Democrats & Liberals Archives

Sunshine State Meltdown

I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat. -Will Rogers

Will Rogers was a humorist, but what’s happening to the Florida Democratic Primary is enough to make you cry.

In theory, the Florida presidential primary will take place on January 29th. Voters will line up and cast ballots. Unless the Democratic National Committee changes its mind, however, the votes from Democrats won’t count in the primary. That’s right, the political party that insisted on “counting all of the votes” in 2000 is threatening to disenfranchise its own voters in 2008.

The reason that the Democratic Party is punishing its own voters is that the Governor and legislature of Florida violated DNC rules by scheduling the presidential primary before Feb. 5th. You break the rules, you pay the price, right? But there is a serious problem with this logic: Governor Charlie Crist is a Republican. He never submitted to be bossed around by the DNC. Likewise, the bicameral legislature in Florida is 2/3 Republican in each house. They never pledged an oath of fealty to Howard Dean, either.

Those are the facts. Now, there is an argument to be made that the Florida Democrats bear some responsibility, too. Virtually all of the Democratic legislators supported the bill that moved up the primary. But here’s the thing: that same bill mandated a paper trail for electronic voting. So the Democrats had to choose between getting screwed in the primary and getting screwed in the general election.

To Floridians, the threat of electronic votes being lost is not theoretical. It already happened in 2006, and probably threw an election. In the 13th congressional district*, there were 18,000 electronic “undervotes” in predominantly Democratic Sarasota County, far higher than the usual rate. The Republican candidate was declared the victor by a margin of 369 votes. I think you can see why Florida Democrats would really, really want a paper trail in the next election.

Aside from the paper trail issue, at the time the date was set the penalty was supposed to be that Florida would lose half of its delegates. The Democratic rules committee later decided to take away all of the delegates. The candidates are boycotting Florida, too, having pledged to the DNC-approved early-voting states that they wouldn’t campaign in any other states that held their primary earlier than Feb. 5th.

Actually, I should say that they are partially boycotting Florida. They won’t campaign or talk to the press in Florida, but they are still – wait for it – hosting fundraisers. That’s right, they won’t talk to Floridians but they are still happy to show up and take our money. I hesitate to criticize my own party, but that is complete bull$h!t. How can you pledge not to campaign in a state and still show up to ask for money?! What cheek! These clowns can take my Visa card and shove it up their... assembled delegates.

I can only pray that sometime between now and January 29th the DNC will see the light and agree to restore at least half of Florida’s delegates. I understand that they want to enforce their rules to avoid complete chaos. For its own part the Republican Party is taking away half of the delegates, and I think that’s a reasonable compromise. I don’t think I need to remind everyone that alienating Florida voters is about the dumbest thing the Democratic Party could possibly do. What’s next? Is the new DNC motto going to be “Ohio Sucks”?

Here is a nightmare scenario: What if the primary elections are close and the votes from Florida are enough to change which candidate is nominated? That could lead to a bitterly divided party, and a loss in November.

*In an odd coincidence, the former congresswoman from this district was Katherine Harris.

Posted by Woody Mena at December 6, 2007 8:47 AM
Comments
Comment #240104

Woody,
Getting a paper trail is a win for everyone and money, recent stupid Supreme Court decisions to the contrary notwithstanding, serves as a form of political speech. The greater problem for us all is the rush to front-load the primary season so that lower tier candidates have less of a chance to utilize the small-state primaries to get their message out to the rest of us.

This was nothing short of an effort to give the powers that be a head start so that we “little people” wouldn’t have a chance to find something better than the officially sanctioned subway candidates.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at December 6, 2007 9:43 AM
Comment #240111

I have to disagree about the small-state primaries, at least if it always going to be the same states. Contrary to what Bill Richardson said, neither God nor the Constitution has ever decreed that Iowa should have a leading role in choosing presidents. We should either have a national primary day or rotating regional primaries as many have suggested.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 6, 2007 11:10 AM
Comment #240118

Woody… the problem with your argument is that political parties are private, non-governmental entities. When the Legislature of Florida decides when and how a private political party chooses its candidate for the general election, it way over steps its bounds. Remember, this is a primary we are talking about, not a general election. Citizens do not have the right to decide who will run on any given party’s ticket in the general election, but rather, the people who belong to that political party, under the rules that they agreed to upon joining the party, have the right to determine who they want representing them on the general ticket.

The whole primary system is a sham that only works to further entrench the two major parties as officially-unofficial branches of the government.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at December 6, 2007 12:28 PM
Comment #240119

This is as bad as kids fighting over who gets to sit in the front seat.

I can’t feel sorry for any of them. The funny thing really is that both parties are doing it. It’s hilarious.

Primaries should be held just like the elections, the same day all over the country. Keep all the kids in the back seat.

Posted by: womanmarine at December 6, 2007 12:29 PM
Comment #240120

“I don’t think I need to remind everyone that alienating Florida voters is about the dumbest thing the Democratic Party could possibly do.”

Dumber than if the Democratic Party took away Michigan’s convention delegation because their primary is scheduled in January? Oh, wait. They already did!

