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Tuesday March 18, 2008

What's up with a Florida primary?

It was decided yesterday that there will not be a re-vote for Florida’s Democratic primary. The story so far (skip to next graff if you’ve been following the news): Last year, the Florida legislature decided to move our primary up to January 29th in this primary season. The Democratic National Party had previously decided that no state, except four that have historically had early primaries, could have a primary before February 5th (Super Tuesday), and threatened to not seat Florida’s delegates at the convention, i.e. to not count our votes. The conventional wisdom at the time was that since most candidates are determined on Super Tuesday, Florida’s primary would count where it mattered — by giving a candidate “momentum” — and that actual delegate votes at conventions haven’t decided a nominee in decades. Except that the subsequent primaries have been very close, and there now appears the very real chance that Florida could have been the deciding vote, leading everyone to look for a way to fix the mess.

The response that you hear often to this is, “well, Florida knew the rules when it made the decision to have an early primary.” It’s shocking how often statement to this effect are repeated without being questioned. “Florida” is not a sentient being. The decision was made by one group (Florida state legislature) and impacts another group (Florida voters). To say that our elected officials disenfranchised us and that’s all there is to it reeks. So what now? Well, counting the vote goes against the rules that were established at the beginning of the process (= not democratic). Not counting the vote disenfranchises Florida voters (= not democratic). And re-voting has been determined to be unfeasible, not to mention an affront to those that voted on January 29th (so also = also not democratic).

So what’s the solution? Well, there is none; not for this election. The whole thing is dominated by realpolitik self-interest (e.g. I’m a Barack Obama supporter, so I should be happy that Florida isn’t being counted, as it was won by Hillary Clinton). There are lessons to be learned, however, starting with the fact that the whole primary system is an anti-democratic catastrophe in need of overhaul. Other then “because it was always so,” why should Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina have a more influential voice in selecting the president then any other state? Why do some states hold “caucuses,” some “elections,” and some (I smell Texas) such convoluted combinations that nobody even tries to explain them? And what’s up with “super-delegates,” anyway?

This, my friends, is no way to elect a president. The whole system is screwed (you can tell, in part, by looking at the men it has elected for the last 40 years or so). There are lots of ways to have an election, all with their valid criticisms, but all better then this. (Interjection: And what about Ralph Nader? What’s up with him??) Let’s pick a system and go with it. Do I think that’s going to happen? No, not yet. It’s going to take a few more disasters like this first. But it’s on the way.