Rules. What good are they anyway?

The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.

Frank Zappa
(1940 – 1993)

It is hard for me to comprehend how not playing by the rules is an activity that we should reward. Granted, we all know every rule has an exception. An exception is one thing, a pattern of sporadic enforcement as it is convenience is another thing.

Take for instance the most current example of convenience enforcement. We see today an argument by Howard Dean that the delegates for Florida and Michigan should count. Not only should the votes count but the votes should be done over again.


I really don’t get this. Lets put this in order of events here a minute. Michigan and Florida decide to move their elections up so that they are more relevant. The Democratic National Committee strips the states of their delegates in order to punish the states. The major candidates agree with the stripping of the delegates. On the Michigan Ballot Barack Obama did not even appear and on the Florida ballot Obama did not campaign. Barack Obama’s actions were in accordance to an assumption that the rules would be followed as laid out already. Without too much surprise Hilary Clinton swept both states primaries.

Fast forward several weeks and the mathematics of delegate counting make it difficult for either candidate to get a true majority. Also the possibility of a victory by Hillary Clinton is very daunting. Now, there is sudden anger and outrage that the delegates from Michigan and Florida need to be seated.


I don’t get it. Again it gets even more interesting. Instead of simply seating the delegates or not seating them. Both a choices being total wins for either Hillary or Barack the Democratic Committee seems to be considering an even odder choice. Forget the rules; forget what we agreed lets just do it over. This is inconceivable. It isn’t the same race, it is untidy and it just doesn’t make any sense.

It reminds me of another rules fiasco from a few years back. Does anyone else remember when the scandals became too much for Robert Torricelli to hope to win reelection he stepped aside? The Democratic governor of the time, Jim McGreevey, appointed Frank Lautenberg to the ballot. The amazing thing is that the New Jersey State Supreme Court voted that the appointment was valid regardless of the fact the ballot change deadline had changed.

My problem with these issues is not that the choices were wrong or bad. I don’t even argue whether the motivations are misguided or not. That isn’t my point. My point is that once you have a rule you better think once, twice, thrice before ignoring it for convenience sake. Until we start following this rule Frank Zappa will remain correct.

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