Democrats need Florida and Michigan

Partially seating lost delegates is in the Democrats’ best interests.

Back in August 2006, the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee granted special privilege to the states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, allowing them to hold their presidential primaries in advance of Feb. 5, 2008. Dissatisfied by this arrangement, Florida and Michigan moved their primaries up to mid-January and were punished by the Rules and Bylaws Committee as a result.

The ordeal will be resolved Saturday, when the Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet to hear the arguments of all concerned parties and vote to determine the fate of the Florida and Michigan delegates. Although it is a reversal of the DNC’s position, if the committee members – and Democrats in general – have any sense whatsoever, they will permit the seating of partial delegations from both states.

As primary season dawned, Democratic candidates were told not to campaign in either state, and it was made clear that even if the states decided to open polls, no delegates from either state would be seated at the convention. At the time, all the candidates supported the actions of the DNC, and most took their names off the Michigan ballot in a display of solidarity – except Sen. Hillary Clinton. As the race moves on, she has pushed to seat the delegates from these states. The ensuing back-and-forth is a growing threat to the Democratic Party’s hopes in the general election.

Having earned the distaste of states like Florida is a looming disaster for the Democratic Party and will necessitate reconciliation. Partially seating the delegates from these states could ease the tension going in to the general election. However, even though full seating would not remove Sen. Barack Obama’s lead (Clinton would still trail by about 80 delegates), it would be unfair for the DNC to give Florida and Michigan a status equal to states that played by the rules. Doing so would legitimize future squabbles and set an example that compliance with party policy is optional. Partial seating provides Florida and Michigan a chance to have an influence while restricting that influence.