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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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A convention without relevance
By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published October 27, 2007
Political party leaders are expected to wear their happy faces to work, but Florida Democratic chairwoman Karen Thurman has managed to turn obsequiousness into hallucination. The state convention at Disney World this weekend, she merrily informs her colleagues, will be "the most exciting convention in Florida's history."
Which one will she be attending?
The convention that opened Friday evening features such third-tier headliners as U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and New Jersey's U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (who is careful to note his chairmanship of the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance). As for the eight Democrats seeking the party's nomination for president, only former Alaska U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel has committed to attend. In the latest Florida poll, Gravel registered 0 percent.
This debacle goes hand and glove with the Democratic National Committee's decision to treat Florida voters as though they are illegal aliens. For the Legislature's decision to hold the presidential primary on Jan. 29, too early in the eyes of the sage DNC, Democrats are being told their vote will not count. To add richness to these insults, four smaller states have exacted pledges from candidates not to campaign in outlaw Florida. As of Friday, no other candidate aside from Gravel and no other candidate's spouse had accepted the state convention's invitation.
DNC chairman Howard Dean, who has done his part to punish Florida, was not so eager four years ago to see its 210 delegates get locked in a closet. As a presidential candidate, he spent $100,000 stuffing the state convention hall in 2003 with signs, stickers, and supporters. "We hope that as goes Florida," he said then, "so goes the rest of the country."
This year, Dean will need to rethink that calculation. The latest Quinnipiac poll finds that 22 percent of Florida's independent voters say they are now less likely to vote for a Democratic president because of the DNC's shenanigans. In this still closely divided partisan environment, 22 percent is enough to turn Florida red - which is not the color Dean wants to see on the election map.
Thurman will surely do her best this weekend to keep the party faithful happy. But this convention, like the upcoming primary, is a conspicuous demonstration of how little the state matters in the 2008 Democratic primary season. If it draws national media attention, it will be for the political oddity of it all. The press might pull up a chair in the same way some children peek inside the carnival tent to see the tattooed man hammer a 16-penny nail up his nose - in a perverse attraction to acts of self-mutilation.
Give Thurman credit for a stiff upper lip, but the 2007 state convention will be remembered not for its excitement but for its irrelevance. With Halloween just around the corner, Florida Democrats can do without another freak show.