In recent days, leaders of the Democratic Party made the decision to back the party bus over Florida voters before they set out on their four-state tour to glory.
It seems the same road crew that thought all they had to do in 2004 was to rev their engines in Iowa and New Hampshire, then cruise into the White House, is again celebrating a victory, even before the green flag is dropped - and they plan to win the race without passing through Florida.
Adios, 50-state strategy.
In a strange twist of logic, Florida became irrelevant to the participatory process of selecting a presidential nominee when the state established its primary election for January 29, 2008 - one whole week earlier than national party rules suggested. Outrage exploded within the Democratic National Committee because Florida Democrats, a minority in the Republican-dominated state legislature, "didn't fight hard enough" against the earlier date. Enforcers back at company headquarters, duty bound to teach the renegades a harsh lesson, waved the black flag for rogue behavior: instant disqualification.
The chosen methods of enhanced punishment were not only to deny Florida's right to send even one delegate to the national nominating convention, but to whack voters again by pressuring presidential candidates into boycotting the state entirely. Except for their money, Democrats in Florida would cease to exist until their votes were needed in November 2008.
It took the Democratic Party to turn the Sunshine State into No Man's Land - not even a nice place to visit in January, except for a quick stopover to refresh the tan and replenish the bank account.
Today presidential candidates Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Obama and Richardson, raising doubts of their leadership skills and political acumen to lead the country, burned their bridges to Florida and locked themselves in a party bus careening out of control.
Incredibly, a group of politicians who want to lead the free world was easily manipulated by party apparatchiks into a decision that could stop every one of them from becoming president. For, as strange as this may seem to them today, the Democratic nominee may - just may - need Florida's electoral votes to win the 2008 general election. And these candidates, of their own volition and in profound ignorance of the Florida voter, signed away their right to campaign here. Unbelievable.
On the bright side, they can count on the "politically-savvy" voters of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to provide a high-octane boost in the final lap of the race next year. That's the logic of their argument, anyhow.
In explaining their decision, some stressed their support of "real people, not Washington insiders," and explained that snubbing Florida voters is "in the best interests of our party and our nation." (NYT). Spare us the further insult! For just one minute, could one of these politicians stop and ask himself, or herself, how many voters are disgusted by such patronizing pablum?
Some activist Democrats in Florida have concluded that this is politics as usual and the voters either aren't paying attention, don't care now or won't care by next year when election day rolls around. We should ignore the party, win the election (with one arm tied behind our backs) and then concern ourselves with party reform and unity after we've gained the White House.
That could be wishful thinking. If Democrats expect to make gains in Florida next year, along with winning the fall election, national leaders may want to rethink the narrow, outmoded strategy they have adopted. The game will not be won by offending the voters of a swing state in which a handful of votes will determine the winner.
Democrats need a leader to step forward, sooner rather than later, with a clear message: Stop burning bridges to your own party members. You may need them on your return trip to the State of Reality.