Dave Nagle, former congressman and Iowa Democratic Party chair, says Barack Obama's recommendation to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations at full strength at this month's Democratic National Convention “can't be unexpected.” But he believes the national convention needs to reaffirm the calendar that set Iowa first, and not revisit the calendar again “in our lifetime”.
Nagle chaired the Iowa Democratic Party during the 1984 caucus cycle, before serving three terms in Congress. He spoke with Iowa Independent's John Deeth:
Nagle: It can't be unanticipated that they decided to seat Michigan and Florida, I think we all knew that was inevitable. But historically, in `84 when the national party had sued me to stop Iowa from being first, ultimately they seated us. Admittedly, they seated us in the back of the hall, but we were in there, even though we weren't in compliance with their calendar. But the critical thing, I think, is what do they do to prevent this from happening again? I mean, if they say to Michigan and Florida, all is forgiven, you're back, you're full members of the party, and by the way, you can go out in four years and try to defy us again, that'll be fine, then they haven't solved the problem, they've just postponed it.
Deeth: So it sets a precedent of no consequences.
Nagle: Yeah, it's defiance without consequences. But we shouldn't single them out -- four years from now it may be some other state.
So what we need to do at a minimum is number one, the national convention should not under any circumstances create another calendar commission in our lifetime. No commission to study the primary calendar should be allowed to be recreated until the year 2110.
But the second thing is, and an even better step, would be for the national convention to affirm the calendar, and say this IS the calendar, this is the calendar for this time, this is the calendar for next time, period. No discussion, no debate.
Deeth: And how would that be done?
Nagle: By simple resolution. In the intricacies of the power structure of the Democratic National Committee, the national convention is the highest governing authority. The national convention is the final arbitrator of any matters before the party. And the national committee, which sits during the period between the national convention, cannot by themselves overrule actions taken by a national convention. They can implement, they can speak where the national convention has been quiet, they can act where the national convention has directed them to do so, but they cannot overrule the direct mandate of the national convention. The mandate here should be, 'as the calendar was in 2008, so it shall be in 2012.'
Deeth: Do you think Iowa's got enough friends to get that through?
Nagle: I think Obama has enough friends to get that through. And I think there's enough weariness now among the various states, all of whom got to play this time except the two that were in defiance, that probably they're reasonably happy with it. I think if that's going to happen it's going to happen now.
So what Iowa's position should be is one, we welcome back Florida and Michigan. Number two, we want the national convention to affirm our status, because that's the highest speaking body within the Dem Party.
Deeth: Do you think the nominee will support that?
Nagle: Not if we don't ask him for it. We need to ask him for it, and we need to ask now because we don't want to make the Vilsack mistake. Vilsack's mistake almost screwed this thing for us, because he wanted to be vice president and he didn't want to put that card on the table. We don't want to make that mistake again. The assumption is we're going to win the presidency, so what's the problem? Well, Mike Dukakis was going to win the presidency, you know? Al Gore was going to win the presidency..
Deeth and Nagle: John Kerry was going to win the presidency...
Nagle: Candidates come and candidates go, but the calendar's always there. We need to get our position cemented now. And, in terms of Obama. What's in it for them? Well, it says to Iowa and new Hampshire, 'when I made my commitment, you're a swing state and I wanted to show you I was serious about it.'
Deeth: And Iowa was pretty good to Obama in January.
Nagle: Oh, I don't think he'd be president if it weren't for Iowa.
Deeth: Were we blindsided on this? Have feelers been going out? What do you think has been happening?
Nagle: Oh, I think those of us who've been following this for years knew this was coming, we justs didn't know when. I mean, I got a call yesterday morning from the Obama people telling me they were going to do it. I spoke with my colleague in New Hampshire this morning (Secretary of State) Bill Gardner, we both anticipated this was going to happen. And it's not surprising. It's probably good that it did. But what's important is that there be a follow up so we don't have to do this again.