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!

7 comments:

Julian said...

a caucus? you've got to be kidding me.

I want the delegates I voted for, no some second thought pre-selected group of people's ideas of brokering votes.

Phillip Perry said...

Gatordem, I always appreciate your view point and all that you do for the Florida Netroots. You and others were instrumental in pushing the message that all Florida Demcorats should vote in the Presidential Preference Primary on January 29, 2008.

However, the suggestion to hold a caucus for the selection of delegates in April would go against all that we have been saying for months. The whole point of using the January 29th Primary to apportion our delegates to the National Convention was to respect the will of the voters and have maximum participation. Thus, we should continue moving forward with the existing delegate selection process.

gatordem said...

Phillip,

I agree that we had enormous success in getting Democratic voters to go out to the polls and make their voices heard on January 29th. And I am greatful for the recognition that the netroots had some small part in that success.

However, a part of that calculation, for me at least anyway, was that we would have a presumptive nominee prior to the convention who would seat the Florida delegates. Maybe we will know more after tonight, but, it is beginning to look more and more like we may not have a presumptive nominee going into the convention. In that case, it is problematic whether or not we will get our delegation seated at the convention. And if we do, it will only be after a bloody floor fight. What I have proposed gives us a chance to head that off.

Also, when the decision was made to go with the primary for delegate allocation, we did not have the no campaign pledge in play. It could be argued that not having the candidates campaign here deprived them and us of a fair and open contest for our delegates.

What I am proposing has the chance to give us that fair and open contest for delegates. It has the chance to keep the political buzz going here in Florida. It gives us all the chance to go back to the voters and hold the most participated in caucus in the history of the Democratic Party. And it may just be the craziest idea I've ever had.

But, hey, it's been a pretty crazy election cycle here so far anyway.

Aliflorida said...

Gene,

I have to agree with Phillip on this one.

The decision to stick with a Primary that would allow EVERY Democrat to cast their vote for their candidate was the only decision that the FDP could reach.

A caucus would not only be expensive, time consuming and unfair to the voters in Florida, it is also an impractical solution.

Please believe that the decision to stick to the Statewide Primary was the best move on the part of the FDP - and rehashing it after one of the most successful Primaries in our history is not moving forward, it's moving backwards.

Ron Mills said...

We have a caucus it is on March 1st 2008.

that is when we will devide our delegates. this plan has been in effect since May please see:

http://www.fladems.com/content/w/congressional_district_caucus_overview

I wokked 6 months on this plan. Please stop trying to reinvent the Wheel

Aliflorida said...

Exactly.

That caucus is going to be great. We have a lot of people looking to go to Denver.

And, we are groundbreaking again with the Affirmative Action plan.

Sheree said...

I've heard a lot about how Florida's delegates should be released....what would then happen to Michigan's delegates? Would they also be awarded, all to Hillary who managed to keep her name on the ballot?

Sounds to me like Hillary is playing us--once again. She never thought she would need the delegates from the blackballed states...and now that she does, suddenly our voices are important.

I agree with Phillip....Florida's turn out was historic...leave it be.