by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
January 30, 2008
WHY THE FLORIDA PRIMARY STINKS
BRADENTON, Fla., Jan. 30, 2008 -- I was with my wife and daughter driving the back way from Miami home to Bradenton when we stopped at a McDonald's in Clewiston, the only big town along the vast shore of Lake Okeechobee, the state's precious freshwater reservoir. The McDonald's had three televisions at a central seating area, each tuned to a different network, and our table was in front of CNN as the very first election results started to pour in around 7:30PM. With them, almost as counterpoint, suddenly came such an overwhelming odor of cow plop that my wife started to throw up as we all ran to the parking lot.
The stench was everywhere, there in the home of the United States Sugar Company, which gave millions in the last givernatorial (as in gubernatorial) race to protect its water rights and other assets granted by the Florida legislature to the company's hundreds of thousands of acres of sugar cane in Broward County.
The odor of ordure was so pervasive that locals you looked at with the question in your eyes looked at their feet instead; they could only imagine the adjectives plopping into our minds as we raced away from the stink. But The Clewiston police told me later the smell came from the sugar mill.
Well, it's after midnight and the race is over, but the stink remains; John McCain beat Mitt Romney by much more than expected, and everyone else did about as well as expected. The Democratic National Committee - which just yesterday reiterated its determination not to sit Florida's delegates, and told them to look "in Wyoming" for hotel rooms - has ruled that neither Hillary nor Sen. Barack Obama will get the proportional group of delegates they won.
That means that Obama is still the official front-runner (unless some CNN's Wolf Blitzer is counting) and that Super Tuesday will not be any less decisive - probably - than it was before Florida Republicans moved the primary up from March to Jan. 29 and cooly coerced statehouse Democrats into going along with them despite the penalties the DNC had warned they would face. But what is the consequence of having more than 2 million Florida Democrats deprived once again of the meaning and power of their votes?
On Tuesday, it meant that about 160,000 fewer Democrats than Republicans voted in their respective party's primary in a state where a difference of 537 stolen votes decided the presidency in 2000. Now, in 2008, the most exciting politics in a century has profoundly reinvigorated the American people's age-old passion for politics. That is driving millions of new voters to polls and caucuses in other states.
In Florida, though, the number of voters registered in all parties for the 2008 presidential primary fell by 230,737. Until Tuesday, Democrats had a edge of 4.14 million to the GOP's 3.8 million, or 311,000 potential voters; 1.9 million opted out of the two-party system and became independents. Since there was an exciting and absolute historic race and there are more Democrats, more should have voted; instead, a lot of Democrats - probably the most marginal ones - stayed home.
Should Democrats believe they are going to coax those absent marginal Democrats back to the polls when the race is a match-up between Hillary Clinton and John McCain? When their votes on the selection of those nominees didn't count? Don't even think about it. The DNC has handed Florida to John McCain,. and the White House with it; Hillary cannot overcome the fact that men detest her and that women who might have rejected a Romney or a Huckabee will warm to John McCain. God bless him; it could have been worse.
While our Democratic Executive Committee here in Manatee County on south Florida's Gulf Coast has been determined to put a bright face on it, assuring us that when the smoke clears our delegates will be seated at the behest of the nominee, that doesn't sit well with me and many other members. Some have stopped giving money, and some have stopped caring. Most say they intend to work hard just the same for the eventual nominee, but they will still be denied what may very well be a critical role in deciding the nominee at the Aug. 25-28 convention.
It seems more likely every day that no one is going to win on the first ballot. As far ahead as Hillary is in the national polls, Barack Obama is mounting a very significant progressive campaign to win the nomination. He is unlikely to cave or kvetch until the convention floor fight begins. Hillary, in contrast, whose supporters on the DNC Rules Committee allegedly sanctioned Florida back when they thought that Obama was going to be a greater threat here than he was, now want the rules changed back so that her delegates are counted.
I look at this mess and am appalled that the Democratic Party could even contemplate such a wholesale denial of the democratic process to Floridians for any reason. They could have fine the state party $10 million; they could have instead denounced the Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Charlie Crist, who engineered the plan to advance the state's primary date ahead of Super Tuesday; they could have done as the more democratic Republicans did, and taken away only half the delegates. Instead, they chose the option that destroyed a little more of the faith Americans in Florida have in their elections, in the democratic process, and now the Democratic Party. The entity that bellows change in the gyms and union halls has stolen our faith, our votes and our sacred obligation to participate in the selection of a nominee that represents all Americans of the Democratic bent.
It stinks worse than Clewiston.