May 28th, 2008

Of Shoes and Oranges and Blind Ambition

by Philip Baruth

This Saturday, members of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet at a Washington Hotel. Their agenda? To help unmuddy the waters swirling around the Florida and Michigan delegations. And that’s a task that will require careful thought, sound judgment, and a little peace and quiet. Which is what makes the potentially chaotic “Count Every Vote” rally, slated to take place at the locked doors of that same hotel, so very, very special.

Clearly, the organizers of Count Every Vote are looking to pressure the Committee into seating their delegations at full strength. But equally clearly, they are intent upon replicating the aggressive scenes outside Florida polling stations during the 2000 recount process.

The goal is a sense of cultural deja vu: someone is once again trying to steal Democratic votes, and this time we won’t let them get away with it.

Sure, it involves an odd reversal of roles, with Democratic party officials cast as poll-taxing, vote-stealing GOP types, but no matter. Bill and Hillary have been hitting that talking point for weeks — that the GOP is “more enlightened” when it comes to the integrity of the ballot than Democrats, unless and until the DNC rules their way on Michigan and Florida.

A classic Florida vote riot, circa 2000. Analysts have since identified nearly all the participants as GOP operatives.

But beyond the specific parallel to Florida, the rally seeks simply to invoke chaos itself. And that is the Clinton’s last remaining argument, for whatever it is they still want from this process: there is a steep price for harmony.

And some over-the-top Hillary supporters have been more than happy to oblige, threatening to lead entire delegations to the land of McCain. And now comes word of the final threat: they’re mailing shoes to Committee members. From the AP wire:

“Saturday’s meeting is expected to draw a large crowd, with Clinton supporters among those encouraging a protest outside demanding that all the states’ delegates be seated. Proponents of full reseating have mailed committee members Florida oranges and pairs of shoes to get their attention.”

No word on whether the shoes are new or, you know, not new. But if they really want to get attention, these folks, and threaten the breakdown of the social order, you’d think they’d go with the well-walked summertime shoe.

It makes not so much sense to us, of course, especially the shoes (the tie in is apparently the idea that the Committee should walk a mile in the shoes of angry people from Michigan and Florida with too much time on their hands and lenient local postmasters).

But one thing is certain. That talking point from the Clinton campaign, that Hillary will bow out gracefully and heal the Party following Montana and South Dakota? It is a delaying tactic to prevent calls for her to withdraw from the race, and nothing more.

Once those contests are complete, the talking point will shift to an emphasis on “completing the intraparty procedural contests,” the last of which will fall, oddly enough, on the first day of the Convention itself.

And then there will be a long final embrace by the Clinton camp of the underappreciated divided Convention, as a counterintuitive sign of Party strength, as the seat of true American Democracy. Bill Clinton will wonder aloud, in every appearance, at the shocking attempts to “stage-manage a Convention that should be a way to give expression to the hopes and dreams and good judgment of every delegate there.”

Which is fine. Bring it on, as someone said once. Go ahead and send us our own pair of shoes, if you must.

Just one thing, though, and this is non-negotiable: you make damn sure they never belonged to Bill or to Hillary, because whether they’re wingtips or heels, the low road is absolute hell on a good pair of shoes.