Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Miami Herald editorial: Florida voters' efforts should count


The growing possibility that the presidential races will go down to the wire adds a new element of suspense to Tuesday's Florida primaries. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have punished the state for jumping out of line on the national electoral calendar, but if the decision comes down to a floor fight, Florida's delegate votes suddenly become worth fighting for on the floor of the convention. We may not have seen the end of this story yet.

Ignoring millions

As things stand, the GOP delegation of 114 members has been cut in half, which is bad enough. But the Democratic National Committee chose to impose its equivalent of the death penalty -- no delegates and no pre-primary campaigning. Considering that the decision to jump ahead on the calendar was made by a Republican-controlled Legislature, this makes no sense at all. It ignores Florida's four-million-plus registered Democrats in what is sure to be a battleground state come November.

In this instance, we are obliged to agree with Sen. John McCain, who told The Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard that, ''To punish states who want to move up earlier, I think is stupid.'' Now the issue becomes whether any candidate is willing to take on the establishment of the respective parties and fight to have the decision reversed at the conventions.

We urge them to do so if they want to maintain any credibility with Florida's voters, particularly in the Democratic Party. Sen. Hillary Clinton said days before the vote that she would support seating the delegation. Our appreciation for that statement, however, is tempered by her knowledge that she was ahead in the state polls, making her move appear entirely self-serving.

Why didn't she speak up earlier? Real leadership -- and this goes for all the candidates -- would have consisted of ignoring the campaign ban instead of following orders to do otherwise. Real leadership would have consisted of telling the Democratic National Committee that it's wrong to seek campaign donations from people in Florida even as the candidates acquiesce in a decision to deny them a vote that counts. Real leadership would have consisted of showing some courage by speaking up for the people of Florida instead of meekly obeying the party insiders.

Second-rate status

Real leadership, in other words, would have consisted of acting to change the rules of the game, instead of simply talking about change. By the rules of this game, well-heeled party contributors who can afford to attend fundraising events are fawned over and wooed by the candidates, but garden-variety citizens are consigned to second-rate status. Is this what the Democratic Party wants to stand for?

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