THE FLORIDA REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION DELEGATION members are being kept secret. A UPI newstrack story reports that Florida Republicans have refused to release the names of the state’s delegates to the national convention in New York.
According to the story, Florida party spokesman Joseph Agostini reported to the Miami Herald that “some delegates are not comfortable speaking and don’t want their information given out, and we’ve honored their requests. Our priority is putting the interests and welfare of our delegates first.”
Florida Republicans seem to be having real troubles getting the democracy thing worked out. The state delegation to the Democratic National Convention did provide reporters and editors a roster of delegates with contact information — but the issue here is not that the Democrats in Florida believe in transparency and civil society and the Republicans not. What seems to be unfolding since the last election is that the leadership of the Florida Republican party is rapidly undermining the legitimacy of that state’s democratic operation.
Some readers are going to scold me and argue that all of this became completely obvious in the weeks following the Gore-Bush race; or that electoral manipulation was evident when tens of thousands of mostly black, mostly Democratic voters were knocked of voting rolls in the 2000 race (which is happening again before this election!), or in the shoddy management of computer data lost, then found, of electoral returns in the 2002 election.
Despite all this, I have remained perhaps a naive optimist who believes that there are moderate Republicans who believe in checks and balances, the pull and tug of politics and ideas between parties, and in fair elections. I have just spoken to some friends who are active in Florida’s Republican circles as well as to a good friend who used to work for Florida Senator Connie Mack — and they are genuinely dismayed by the ongoing shenanigans that make Florida look like a cesspool of 21st century electoral corruption.
The Florida Republican Party moderates who value America’s democratic roots and believe in the health and strength of American civil society have got to toss out these loony power-obsessed and paranoid leaders in their party who are really poisoning the well for everyone in that state.
I was struck some years ago by the penetrating comments made by Sonia Picado at the annual retreat of the Pacific Council on International Policy. Sonia is the former Costa Rican Ambassador to the United States and is now Chairman of the Board of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights.
Her comments addressed the rapidity with which America adopted secret military tribunals to process foreign and some domestic enemy combatants. She said that the examples of American liberty and freedom, the right of due process if arrested, a robust and free media and right of expression, all helped inspire Latin American ‘believers in democracy’ to take their governments back from totalitarian thugs.
America’s overnight reversion from transparent justice to secret tribunals gut-punched our democratic allies in Latin America. A political system’s norms can never really be understood until times of stress because that is when one will see if societies are willing to pay the high price for shared values that supposedly espouse.
These tribunals, hardly used and now mostly invalidated by the Supreme Court, still undermined to some degree the moral and political standing of democrats abroad and strengthened the hand of lurking fascists, communist guerillas, narco-gangs, and violent religious zealots in troubled states around the world.
What seems to me to be absolutely essential in any effort to inspire or transplant democracy abroad is to get it right at home.
Florida Republicans — please get off your secrecy kick. Publish your delegate’s names, embrace an open competition, and stop making it seem legitimate for political forces here in America or abroad to lurk in the shadows, unaccountable to their own societies.
— Steve Clemons