National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: The Cost of Jilting Florida Dems

What’s with the Democrats disenfranchising their own voter base in Michigan and Florida?

The Democratic National Committee cronies who decided to deny delegates to its voter bases in Michigan and Florida may find their stunt will come back to haunt them, and go down in history as one of the incredible ways they blew an otherwise shoe-in presidential election in 2008.

How stupid could such a move be? Florida Democrats underscored that very fact by dismissing the DNC’s ruling and pouring out to the polls in stunningly large numbers in the primary Tuesday.

Don’t Democrats think they’re going to need not only the votes, but the strong support of those Floridians in November? Do they think they’ll get the level of support they’ll need from down there if they continue to snub their noses at those otherwise loyal supporters?

Now, the only candidate who stands a chance of rallying the jilted Democrats of Michigan and Florida is Hillary Clinton. In both states she vowed to fight to reinstate and seat their delegates. That promise had a lot to do with her winning those primaries by wide margins.

She took their side. No other Democrat did.

On the other hand, Barack Obama, if he were to win the nomination, would have a hard time looking any Democrat in the face in either state, because he crassly turned his back on them, abandoning them to the cruel fate of the “rules.”

The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Democratic voters will support their party’s nominee no matter what, no matter how abused they are by their own leadership. It’s sort of the “male-chauvinist pig” view of the world.

But it seems plausible that, whomever the Republican nominee will be, almost certainly John McCain at this point, he will march into Michigan and Florida and try to exploit DNC’s, including Obama’s, indifference.

To a lot of middle-of-the-road Democrats and jilted Dems, still smarting from their party’s disregard for them, this could go a long way toward sparking a protest, and toward getting even in the voting booth in November. The blatant contradiction between a party that gives lip service to enfranchising people but practices the opposite will also motivate them.

Even if that’s only a marginal group, and it may be more widespread than that, in those battleground states it could be decisive.

Was the DNC so self-absorbed in asserting its authority over the states that it forgot, or ceased to care about, what happened with the general election vote in Florida in 2000?

People are not politicians, and they don’t think like them. Politicians and party hacks too often forget that. People have been inspired by Obama’s campaign because of its lofty appeals to idealism and a new enfranchisement of the average Jane and Joe.

How ironic that the same campaign turned a cold, blind eye to its party’s disenfranchisement of millions of its own supporters.  

So, don’t you think that people, as opposed to the politicians, smell the putrid contradiction in that? Don’t you think that impacts how such folk will behave for the rest of the campaign, either by dropping out or looking to get even?

Obama could easily have exhibited a gracious acknowledgment of the voters in Michigan and Florida by saying he, like Clinton, would favor a reversal of the DNC ruling, and the seating the delegates from those states at the national convention.

Had he done so prior to those states’ primaries, he might have won them. But even if he was a large enough person to affirm those voters’ right to representation after the primaries, it would have been an expression of a magnanimous respect in keeping with the spirit of his campaign that would have gained him far more than it would cost him. Even from a calculating political standpoint it would have been a smart thing to do.

Now, not only has Clinton gained the high ground, and deservedly so, but the pressure will grow on the DNC to eat crow and reverse itself by convention time, anyway.