The Democratic Party continues hurtling toward disaster, as now Michigan as well as Florida Democrats have proved unable to agree on plans for a new primary. While Senator Hillary Clinton has supported the proposed do-overs, Senator Barack Obama’s campaign has opposed them--leaving the party with no apparent option for representing either state at the national convention in August.

Before today’s failure in Michigan, there was still the possibility of a fair deal for all sides concerned. On Florida, that would have meant acceptance of Sen. Bill Nelson’s proposal to count the results of the January primary, but only to give the delegates half a vote apiece. That compromise would have been consistent with the original Democratic Party penalties for states that advanced the dates of their primaries or caucuses in violation of the party’s schedule. And it would have been the same penalty the Republicans imposed on Florida. No one could then have complained in November that the Democrats had been unfair to what is, after all, one of the crucial swing states.

Michigan, however, presents a different problem. Since Obama wasn’t on the January ballot in that state, there doesn’t seem to be any legitimate way to count the results of that vote. The logical compromise, therefore, seemed to be a do-over in Michigan combined with the Nelson proposal for Florida.

Well, that’s impossible now--and the burden for the failure falls clearly on Senator Obama’s supporters, who, perhaps understandably, didn’t want to risk the psychological impact of a defeat in Michigan at the end of the primary season.

But having prevented any new vote in Michigan, Obama's campaign may well have given up any moral claim to oppose seating of the delegates elected in January.

As of now, the Democrats are planning to hold a national convention without what would have been the third and fifth largest state delegations. The analysts who are saying it will all blow over are a lot more certain than I am of how the voters in those states will react to the exclusion of their representatives. I can’t think of a recent case in which a political party has inflicted on itself such severe and unnecessary damage.

--Paul Starr

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