Blame the Dems 

Well, the Michigan presidential primary is over. I am writing this before the votes are counted and have no idea who won. But I do know this: If you are a Republican, it was important and meaningful.

What voters in the GOP primary did Tuesday had a serious impact on the race, and on the candidacies of John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, the three most likely to be nominated.

If you are a Democrat, however, you were robbed of your vote. Your primary didn't count at all. Not only did the primary not count in terms of delegates, you weren't even allowed to write in a meaningless vote for the candidate you really wanted. Kazakhstan has better elections.

Congratulations, Democrats. We live in the state that has the nation's worst unemployment rate — by far — and in many ways, the biggest problems. Yet we are also the only state that was essentially robbed of a voice in choosing the Democratic presidential nominee.

That's because the ego-tripping state leaders of your party, mainly National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell and Democratic State Chairman Mark Brewer, allowed the national party to take your votes away from you. They pushed this primary, egged on a bit by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, having been both openly and privately warned that they would be punished. The Democratic National Committee had decided that no state could have a primary or a caucus before Feb. 5, except for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

The national party told Michigan's party leaders that if they broke the rules, Michigan would lose its delegates.

They did it anyway, and got sent to their room without supper. Now you could argue this was too harsh, and I would agree. The Republican Party punished Michigan in a more temperate way. They took half the state's GOP delegates away, but let the primary go forward otherwise. National Democrats took no prisoners. They 1) took all the state's delegates away, 2) urged the candidates to take their names off the ballot, and 3) asked them not to campaign here.

When Michigan Democrats saw this coming — the same thing happened to Florida, by the way, before it did Michigan — they should have backed down. What they could have done is abandoned the now-meaningless primary, saying it was just a "beauty contest."

Then they might have announced they would pick delegates though a caucus on, say, Feb. 9. But, oh, no. Their egos were up against the wall. So they stamped their tiny feet. Brewer told reporters he was sure the punishment wouldn't stand. He argued that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) would eventually have to give Michigan its delegates back because Michigan is an important swing state.

Eventually, perhaps after getting wind of that, the DNC reaffirmed they were taking Michigan's delegates away — and canceled our hotel rooms for the convention!

So our ability to vote was sacrificed so that the local party bosses could prove a point, which they utterly failed to prove.

Last week, I asked Brewer, who actually has a degree from Harvard, what he thought of this mess. He said he thought they had advanced the cause of reform. (Please, somebody, don't ever let these people try to reform our economy.)

Here's how the local Democratic leaders' thinking goes, as best as I can puzzle it out. Whoever finally wins the nomination struggle (Hillary, the backroom boys believe) will then magnanimously give Michigan its delegates back. They will be some combination of Hillary Clinton delegates and unpledged delegates. Who will the unpledged delegates be? Well, whoever the party leaders say.

They will certainly name delegates who they want to see go to the convention and who will do their bidding, whatever that is. Then, as the party bosses see it, Michigan will have lost nothing. That is, nothing except your right to vote for the candidate of your choice. And frankly, the Brewers don't give a damn about that.

If we do get our delegates back, our party bosses hope that when the other states see that Michigan didn't really pay a price for breaking the rule, they will all break the rules too, next time. Then, as they see it, the monopoly of Iowa and New Hampshire will be broken, and Michigan and other important states can go first.

Swell idea, sport. Except that will mean total anarchy, states holding their primaries a year before the election (that almost happened this time) and an even worse mess.

After another failed election or two, the Dems or perhaps both parties will have to adopt a new plan telling the states when they can and can't vote. Sorta like they have now.

Marvelous. By the way, there's been a lot of bashing of Iowa and New Hampshire in this state. So let me tell you the truth: I would rather they go first than Michigan.

I want to stay with the system we have, and here's why. Those are small states with small populations. That means even a candidate without a vast amount of money can get known and compete.

I don't want Mike Huckabee to be president, but Iowa was why he was able to become a player. Mitt "Max Headroom" Romney outspent him 20 to 1, and the Huck still won.

True, Iowa and New Hampshire aren't ethnically diverse — but when Barack Obama won near-lily-white Iowa, didn't the world take notice? If the big states went first, you'd get only the best-known and richest candidates winning the nomination, every time.

Mitt Romney would face off against Hillary Clinton. They'd campaign on TV and you'd never see them. Dennis Kucinich's ideas would never be heard. And Obama would be advised that if he behaves, he might be secretary of housing and urban development.

When it comes to choosing a president, everyone deserves to be heard. Thanks to the leadership of the Michigan Democratic Party, we lost that right this year. Remember that.


Martin Luther King Jr. got it: Primary day was also MLK's real birthday. He has now been dead longer than he was alive. But he understood. Here's what he said on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was killed. Do yourself a favor. Read this, and substitute one word: Iraq for Vietnam. Read this and think of him, and us. And then go to work in whatever way you choose to try to fix this country:

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be [saved] are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land ... over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on." We still have a choice today.

Let's hope we have one tomorrow. Amen, Dr. King.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at

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