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Disenfranchisement Schtick Doesn’t Work Anymore for Unity08

You can tell an organization is being disingenuous when it changes what it says to suit the situation.

Back when Unity08 started up at the beginning of summer 2006, one of its rhetorical flourishes was to pull out the “99 percent” problem.

Unity08’s Founding Delegate FAQ:

In the past, by the time Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina voted, it was over – and 99% of the country has been shut out.

Sam Waterston Speech:

Did you know that 99% of American voters have NO say in who is picked to run for president on the party tickets? Unless you live in Iowa or New Hampshire, you’re left out in the cold. And everyone knows, these two races (and how filled the campaign coffers are) dictates what happens in the rest of the country.

You know, a quick review of history shows that the whole claim about the presidential races being “over” after votes in these states just isn’t true. And, er, Iowa and New Hampshire together have more than 1 percent of the nation’s population. And by gum, if you’re going to include South Carolina’s February 3, 2004 primary as one of the earlies, you really need to add on the votes of Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota and Oklahoma, which happened on the same date. So even on a bare factual basis these wild claims by Unity08 aren’t true.

But ignoring Unity08’s carelessness with detail, you could identify a problem with two or three or, ok, actually nine states setting the primary agenda (sort of, some of the time) in past elections, kind of. And the point is that this was Unity08’s earlier argument — too few primary elections early on lead to too many Americans’ disenfranchisement.

Then the primary schedule changed. As of now, the following states are holding votes on or before February 5, 2008, about the same time as the 2004 South Carolina primary Unity08 qualified as “early”:

District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina

That’s 29 states with a whopping load of population — and I may have even left off one or two. The problem Unity08 identified — that not enough states get to have a vote, and so 99% of Americans don’t get the chance to have a say in who will be the presidential candidates — was never valid in the first place, but now it’s super-dee-duper-not-valid.

So surprise, surprise, Unity08 has changed its tune. Now it has decided that permitting a lot of people to vote in the primaries is a bad idea. Unity08 Founder Douglas L. Bailey recently popped up to say this in a USA Today interview:

I think, frankly, that the American public is just fed up with the game-playing of both political parties, and this is just another example of it. How stupid can you get? You don’t even have a very good sense of what the issues will be in the (general) election when you pick the nominee this early. This just feeds the public frustration.

That’s right: what used to be Unity08’s complaint of disenfranchisement has now become “stupid.”

But Unity08 is still trying to pull off its disenfranchisement schtick. It can’t complain counterfactually about 99% of American voters not being given a chance in the primaries any more. So instead, it’s putting up articles with headlines like “4,367 or 10,000,000?”:

While only a few thousand delegates make their way to the major party conventions, Unity08 plans an online convention hall which will allow millions to rank the crucial issues facing the country, determine the questions to be asked of the candidates seeking our nomination, and to vote via an online, secure process.

Now, now. Primary and Caucus delegates are “delegates” in the true sense of the word — people picked by voters to represent their wishes in the Democratic and Republican conventions (Republicans are trying to undermine this a bit but haven’t yet; more on that later today). In Michigan alone, it’s been estimated that 2 million Republicans and Democrats will vote on primary day. Scores and scores of millions of Americans overall will most likely turn out to vote in the primaries and caucuses, sending on their representative delegates to the conventions. Unity08 “delegates,” on the other hand, aren’t actually delegates in anything other than name. They’re individuals who aren’t representing anybody else’s wishes but their own, who will vote for themselves if the Unity08 nomination actually ever takes place. With ten months to go, Unity08 has signed up fewer than 1 percent of its goal of 10,000,000 so-called “delegates”. (it will tell you it has 100,000 “members,” but that includes a considerable number of people who haven’t signed up as “delegates”.) The nugget at the bottom of all this is that Unity08 actually stands to have many fewer people voting for its candidates than the parties will have voting for theirs.

The disenfranchisement schtick won’t work anymore for Unity08. So what is its marketing team going to come up with next?

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