Julian Bond’s Letter and The Delegate Problem
Julian Bond’s Letter and The Delegate Problem
by Sherrilyn Ifill
I first heard on MSNBC last night that NAACP Chairman Julian Bond had, in a letter to Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, asked that the DNC seat the Florida and Michigan delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Seating these delegates based on the primary “elections” held in those states in January, where Barack Obama wasn’t even on the ballot (Michigan) and didn’t campaign (Florida), would considerably increase Hillary Clinton’s delegate count. Chris Matthews of Hardball, smelling controversy asked a stunned Al Sharpton late last night, “does this mean that Julian Bond is supporting Hillary?” Al said, “I don’t what it means,” but then went on to make it clear that he would aggressively resist any effort to seat those delegates based on the January primaries. To do so, said Rev. Al, would be like changing the rules of the Superbowl in the 3rd quarter. Both Clinton and Obama had previously agreed to abide by the decision of the Democratic Party to deny seats to delegates from Florida and Michigan.
The DNC’s refusal to seat the delegates was a punishment to Party leaders in those states who insisted on moving their primaries ahead of Super Tuesday. The punishment of course fell unfairly on the voters of those states (and Mr. Bond’s concern would perhaps have been more usefully articulated when that decision was made). In any case, Sens. Clinton and Obama agreed to stand behind the DNC in this draconian punishment and agreed not to campaign in either state. Then after Hillary lost South Carolina to Obama, suddenly she wanted to seat the delegates in Florida and Michigan where she “won.” I don’t want to even waste time on Sen. Clinton’s desperate reversal on this issue – her conduct speaks for itself. I’m more interested in the distorted reporting of Julian Bond’s letter. On Yahoo the headline reads “NAACP Head Wants Barred Delegates Seated,”
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080212/ap_on_el_pr/delegates_blacks . The Baltimore Sun says under the same headline that Bond warned in his letter to Dean that “Refusing to seat the States’ delegations could remind voters of the ‘sordid history of racially discriminatory primaries.’” http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/politics/wire/sns-ap-delegates-blacks,0,2693272.story. But that’s not what Bond says. The exact quote from the letter is: “While we recognize and appreciate that the Democratic party has done much over the past decades to overcome the sordid history of racially discriminatory primaries and other obsticles [sic] placed in the way of full voter participation in the electoral process, we are deeply concerned that not finding a solution to this delima [sic] that recognizes the will and intent of the Florida and Michagan [sic] voters could cast troubling aspertions [sic] on the democratic process of selecting candidates in a fully and equally inclusive manner.” http://www.politico.com/static/PPM43_080212_naacpletter.html Now the spelling errors alone first made me think that this letter was a hoax, like the bogus letter issued a day or so before, purporting to be from the NAACP and listing “10 reasons to vote for Sen. Obama.” http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-md.naacp12feb12,0,7473345.story But so far, I haven’t heard that the letter was repudiated by Chairman Bond.
Assuming the veracity of the letter [and with the full hope that letters emanating from the NAACP in the future will be spell-checked], Bond doesn’t suggest that not seating the delegates will “remind” voters of the Democratic Party’s “sordid history of racially discriminatory primaries.” Nor does he contend that the Florida and Michigan delegates should be seated based on the one-sided primaries held in January. Instead, Bond urges Dean “in the strongest possible terms to come to some solution to this problem.” One solution under discussion is holding new primaries or caucuses in Florida and Michigan. Nothing in the letter suggests that Bond would object to this solution.
In interviews Bond has reiterated that he holds no brief for Hillary, nor does he endorse Obama. His concern, he says, is about the disenfranchisement of voters in those states – a concern I, and many others, share. But it’s a stretch to cast Bond’s letter as a request to seat the delegates based on the January primaries held in those states. The NAACP should issue a new [spell-checked] statement clarifying its position in a way that ensures that those who support seating the delegates cannot use the civil rights organization as cover or to build momentum for a blatantly unfair “solution” that would benefit Hillary Clinton [who, Mr. Bond should note, has not been the candidate of choice for a majority of black voters in the country].
Back | Print version | SEND ARTICLE VIA E-MAIL