Have the Dems competely lost their minds? Is their a scenario where the they can recapture the White House without winning either Florida or Michigan?

If they don’t want to hear my voice in the nomination process I will not support their candidate next November.

Posted by: RMD at December 6, 2007 12:34 PM
Comment #240121

Doug,

I understand the the Democratic Party has a legal right to set their rules. What I am saying is that they are enforcing their rules in a stupid, self-defeating way.

The DNC would have a much stronger argument if they were paying for the primary, but it is the state of Florida that is paying. That is what gives the state legislature the power to set the date. Basically the DNC is trying to strong arm Florida into cooperating, but the since it is a Republican state the people who have the most power over the situation have no motivation to say “uncle”. In fact, they have a strong incentive NOT to cooperate, because their own party is benefiting from the conflict.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 6, 2007 12:38 PM
Comment #240122

Woody… you are correct that the state is paying for the primary, but therein lies the problem. By making the party nomination processes an affair of government we have, as I have said numerous times on this site, made the two major parties the 4th and 5th branches of government.

IMHO, state governments should be out of the primary system altogether. Heck, in my own home state of Washington, they have an open primary where you don’t even have to be a member of the party to vote! Ridiculous… let the parties, all of them, fund their own nomination process and come up with their own rules as to how their candidates are chosen.

BTW… I agree that the DNC is being rather silly, but you shouldn’t blame the Florida Republicans for it… Michigan Democrats did it to themselves… just ask RMD above.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at December 6, 2007 12:57 PM
Comment #240125

As a Florida resident and a life long Democrat I am appalled at the antics of the DNC. I don’t care if their actions are supported by law, the Democratic party is a laugh in Florida, as it should be. Dean is a fool and should be removed.

Posted by: Steve Oliver at December 6, 2007 1:04 PM
Comment #240126

Woody,
I don’t see how Florida removing itself from the democrats delegate tally helps republicans.

Am I missing something?

Posted by: Schwamp at December 6, 2007 1:10 PM
Comment #240128

Schwamp,

It helps Republicans because it hurts the Democrats. What could be more demoralizing than to be told by your own political party that they aren’t going to count your vote because of a decision made by politicians you have little or no influence over? And you also have the painful reminder of 2000 to consider. Only in this case it is really in the power of the Democrats to solve the problem. The national Dems, that is.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 6, 2007 1:31 PM
Comment #240129

Doug,

I don’t blame the Republicans, but the DNC. They are the ones who are supposed to be looking out for Democratic voters.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 6, 2007 1:33 PM
Comment #240132

“If you’re confused about how the Michigan and Florida primaries fit into the presidential primary cycle, read the excellent primer by CQ Politics.”

http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docID=news-000002636793

This came from the Political Wire this morning.

Posted by: Jane Doe at December 6, 2007 2:29 PM
Comment #240137

Many good comments on this blog. I believe it is outraegous to disenfranchise a voter because some party hacks want to exercise their authority.

RMD said it best, “If they don’t want to hear my voice in the nomination process I will not support their candidate next November.”

As a 66 year old practicing American voter, those would be difficult words to live by as I have never missed voting in a primary or general election since becomming eligible to vote. Reality is that only a small percentage of those qualified to vote in the primaries actually do. And yet, we have all heard a friend say, “I don’t like any of my choices” knowing that our friend didn’t bother to vote in the primary. We hear both parties encouraging us to vote, running get out the vote drives and expending huge sums of money on candidates. It makes little sense in light of recent actions which tell voters their vote won’t count.

Posted by: Jim at December 6, 2007 4:59 PM
Comment #240138

Woody,

I am with you 100%.

It makes no sense to flip the middle finger to the loyal Dem voters in Florida and Michigan.

It makes no sense to tell the Dems of Florida and Michigan that their votes won’t count in January, but they will in November.

It makes no sense to tell the voters of Florida and Michigan that they can’t help decide who the candidate will be, but by God you’d better vote for whoever WE decide it is in November.

If it were me, I’d tell my party who I’ll vote for with MY middle finger!

Posted by: Jim T at December 6, 2007 5:04 PM
Comment #240139

I am not trying to piss anybody off here, BUT…

The Democratic voters of Florida and Michigan will feel disenfranchised for maybe a few weeks after their delegates aren’t seated at the convention (if the party follows through on its threat), but when it comes down to the wire and those same Democratic voters are faced with either voting for the person that probably won Florida anyway or not voting and thereby giving a vote to the evil Republican… well… I don’t see it making a big difference in voter turnout… the threat, in a Democrat’s mind, of another four years of Republican mis-management of our country will be too great… and we all learned in 2000 that 565 votes in Florida can turn the election around for the entire country.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at December 6, 2007 5:09 PM
Comment #240163

There’s clearly something wrong in the water down there in Florida, perhaps saltwater infusion is creating delerium. Maybe we need another Jackson to Force March them through Georgia to Oklahoma.

Posted by: googlumpugus at December 6, 2007 9:17 PM
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