When I first heard that Michigan and Florida would be stripped of delegates because of the states' decision to hold early primaries in violation of DNC rules, I knew this would come back to haunt Democrats. Understandably, Sen. Hillary Clinton has been quietly calling for the delegates to be seated at the convention since she won both states (her name was the only name on the ballot in Michigan).
What I didn't expect was that the battle over this controversy would be waged by black leaders and politicians.
Civil Rights Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry and Roger Wilkins, a former Justice Department official also wrote Dean asking him to settle the dispute before the convention.
My problem is this: Why didn't these people speak up when this scenario was unfolding? Now it looks like these African-American icons are carrying water for the Clinton camp. Hillary Clinton, who appears to be losing steam in her bid for the White House, presumably would benefit if the delegates in Florida and Michigan were seated.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been lukewarm when it comes to Sen. Barack Obama's campaign and hasn't officially declared for either candidate, has jumped on the opposite side of this issue. See press release below:
REV. SHARPTON CALLS ON THE DNC TO NOT SEAT MICHIGAN AND FLORIDA
DELEGATES, CALLING IT A MASSIVE CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION
Dear Governor Dean:
I write this letter as a former Democratic candidate for President of
the United States and a civil rights leader who has fought his entire
life for fairness and justice for all people regardless of the color
of their skin. I firmly believe that changing the rules now, and
seating delegates from Florida and Michigan at this point would not
only violate the Democratic party's rules of fairness, but also would
be a grave injustice.
As former Presidential candidates we both know that, whether we liked
them or not, we adhered to the rules set forth by the Democratic party
to select its nominee for president. For example, I would have much
preferred starting the nominating process with caucuses and primaries
in South Carolina and Washington D.C. than Iowa and New Hampshire.
Nonetheless, I knew the rules, abided by them, and ultimately accepted
the consequences. Changing the rules in the middle of a presidential
contest is patently unfair both to the candidates (including Senator
Edwards) and to Democratic voters everywhere.
Some have said that not seating delegations from Florida and Michigan
disenfranchises Democratic voters -- especially African American
voters -- from those two states. That claim, if true, should have been
made many months ago before the decision was made to strip these
states of their delegates, and, once the decision was made, it should
have been vigorously objected to and contested by those who felt it
disenfranchised voters. To raise that claim now smacks of politics in
its form most raw and undercuts the moral authority behind such an
As a civil rights leader who is neutral in this presidential primary
season and who highly respects both remaining Democratic candidates, I
think we have a responsibility to protect both candidates from charges
that the process was tainted so that our eventual nominee does not
start the general election campaign under a cloud. Clearly, the
justifiably proud and intense passions of each candidate's supporters
will be on full display in the months leading up to the convention.
However, the Democratic Party and independent voices within must
temper over enthusiasm by either side and the party must be resolute
in ensuring that there is one set of rules by which we select our
Reverend Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network