DNC Strips Florida of Delegates
The Democratic National Committee sought to seize control of its unraveling nominating process yesterday, rejecting pleas from state party leaders and cracking down on Florida for scheduling a Jan. 29 presidential primary. The DNC’s rules and bylaws committee, which enforces party rules, voted yesterday morning to strip Florida of all its delegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver — the harshest penalty at its disposal. The penalty will not take effect for 30 days, and rules committee members urged officials from the nation’s fourth-most-populous state to use the time to schedule a later statewide caucus and thus regain its delegates.
By making an object lesson of Florida, Democrats hope to squelch other states’ efforts to move their voting earlier, which have created chaos in the primary structure that the national party has established. But the decision to sanction such a pivotal, vote-rich state has risks. The party punished Delaware in 1996 for similar rules violations. But Florida, a mega-state that has played a pivotal role in the past two presidential elections, is different. The clash leaves the presidential candidates in limbo about how to campaign there.
Stacy McCain entitles his roundup of the story “DNC to Florida: Drop Dead” and that seems to be the bipartisan conventional wisdom. Susan Duclos wonders whether the party has a “death wish.” Chris Bowers sees a possible disaster scenario.
AllahPundit is a bit more cryptic, just assessing the fallouts this could have on the individual candidates. He says in passing, though, that “the DNC had to get tough.” That’s my take on this as well.
I’ve noted countless times how silly the current selection process is. It simply makes no sense to give Iowa and New Hampshire, two tiny, unrepresentative states, so much power. Forcing candidates to divert so much time and money to camping out in Des Moines and Manchester kissing babies, flipping pancakes, and otherwise acting as if they’re running for mayor is simply asinine and provides no insight whatsoever on what kind of president they’d make.
But them’s the rules.
The DNC set out the guidelines long before this race started. New Hampshire and Iowa get to go first. No delegates can be awarded before those two states hold their contests. Period. I’m a policy wonk, paying only casual attention to the mechanics of delegate selection, but I’ve know that for as long as I can remember. Presumably, then, so did the Florida Democratic Party officials who decided to flout the rules to get an advantage. One imagines that they will figure out a way to move their primary to after New Hampshire’s. If not, well, too bad.
Will some significant number of Florida Democrats stay at home or vote Republican next November in pique over this, as Ed Morrissey suggests? One can only hope. But I seriously doubt it.
In the meantime, if Florida Democrats learn a little something about following the rules, that’s a bonus. Lord knows, they need to.