Saturday, February 9, 2008

Truth Nipped in the Bud

There is a diary by nailbender up on DailyKos right now purporting to
dispel a talking point ... that the FL Democratic Party was bound by the decision of the GOP-controlled FL legislature and Governor to a January 29th date for the selection of Democratic Delegates.
This diary is being hailed as a
Great Diary with facts and info
Well, it's not a great diary. It does have some facts and info. But it does not have all the facts and it does not have all the info.

So, let's nip this in the bud....

Here is a document I am sure most of you have never seen. This document is the DNC Delegate Selection Rules for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. It is 27 pages long. And it is augmented by this document, which is the 36 page long Regulations of the Rules and By Laws Committee for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Now in the DNC Delegate Selection Rules, Rule 3A states the following:
All official Party meetings and events related to the national convention delegate selection process, including caucuses, conventions, committee meetings, filing dates, and Party enrollment periods, shall be scheduled for dates, times and public places which would be most likely to encourage the participation of all Democrats, and must begin and end at reasonable hours.
Rule 11A states, in relevant part:
No meetings, caucuses, conventions or primaries which constitute the first determining stage in the presidential nomination process (the date of the primary in primary states, and the date of the first tier caucus in caucus states) may be held prior to the first Tuesday in February or after the second Tuesday in June in the calendar year of the national convention.
It goes on to provide the exemptions for the four "early states" of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

But here we are at the heart of the problem, at least here in Florida. We had two different rules of the DNC Delegate Selection Rules brought into direct conflict with each other by the actions of the Republican controlled state legislature. Those are the facts. There is nothing to be nipped in the bud here.

The Florida Legislature is dominated by the GOP. It also has absolute authority to set the dates for presidential preference primary elections here in Florida. And the GOP has the votes in the Legislature to do exactly that - with or without the support of the votes of our Democratic legislators. And our legislature set the date for the Presidential Preference Primary as January 29th, in advance of the dates allowed by both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

Now, the Florida Democratic Party did not have to elect to use the January 29th Presidential Primary as the
first determining stage in the presidential nomination process
This is true. However, if it wanted to comply with Rule 3A it did. Because no other method available to it was seen as likely to achieve the "particpation of all Democratic voters" as a primary election would. And here is Florida, Democratic leaders were determined to encourage the "participation of all Democratic voters."

The DNC Rules and By Laws Committee, however, was obviously more concerned with compliance with Rule 11A which protects the right of Iowa and New Hampshire voters to go first than it was with encouraging the "participation of all Democratic voters" in Florida.

Now that's the truth of the matter.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Let's Get Ready to Rumble - Er, Caucus

One week after nearly 1.75 million Florida Democrats went to the polls to voice their Presidential preference, the question of whether Florida Democrats will have an actual voice in the selection of our Party's nominee remains unsettled. Don't get me wrong here. I have said, and I firmly believe that Florida Dems' voices were heard loud and clear on January 29th. The Florida results are in and they are also into the psyche of the Tsunami Tuesday voters today. Florida's voice was heard by all those voters.

What really didn't get heard in Florida was the candidates voices. Due to that idiotic no campaign pledge foisted upon the candidates by the Democratic Party chars in the four early states, no candidate actually got to have their voices heard by Florida's Democratic voters.

But maybe there is a way to have our cake and eat it too, Florida. Follow along and I'll explain...

I don't want to spend too much time rehashing how we got into this mess, but laying a little of the groundwork here is instructive. The Republican dominated Florida Legislature has the sole power to set election dates in Florida. The Legislature chose January 29th, knowing it was in clear violation of the delegate selection rules laid out by both parties. The parties, in turn, are in charge of their actual delegate selection process. The Florida Democratic Party looked at their options and decided to stay with the plan to select their delegates according to the early primary results. The main reason for this decision was that a primary is the method that garners the most participation from voters. Very Democratic of us, no?

This plan was the one that was rejected by the Democratic National Committee, which stripped Florida of all of its delegates to the Democratic National Convention. That's what began the mess that we currently find ourselves in. OK, that was bad enough. But, even with no delegates at stake, the candidates could not possibly ignore the largest swing state in the country, could they?

This is where it really got ugly for Florida Democrats. The Democratic Party chairs of the four early states (Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina) blackmailed the candidates into signing a pledge not to campaign in any state that violated Party rules by beginning its delegate selection process before the appointed date of February 5th. The candidates, fearing a backlash in these early states which they needed to garner momentum, all complied.

Thus Florida got to hold the strangest election I have ever seen. Florida gave an election party and nobody came - no candidates that is. The Democratic Party chairs in those four early states, jealous of their non god given prerogatives to be heard before anybody else, deprived Florida's voters of the opportunity to have the candidates come to them and make their case. That was fundamentally unfair to Florida's 3 million Democrats. But here is where it starts to get really interesting.

Senator Hillary Clinton, who won the largely name recognition contest that Florida's primary became, is now calling for the Florida delegates to be seated at the convention. Smart on her part. She would get the lions share of the delegates. Senator Barack Obama, not surprisingly, takes the opposite view. Smart on his part.

In today's St. Petersburg Times, Adam Smith is reporting:
Two prominent civil rights figures, former U.S. Civil Rights Commission chairwoman Mary Frances Berry and former Justice Department official Roger Wilkins, are calling on the DNC to straighten out the matter.

"We are suggesting that the decision be made before the convention in an effort to avoid a floor fight," they wrote in a letter released Monday. "Public floor fights have served the party badly in the past. They left deep-seated ill will and preceded Democratic Party defeats in 1968 and 1972, for example. Resolution of this issue is a matter of fairness, justice and practicality."

So let's be fair to everybody - both the voters and the candidates. Let's figure out a way to allow the candidates to come here and make their pitch to Florida's voters for the right to claim Florida's convention delegates.

Let's amend our delegate selection plan to allocate our delegates based on a caucus to be held in early April. There are no Democratic delegate selection contests scheduled between Mississippi on March 11th and Pennsylvania on April 22nd. This would allow the candidates to come here and campaign for Florida's votes and delegates. It would give Florida's voters a chance to hear the candidates for themselves and to make up their mind after getting a real chance to fully evaluate the candidates in a fair and open contest.

And as it is looking more and more likely that this campaign is going down to the wire, it would make Florida the center of the political universe - again.

Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too. Florida, let's get ready to rumble - er, caucus!