Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Dennis Kucinich, all Democratic candidates for president, have withdrawn from the January 15th Michigan primary. The reason? Michigan violated Democratic National Committee rules by moving its primary forward of February 5th. In addition, all the Democratic candidates, including the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, have vowed not to campaign in Florida for identical reasons. The DNC itself has added injury to insult, vowing that no delegates from the two states will be seated at the party’s nominating convention in Denver next year if the states go through with their early primaries. All this begs the question: Have the Democrats gone insane?
Under the guise of protecting a primary system that has already gone around the bend, Democrats have risked disenfranchising voters in two states that are key to next year’s presidential race. They should ask themselves if the prospect of hundreds of empty seats during roll call next August will play well on national television.
Reining in this primary season is a lost cause. Any solutions will not present themselves without cooperation, and much compromise, between the states and Washington. That kind of Herculean effort takes time and effort to come to fruition, especially as a solution will more than likely fundamentally alter the way we pick our candidates for president. And we do need a solution, as the runaway reshuffling of the primary schedule has already created fundamental shifts of its own. So a solution before the primaries is unlikely. But retributive punishment against states, and voters, for violating party rules that have been rendered all but meaningless is incredibly bad politics. Judging by the lawsuit filed in federal court last week by Florida Congressmen Bill Nelson and Alcee Hastings, such disenfranchisement may also be illegal. What a way to run an election, Democrats!
Michigan hasn’t gone for a Republican candidate since 1988, but 2004 was far from a blowout — 51% for John Kerry, 48% for George W. Bush. Florida has been an important toss-up for the last two elections. Important is an understatement. Florida is one of a few states that have the potential to make or break a close election. Until the primary madness is solved, it would seem to make sense to allow a state like Florida, and Michigan, for that matter, to punch their own primary tickets without having to fear that their citizens’ votes will not count towards choosing a Democratic candidate.
Unless the Democratic Party shifts course on doling out its punishment on Michigan and Florida voters, they should not be surprised if a good deal of those voters decide to punish the Democrats in turn by casting ballots for the other party. Not just in the primaries, but in the general election, as well.