For once, Howard Dean is right, and he's likely to pay a large price for it. Dean warned Florida Democrats that he would refuse to certify their delegates at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 for their participation in fouling up the primary schedule, which has Florida Democrats irate:
Florida lawmakers angrily assailed the Democratic National Committee and its chairman, Howard Dean, saying he is threatening to "disenfranchise" the state's voters by considering a plan to invalidate the state's presidential primary.
The DNC's rules committee is to vote today whether to sanction Florida for violating party rules by moving its primary up to Jan. 29 and violating a party rule against holding a primary before Feb. 5. The action would deny Florida its delegates at the party's national convention next year and prohibit Democratic presidential candidates from campaigning in the state before the primary.
In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said the DNC "is poised to assault the basic right of a person to vote at its meeting tomorrow." He threatened to sue the national party to prevent the sanctions from being imposed.
The ban would extend to the candidates themselves. If the DNC followed through on this threat, the presidential candidates would be barred from campaigning in Florida during the primaries. That would set off another dispute, as it would likely give the state to the Republicans in the general election -- and Florida has one of the largest Electoral College delegations in the nation.
Dean's right to insist on enforcing the rules, even if Dean has gone into hiding while his Rules Committee makes the point for him. The Florida delegation voted for the DNC rules, which stipulated that a primary there before February 5th would trigger a loss of half of their delegation. The DNC now warns them that they have the option of invalidating the entire delegation if they persist in their obstinacy, a rather extreme position that would essentially render every Democratic vote in Florida's primary a waste of time. That's why Nelson argues that the Democrats want to disenfranchize Florida, a rather ironic position given all the screeching Democrats did over the 2000 election.
However, the national parties have to take control over the irrational one-upmanship of the state organizations over primary schedules. Right now, the only way to do that is to enforce the national-committee rules over scheduling, and the only way to do that is to invalidate state delegations where those rules have been violated. Nothing else would be meaningful enough to put a stop to the shenanigans.
If they can't stop it, it invites federal intervention in Congress, and the cure may be worse than the disease in the long run. A loss of state control over primary races will almost certainly result in a tremendous loss of influence in smaller states, and a corresponding increase to the largest states, in any primary process designed in the House. From a federalist point of view, this federal control of the selection of state delegates would violate the spirit of the Constitution, if not the letter.
We'd like to see the states quit engaging in childish contests of double-dare-ya and start acting responsibly in scheduling primaries. Otherwise, the states and the parties risk losing any control over the process -- because the voters will not stand for much more childishness.