Send in the Campaign Whisperer

Choices and consequences when considering Florida’s delegate count

By M. Dylan Mathieu

Being just north of 40 years old, I’m of a generation that grew up in their parents’ world. My children are of a generation having parents living in their offspring’s world. I attended my parent’s casual dinner parties and spoke only after I was spoken to. (Blessed as a pint-sized version of Cheers Cliff Clavin, trying to shut me up was another matter.) My four siblings and I were fortunate enough have the opportunity to travel to Europe every summer. We were well-behaved, orderly and often involuntarily spread out across the plane taking us over the North Atlantic. I’m not bragging. You see, being bad or disruptive was just never an option in the adult’s world where we lived and thrived.

Too many of this century’s parents have sacrificed or turned over their life, health, sleep, pursuit of mid-life rites of passage, style of automobiles and opportunities to exhale on evenings and weekends over to their children. I’m wary and not-so-much optimistic about the long term results that this “projecting” and stage-mothering will have today’s children in America.

Who will teach our children how to be best-equipped for their rites; the self-actualization I’d argue they must suffer through and, hopefully, mostly enjoy. Who will ready them to follow their heart and above all retain a healthy sense of self-esteem? When parents choose to bastardize this sacred, gifted role, young Americans turn to our nation’s most admired, if not notorious leaders and celebrities for guidance. What possibly does this have to do with Democrats and Florida? Wait for it…wait for it.

ESPN’s morning dose of SportsCenter grabs my sons early. And its content ensures they reliably carry with them all day and to the dinner table thoughts of the bloodiest hockey fights, the more Tourettesque after-game press conferences, Barry Bonds’ legal problems and, in more gruesome detail, Michael Vick’s. As parents in 2008, we have work to do. Enter the Democrats in Florida.

The Democratic National Committee warned Florida Democrats more than twice and very publicly: If you move your primary date up, you can expect some form of punishment. Don’t make me do it, I’m warning you.” If parenting coaches where among the well-paid D.C. consultants on retainer, they’d rush in at this point to say “the state parties [the kinder] need structure” and parents [the boss] must demonstrate uncompromising “choices and consequences.” Should a “campaign whisperer” have been called in to DNC headquarters in Washington D.C. in September 2007 when the Florida Democratic Party defied them in setting their early January primary date? No, not then. But maybe now more than ever.

Regarding the intransigence of those wayward Floridians, the DNC was in fact firm and showed necessary resolve. From the start, they didn’t give these scofflaws a ‘time-out” or even ground them. If chosen, those finite, fleeting admonishments would have no doubt left some sort of a fissure of wiggle room for the incorrigibles.

The impressive turn-out of Florida voters despite a primary election doomed at the time to be barren of any delegates shows how sad, ill-conceived and contemptuous this act by such infidels was. Where was the outrage? Oddly and unbelievably, the aggrieved, as told by the media, were state party leaders who were told too often to recount here, “Oh, now you went and did it…well, now you’re gonna get it”.

My outrage was and remains enveloped around the hubris, the arrogance of state party leaders. Name calling is not required; they are making themselves known. I’d have allowed them after being admonished and duly stripped of delegates, a sheepish litany of public excuses as in the way Major Anthony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie used to explain away his foibles and missteps to the doubting Dr. Bellows. That was Cocoa Beach in the 60’s – the tail end of a generation not my own. Instead, we get a volley of audacious demands made of the DNC. And remorse? No more than when Vice President Gore defended his “dialing for dollars” from his office being inscrutable because there “was no controlling legal authority” to decide this issue. I wish I had that excuse to offer when I was grounded for a month after getting caught with sticky fingers in a 7-11 store; but that, sadly, was not in 1997 when I was 30, but 30-plus years ago.

So what then remains then of this defining moment? A child-like tantrum demanding, despite knowing the rules laid down a priori, recognition of the delegates elected. What will this century’s Civics textbooks tell our children about this episode?

As a Floridian, I can probably more readily, if not ashamedly, envision how this recent electoral debacle will be packaged in my sons’ next civics textbook edition. Right below the picture of hanging chads under a magnifying glass and even farther below our own Waco, Elian Gonzalez being whisked away in the dead of night.

M. Dylan Mathieu, is a psuedonym for a media and communications strategist who, in a career spanning seventeen years across more than forty countries in six continents, has advised Fortune 300 CEOs, congressional candidates and both U.S. and foreign military generals and ambassadors. His government employment prevents him from disclosing his identity.

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