You have to love those Michigan Democrats. For years, whenever it came time to choose a presidential nominee, they managed to be the laughingstock of the nation. They are well on the way to doing it again.
While we werent looking, the gang that tried to give us Larry Owen changed the rules and took our votes away. Instead, they decided to stick us with an imitation, red leather, Albanian communist technique for selecting a president next year.
More on that, but first a recap: This aint nothing new. The creatures who run what there is of the party apparatus 1950-era union officials, policy wonks, hacks and hangers-on of assorted flavors always were uncomfortable with real humans selecting candidates. They never did allow a primary here until the 1970s.
Even then, they merely tolerated only twice what most of the rest of the nation thinks of as a normal, progressive way of selecting delegates. Then, in a silent 1980 coup, Michigan Dems abandoned the statewide open presidential primary in favor of some mondo bizarro "weighted caucus" system no one could understand, including the national press and those taking part in it.
Eventually, the party announced (if what remains of my memory is intact) that Jimmy Carter had won one more delegate than Ted Kennedy. The system was such, however, that the bosses could have announced Luke Skywalker had won, and even though we all knew Luke had better taste, it would have been hard to prove otherwise.
Unfortunately, the law still required a primary (at taxpayers expense) and this was then won by Jerry Brown, who was living on some Buddhist moon.
Four years later, the primary conveniently abolished, the stooges who thought they could choose better than the people selected Walter Mondale for us.
This comic-opera communism might have continued indefinitely, but the hacks were outsmarted in 1988 by Joel Ferguson, a black Lansing-area businessman who dabbles in politics and figured out how to beat the party at its own game.
Ferguson managed to rig the thing brilliantly that year for his pal Jesse Jackson, who won overwhelmingly, brutally embarrassing the leadership. With that, the Democrats (accompanied by Republicans, who had barely managed to avoid having their caucus hijacked by the oily Pat Robertson) lurched back to an open primary system.
Not surprisingly, in 1992 and 1996 this worked pretty well. The primaries got the candidates out here to campaign, those left in the race at that point, anyway, and Michigan voters in both parties pretty much ratified the national choices. Say what you will (bad) about him, but Bill Clinton came to Michigan, campaigned hard in the primaries, got known and then carried the state twice easily in both primary and main event.
But now the Democrats are abandoning democracy. Apparently the concept scared the party bosses; you never know what those pesky voters might do.
What seems to have happened this year was the hacks wanted to look big. They wanted a decisive caucus early that they could easily control and strategically swing to one candidate. This year, their caucus really will look like a communist cell election. If you want to vote, you will have to declare your choice openly and publicly in someones living room. Bet thatll motivate the easily intimidated.
No secret ballot for our Democrats! That was fine with the national party, apparently, but alas, last weekend the big boys wouldnt let our ship of fools move the caucus up. They set it for Saturday, March 11, long after the Republicans have their primary, and, in all probability, after the race between Al Gore and Bill Bradley is decided.
Incidentally, the Democrats still have a primary Feb. 22, even if they dont want it. To give credit where credit is due, the Free Presss Hugh McDiarmid shrewdly noted last week that good ol psychowacko Lyndon LaRouche may well sign up for the otherwise vacant Democratic primary. In which case it may well be that in their only free and fair presidential primary, Michigan Democrats in A.D. 2000 may select a raving loony who believes the Queen of England is behind most of our troubles.
Whats to prevent hundreds of thousands of Republicans from voting in their primary and then showing up to make mischief at the caucuses?
Not a darn thing, and I certainly hope they do. The Democratic leadership deserves no less. Myself, I intend to vote for Ariz. Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary; I disagree with him on many things, but he is a man of integrity who, unlike the rest of his party, has stood up for the angels on campaign finance and tobacco.
Then, if it isnt the weekend I get my legs waxed, I plan to attend a Democratic caucus someplace and stand up for the one candidate that the Michigan Democratic Party has proven it deserves. I thought, I must admit, of teaching them a lesson by supporting Geoffrey Fieger. I even considered opting for LaRouche, if he wins the legitimate primary; after all, weve had a president named Lyndon before.
But that would be frivolous. No. I can do nothing less than cast the vote the Michigan Democratic Party deserves. I may be beaten up, but on caucus day I will declare the choice that Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewers men have made necessary, logical, nay, inevitable.
I will vote for Nancy Sinatra.