Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Let's All Take a Deep Breath

The recent decision by the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee to possibly strip Florida of all its delegates to the Democratic National Convention has certainly created a stir. The newspapers and the blogs are just a Buzz with all sorts of sky is falling articles.

I propose we just all back away from the keyboard and take a deep breath. There, doesn't that feel better? Now let's talk about what's really important in this whole primary mess. Florida's Democratic voters are going to vote in a Presidential Preference Primary on January 29th. This is going to occur before the nomination is a done deal. Florida 's Democratic voices will be heard in a significant way.

The last time Florida Dems were in a position to make a significant impact on the presidential nominee selection process was in the 1992 cycle. At the Florida Democratic Party Convention, a little known hick Governor from Arkansas won a straw poll. Straw polls are otherwise known as "officially meaningless beauty contests" in the MSM. Bill Clinton took that straw poll victory and ran all the way to the White House with it. Anybody want to ask Bill if he thought it was a "meaningless beauty contest"?

So, the good news is that Florida's Democrats will have a significant voice in the selection of the Democratic nominee for President. Delegates have nothing to do with it. The candidates do not go to Iowa and New Hampshire for the delegates. They go for the momentum that can be captured from good showings. Delegates or no, the candidates this cycle will kill for the momentum going into February 5th that an impressive showing in Florida will create. The rest of this whole fight about delegates is officially meaningless.

Let's take a closer look at exactly what happened this weekend in Washington and what it all really means - or doesn't. From the New York Times:

The Democratic National Committee ... voted Saturday to refuse to seat any Florida Democrat at the Democratic presidential convention in 2008 if the state party did not delay the date of its 2008 primary to conform to the party’s nominating calendar.

The committee gave Florida Democrats 30 days to propose a primary date that conformed with Democratic rules prohibiting all but four states from holding their primaries or caucuses before Feb. 5.
So, from the newspaper of record, that's what happened. The DNC "gave Florida Democrats 30 days" to conform to the party's nominating calendar rules. That's what happened - we got yet another 30 day extension to submit a delegate selection plan which conforms to the Party's rules. Nothing more, nothing less. So, let's make this deep breath number two.

Why is the DNC taking such a seemingly hard line? How about because the presidential primary system is a friggin' mess. The DNC spent considerable time and energy attempting to retool the primary process for this cycle. In belated recognition that perhaps Iowa and New Hampshire do not really represent America and the Democratic Party well, the DNC added Nevada caucuses and a South Carolina primary to the early state selection process. They then told everybody else they could not go before February 5th.

So what happened to all these carefully laid plans? Two things. First, this election cycle is the first since Herbert Hoover was elected that does not feature a sitting President or Vice President from one party or the other. In other words, we have a truly wide open race in both parties.

Second, the frustration with the present primary system reached the boiling point all over the country. Despite the delegate increase incentives in the Democratic Party, almost every state has moved their primary up to February 5th. OK, it only seems like it, but it is not far from the truth.

Florida's Republican dominated Legislature, with it's new Vice President possibility touted Republican Governor decided to go one better. The Florida Legislature passed a bill, and the Republican Governor signed it into law, setting January 29th as the date for the Presidential Preference Primary here in Florida. Yep, setting election dates is the job of the state legislature here in Florida, not the political parties.

Now Adam Smith is going to say that a Democrat introduced the bill moving the primary up to January 29. Ding, ding, ding. Give Adam the boobie prize. Yes, the Republican leadership in the legislature did find a dumber than a box of rocks freshman Democratic Senator to introduce the bill. I hope he got what they promised him. Adam, how about having your crack research team check out how many Democratic sponsored bills that did not have the full support of the Republican Leadership even got a Committee hearing? Let's put that red herring to rest. This was a Republican bill all the way.

But, but, but all the Dem legislators voted for this bill. Well, yeah. Included in the final bill was a provision to give the voters of Florida a voter verifiable paper ballot. This had to be about the number one priority of Democrats, to know that their votes are going to count. No Dem was going to vote against that. What, you think all Republicans are stupid? Let's make this deep breath number three.

Why is the DNC taking such a seemingly hard line on this issue? Not all the states are done tinkering with their primary dates yet. From the New York Times:

Committee members made it clear that they wanted to send a message to any state that might be looking to change its primary; the vote came as Michigan leaders are looking to move that state’s primary to Jan. 15.
The DNC action was as much about scaring Michigan off of these plans as it was about Florida. The DNC is hoping that come the end of September, Michigan will have decided it is too late to move their primary up into January.

