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Floridians deserve a say, Democrats
A Times Editorial
Published August 24, 2007
If Howard Dean and the other small-minded functionaries at the Democratic National Committee are so determined to disenfranchise more than 4-million Florida Democrats, fine. The party can cling to its arcane little rules at a meeting this weekend, punish the state for moving up its presidential primary and leave Floridians no real say in selecting the party's nominee.
In return, it would seem only fair that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the other Democrats running for president immediately refund more than $7-million they have raised in Florida. The DNC can give back to Floridians the millions they have sent to the national party in recent election cycles. And it can take out its 2008 general election map now and color Florida red.
That's no more illogical or petulant than the pinched thinking at the national party. The DNC is so determined to slap down defiant states for moving primary elections that it is willing to risk a golden opportunity to return a Democrat to the White House. Lashing out at Florida now is not worth taking the air out of the presidential campaign here and all but conceding the state to Republicans.
Nobody likes the way states are leapfrogging each other on the presidential primary calendar. At this rate the Iowa caucuses could arrive before Santa. Florida shares responsibility for the chaos; Gov. Charlie Crist and the Republican-controlled Legislature went too far when they moved the primary from March to Jan. 29. And Florida Democrats didn't make a vigorous argument against that at the time.
But it's too late now to bring any sanity to the primary calendar. South Carolina has moved up, Michigan is poised to do the same and Iowa and New Hampshire will do whatever it takes to remain in front of everybody else. This is no way for the political parties to responsibly select the best nominees, and it should lead to serious consideration of a rotating series of regional presidential primaries.
That discussion is down the road. What is important now is that Florida Democrats are treated fairly by their own party. State party chairwoman Karen Thurman should continue to reject suggestions that a caucus of activists select delegates to the national convention and render the primary meaningless. That would be an insult to the voters, who ought to have the right to help select a nominee who is best positioned to compete in November.
Florida should be more than an ATM for candidates running for president. They need to spend time outside of Iowa and New Hampshire and in a more diverse state grappling on a much larger scale with issues such as immigration, international trade, education and global warming. Obama will be in the state this weekend, and candidates should not be told to blow off Florida because of the date of the primary election. The idea is to build enthusiasm among voters who want change, not disenfranchise them.
Dean is running the national party about as well as he ran his own presidential campaign. The only thing he should be focused on is ensuring Democrats select their strongest candidate and have the best possible chance to win the general election.
Cutting Florida out of the primary process is not the way to do that, and this state and its voters deserve better.