Friday, March 14, 2008

do over

I am not a golfer. Never really understood the inherent pleasure of traipsing around a long park on a hot day, stopping every once in a while to whack with a stick at a little white ball that never did you any harm and having to learn all kinds of exciting and innovative ways of expressing frustration when the shot you have hit suddenly veers left, smashes into a tree, bounces at a 90° angle and plops into an inconveniently located lake. If I want to raise my blood pressure, I've got teenagers for that; I really don't need help from a so-called entertainment.

But there is one aspect of golf that intrigues me. I've heard tell of a tradition in rounds of golf that goes by the name of "Mulligan." Apparently, by invoking this tradition, with the approval of those in the round, you can actually retake a rotten shot with no penalty. Now I may have that wrong, but what a great concept! You line up for a shot, settle in, swing, and absolutely screw it up. Instead of having to deal with the consequences of your awful stroke, with a ball in the woods or the water or the rough or lying two inches from the tee, you take a "Mulligan" and the shot simply never happened: you get to do it over.

Until I heard of "Mulligans," I thought that this notion of "do-overs" was something limited to children's games. You know, you are in a contest–whatever its nature–and there is a dispute about the outcome of a particular play, and neither side will give in, so someone suggests a do-over and that compromise saves the day. If you're playing cards, the hand is redealt. If you're playing basketball, the same team takes the ball inbounds again as if the previous play had not occurred. If you're playing Rock Paper Scissors, two out of three might suddenly become three out of five and blossom into four out of nine before erupting into 10 out of 21 or more. If you make a mistake playing a song on the piano, you simply ask to start again; who is going to say "no"? Do-overs make life much easier.

Apparently we are now living in a political world in which it is perfectly acceptable to ask for a mulligan. In fact, when things do not go according to your desires, you don't merely ask for one; you expect is as your right. You don't like the results the way they are? Simply seek to change the rules after the game has been played. What else is going on in the states of Florida and Michigan, both of which are demanding a mulligan on their primary elections?

Everyone knows the background to this by now: the primary process has traditionally begun with the states of Iowa and New Hampshire and this year added South Caroline and Nevada for ethnic and geographic diversity. Dozens of other states, tired of having the candidates decided before they even get to vote, scrambled to move their primaries forward in the calendar, closer to the traditional starting dates and eventually even before them, forcing the four first states to move their own primaries ever earlier to maintain their primary primacy. At about the time when it appeared that New Hampshire might have to move into December to go first, the Democratic National Committee stepped in to preserve the integrity of the entire campaign. They laid down the law: no state was allowed to move forward beyond the ones that already had. The penalty for doing so would be that state's delegates would not be seated at the National Convention.

All of the candidates signed off on this rule, and all of the states understood it. Forty-eight of the states abided by it. Michigan and Florida did not; both states, despite repeated warnings from the DNC of the punishment they would receive, voted to move their primaries before the "Super Tuesday" cut-off date. Per the rules they had previously laid out, the DNC stripped both states of their delegates. At the time, no one complained; the opportunity to become kingmakers seemed worth the sacrifice. And then a funny thing happened on the way to becoming kingmakers...

First NH and Iowa, wary that the early presence of Big States could pull attention from them, exacted a pledge from all of the candidates that they would not campaign in any state that violated DNC rules. Then, in a further nod to the rules, all of the candidates except for Clinton removed their names from the ballot in Michigan. Both primaries were suddenly reduced from kingmakers to meaningless. No one paid attention to either of them. Millions of voters stayed home since their votes would not be deciding anything anyway. Of the millions who voted anyway, the majority voted for the one candidate any of them had heard of before 2008, Hillary Clinton, since no one had campaigned in their state to introduce the newer names to people in Florida and Michigan. And it seemed as if that was that. The states had gambled and lost.

But then another funny thing happened: months went by, and dozens of other primaries, and still there was no clear winner between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And Hillary, who had fallen behind, started making noise that the delegates from Florida and Michigan should be seated after all. They were legitimate primaries, she argued, ignoring the fact that even she had acknowledged their illegitimacy back when the delegate logjam of today was unknowable and she was the foreordained frontrunner, simply awaiting Super Tuesday for her official coronation. And the governors and legislators of these states–the very same people who voted to flout the DNC rules last year and move these primaries up, knowing what the consequences would be–now whine and proclaim to anyone who will listen (and lots of people are listening) that their states and their voters are being "disenfranchised," that their votes are being discounted, stolen from them. These votes, they say, must count; anything else would simply not be fair.

I'm reminded of another ritual of game playing: setting the ground rules. It's probably something we all remember in one way or another, whether it is the universal understanding that a ball hit into the neighbor's garden is a home run, or the acknowledgment that in this game deuces and one eyed jacks are wild. It's critical for playing any game at all: if we are not all playing by the same rules, the game quickly devolves into chaos.

And Clinton and the elected officials of two states that knowingly chose to flout the rules now argue that we should throw that rulebook out in the late stages of the game. We should simply ignore their previous insubordination and either seat the delegates according to the results of two "elections" in which no one campaigned and many didn't bother to vote because, at the time, all were under the impression that the "elections" were for showcase only, or award these states the opportunity to conduct do-overs, give them both mulligans and let them hold new primaries the first week of June, erasing their previous misguided efforts and, in the process, giving both of them exactly what they sought in the first place: almost absolute sway in the election.

Is this what Clinton and the state officials think is "fair"? That they should be rewarded for breaking the rules? Because I don't see anything at all fair about it, and before they go opening up that particular door, the DNC had better consider the precedent it would be setting: this would be the ultimate mulligan, the ultimate do-over. It would tell all states in the future: go ahead, flout the rules; you can always have your say later on. No, the only truly fair thing to do is to play by the rules everyone agree to when the game began. Michigan and Florida violated the rules; a punishment was prescribed for that violation. Quid pro quo. And if, in paean to the voters of two states important to the Democratic Party, the DNC decides it ought to seat delegations, since it was the greedy politicians and not the voters who caused the disenfranchisement, the most fair thing to do would be to take both states' delegations and split them down the middle: 50% for Clinton, 50% for Obama. No one gains, no one loses, both states are fully represented, neither state is rewarded for breaking the rules. No one will think it a perfect solution, which is absolute evidence that it is one.

This has become a distraction for the Democrats, along with everything else that has gotten in the way of the message they should be hitting hard every single day: voting for John McCain is voting for the continuation of the failed policies of the worst President in the history of the United States. McCain embraces Bush's policies almost wholly, even the ones he previously had despised. Watching him wriggle about on the question of waterboarding made me cringe; it was as if the man had sold his soul for this opportunity. At least he had one to sell. I'm not so sure about the current Resident. If the Democratic candidates don't stop their lunatic character assassination tactics, particularly Hillary Clinton, as Barack Obama has refused time and time again to go into the gutter with her (though biting remarks he has made show him perfectly able to do so), the McBush administration might just come to pass.

It takes a village, Hillary once said, to raise a child. In the race for the nomination, it seems that it takes a village idiot to commit the kind of political harikiri that the Democrats seem bent on committing. Is it too late for the Democratic Party to ask Hillary Clinton to take a mulligan for the entire last month and for her and and Barack Obama to get a do-over?


No comments:


it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

xkcd - A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and