Now for those of you who actually are worried about their delegate credentials , um , er, disfranchising the voters, there is this from the Florida Democratic Party:
(FDP Chair Karen)Thurman suggested the penalties may be meaningless because the winning presidential nominee "will make the final decision on whether there are delegates or not.''
That's right. Under DNC rules, the presumptive nominee will take control of the Democratic National Convention, including the Credentials Committee. So Florida Dems will vote on January 29th in a binding Presidential Preference Primary. At the end of the day, the presumptive nominee will have the final say on the seating of delegates.

So, get your favorite credentials holding lanyard out of moth balls. Quit bitching at each other. Take a deep breath and help us


PBCliberal said...

I'm still mad as hell about this. I've been watching it from the beginning, but I never got the memo that it was "expected." I thought my party (and its my party only because its the farthest party to the left that might actually win) was moving in the right direction under Dean who had some understanding of the netroots movement and how the net can change politics with its immediacy and ability to focus attention on complex issues.

But the actions of my party are to take away my vote or at least any value to it by invalidating the delegates it elects.

Suggestions that we "take a deep breath" so that this whole shameful business can be trivialized only convinces me that my party is far more interested in conspiring with their Republican evil twins than it is including us in the political process.

What has me the maddest about this, is it is runs so completely counter to the stated goals of the party under Dean, who those of us on the progressive side fought hard for against the "old-boy" Democrats. If we were communicating by dispatch carried on horseback, this might be excusable, but the whole 50-state strategy and grassrootification of the party, coupled with the ability to immediately learn more about an issue from a local perspective than you care to know, makes this whole thing inexcusable.

If the DNC had spent any time actually trying to practice its 50-state-strategy, it would know that in Florida this is all about the right to vote and have the vote count. It is this very right that cost us the state and the national election in 2000, and has raised questions about every election in this state since.

The worst possible thing the DNC could do in terms of affecting our ability locally to effect our part of the 50-state-strategy, would be to put us in a catch-22 where our right to cast a meaningful vote is effaced. The choice we were given was to lose our delegates or lose our paper trail. Even in the days of horseback post, they should have known better.

Edna said...

While I see your points and appreciate the reminder to take a deep breath right about now (thanks, I actually needed that--seriously!), I have to say that I am still extremely...EXTREMELY upset about this. How tone deaf and clueless can the DNC be to, if nothing else--and there is so much else, but if nothing else--how this would affect Florida democratic voters emotionally? It isn't bad enough that we were traumatized by the 2000 election and a Bush-cronie-laden Republican apparatus that saw to it that the rule of law was subverted and our votes were not counted, but now our OWN PARTY wants to put us through some kind of post-traumatic stress flashback by taking away our vote AGAIN, this time in a presidential primary? It is incredible how they found the one way they could kick us in the gut and knock the wind out of us when we were just so energized, psyched and ready for the 2008 election. We were all set to vote, vote, vote and then vote some more! Early and often, as the saying goes. And I pray that FL Democrats still will go to the polls on 1/29/07 because not only will how we vote in the presidential primary still matter, delegates or no delegates, but there is another profoundly important issue on that 1/29 ballot regarding a constitutional amendment on property taxes that needs to be DEFEATED, and if Democrats stay home en masse I'm terrified that this idiotic amendment will pass.

To sum up, I appreciate your putting this into perspective but in the end, I for one lifelong, loyal, passionate Democrat am still extremely upset by this and it is unimaginable to me that my own party could be this insensitive to how Florida Democrats FEEL (nevermind how objectively idiotic it is that the DNC took away our delegates, but I'm talking about the emotional impact here) after what we went through in 2000. It isn't exactly a good party-building, energizing and/or unifying strategy to say "I know what let's do! Let's strip Florida Democrats' votes of having any clout via delegates at the Convention! Yeah, that will really take our huge, diverse, energized base of Florida Democrats and inspire them to go to the polls!"


Step said...

How will the "presumptive nominee" be chosen? Not by me if the DNC has their say. So it makes no difference to me if the "presumptive nominee" seats the delegates after the fact. It still makes my vote meaningless.

I agree with everything PBCliberal and Edna said and share their anger.