCain. One person cannot hold both of those thoughts in her head simultaneously, because the first thought requires a belief that the voters' votes count, and the second thought requires a belief that the voters' votes do not count.

P.S. You ask: "Do we not judge an election by some other metric than the intended one, or do we call it a legalistic, proceduralist argument?"

But I'm not asking here that we "judge an election by some other metric than the intended one." I'm asking that we judge an election by the intended metric: elected delegates. Whether you want to call them "pledged" or not, they are the whole point of the primary & caucus process. And if you're going to advocate for the idea that they are free, not just legally but politically and ethically and morally, to disregard the results of the primaries and caucuses that elected them, well then fine, but 1) you need to straightforwardly acknowledge that what you're advocating is an interpretation of the current process that holds voters' voters to be completely advisory and non-binding; and 2) you need to completely eschew using any sort of popular-vote-based rhetoric to support to candidacy, since you have just totally negated the whole purpose of those popular votes by saying that they didn't actually elect anyone or anything of any substance or meaning.

As for whether we "call it a legalistic, proceduralist argument," as I already made clear, I am certainly not using those terms as perjoratives. I am simply using them to distinguish between what Hillary is saying, and what Hillary is not saying. You obfuscated this point by cutting off my quote after the word "argument," but the full context was: "But that's a legalistic, proceduralist argument, which isn't what Hillary is driving at here." In other words, if she wanted to make this as purely a legalistic, proceduralist point, that would be fine. But that wasn't what she was doing. She wasn't simply saying, "Technically, pledged delegates aren't really 'pledged,' but everyone of course understands that the very nature of the process is such that their whole purpose, barring exceptional circumstances, is to represent the will of the voters who registered their presidential preference through them." Rather, she was making a normative, legitimacy-based argument, rather than a technical, process-based one. Again, I have no problem whatsoever with technical, process-based arguments. But that's not what she was doing here.

If legitimacy is a cornerstone of our Republic, why aren't the rules written in such a fashion for the Electoral College, and by the parties?

It would be incredibly easy to write language for each that demanded automatic counts for the first convention ballot based on votes received in each state/district, as certified by the Secs. of State.

I reeeeeally want the Dem candidate to lose this election. I love "Operation Chaos." But I genuinely fear for the Republic if either HRC or BHO somehow poach pledged delegates for the first ballot in Denver. If HRC manages to win a majority, or merely survives to a second ballot, based on Super Delegate votes, no problem.

On a personal level, I like that delegates/electors have the right of nullification. But I don't think the ignorant electorate would stand for it in 2008. Hello, 1968.

I don't have time to develop a full response, but in general, I agree with franklinstein on this one -- HRC's comments are in line with Brendan's fundamentalist proceduralism (or is that, proceduralist fundamentalism...?), and the blogmeister doth protest too much.

HRC's comment clearly struck Brendan's nerve because it simultaneously resonated with both his process-oriented sympathies (he's a "letter of the law" over "spirit of the law" kind of guy, and HRC is making an observation consistent with the former vein here) and his pro-Obama, anti-HRC's dirty tactics feelings, bringing them into dissonant conflict, requiring Brendan to pen a very long blog post and two-plus comments in which he can attempt to rationalize that cognitive dissonance.

The reality here is that HRC is exactly right: there is no such thing as a "pledged" delegate. The fact that she thinks she can poach delegates pledged to Obama in order to gain the nomination speaks to the very Clinton-brand, power-obsessed character that we conservatives have long loathed and Dems are just beginning to comprehend. Beyond that, my guess is HRC didn't intend this comment to reflect on anything beyond her strategy of eventually winning the popular vote (in primaries only, because caucuses are undemocratic implementations conjured up by the right-wing conspiracy) and arguing that she is therefore the most deserving nominee.

The Clintons are all about moving goalposts, repainting them, raising and lowering them, or ignoring them -- whatever suits their interests. HRC's point was perfectly valid,legitimate, and in tune with Brendan's proceduralist tendencies -- and this her comment is a great example of how process and proceduralism sometimes rewards the evil at the expense of the good.

The fact is, even when HRC is technically correct, if the Democrats have any sense left whatsoever, she absolutely must be stopped.

[Cue the related, tired argument by David that the ends never justify the means....]

The Clintons must have some sort of Kerriganesque kneecapping planned for before the convention. They keep beating the drum of Hilldog's "electability", but nobody is going to bite unless something really bad for Obama comes out right at convention time.

I don't know, though. Unless they have a video of him smoking crack and swearing allegiance to Osama bin Laden, I think Hillary is mostly just speeding the HMS Democratic Party through the icebergs for now.

I'm not sure even a video of Obama smoking crack would be his undoing, given the once again "hagiographic treatment" of Obama by the media. He would at least be eligible to be mayor of DC...

I finally agree with Charles Krauthammer, the Dr. Strangelove of the Neo-Con movement. Hillary did meet her Waterloo in Bosnia. She told a whopper of a lie - repeatedly - was caught in the lie and has demonstrated absolutely no shame or embarrassment over that lie. Her campaign officially "jumped the shark" when CBS pulled out that footage and the late night shows started making jokes about it.

As for Obama, I think he has gone from Jesus to Saint to the Democratic Reagan over the course of the past month. To steal from Kanye West, Obama is the Teflon Louis Vuitton Don.

She might as well be saying to the 28+ million voters who've already cast ballots in Democratic primaries and caucuses: "Your votes didn't count. You elected nobody and nothing."

I believe that is exactly what she is saying.

Yep. I, for one, am not up for replacing "King George" with "Queen Hillary."

The woman has no values, ethics, or scruples.


You guys are just being SO mean to poor innocent Senator Clinton ... when she said ""There is no such thing as a pledged delegate." ", she was simply stating the exact truth - and saying that she hadn't sent anyone to attack *any* delegate with a well-known brand of furniture polish ...

Sheeesh !

I think Brendan has been consistent.

The point is, the intention of creating pledged delegates is that they represent the will of the people who elected them.

The aforementioned previous post had a similar sentiment, that the process matters, and we shouldn't judge an outcome by anything other than the results in relation to the intended process.

I don't see the discrepancy.

Well, I think I am going to have to agree with Andrew. He said it about as good as I could have. However, I would like to clarify what I said when I said "try harder next time". Any sane person reading that would think that I was directing that at Brendan. I wasn't. That was more a statement for the DNC (because I'm sure they are reading this and taking it all to heart), I just didn't finish my thoughts. The Democrats whole process of picking a presidential candidate it truly and totally screwed. They really do need to try harder next time.

One person cannot hold both of those thoughts in her head simultaneously

Wrong. Did you learn nothing in all your years of study in those ivory towers?

It's called "cognitive dissonance," and the sooner you embrace it, the faster you can get ahead in Washington.

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