The move by the state’s party branch to effectively nominate the current president has been branded an erosion of democracy
Joe Biden’s rivals for the Democratic nomination in the 2024 US presidential election have accused the party leadership in Florida of undermining democracy by denying them a place on the ballot in a primary vote.
Under state rules, parties decide who can enter a primary election, and the deadline for submitting a list of recognized candidates to Florida officials was last Thursday. However, in a move on November 1 that largely went under the radar, Florida Democrats notified the authorities that current US President Biden was their only selection, effectively scrapping the primary.
Representative Dean Phillips, book author Marianne Williamson, and political talk show host Cenk Uygur – all of whom are seeking the Democratic nomination – expressed outrage at the development and have vowed to challenge the decision through courts and other legal means.
Phillips called it a “tragedy and a travesty” in a video statement on Friday, adding: “I am running for president. There are others running for president as Democrats. And this is the kind of stuff that happens in Tehran, not Tallahassee.”
Speaking at a joint press conference with Uygur on the same day, Williamson argued that the Democratic Party leadership in Florida had played a “quasi-governmental function,” not unlike officials in the Soviet Union, where elections were technically held but the options were tightly controlled.
“This is the chipping away of our democracy,” Williamson declared. “This is part of a larger effort that the Democratic Party has been taking. This has to do with media suppression, it has to do with invisibilization, erasure.”
According to Uygur, the Democrats claim to be protecting the American political system from Donald Trump, but the party has effectively given the impression that “we had to destroy democracy in order to save it.”
Florida Democratic functionaries have dismissed the accusations. Chair Nikki Fried called Phillips’ rebuke a “knee-jerk reaction to long-established procedures,” claiming that his remarks were “unbecoming of someone running for higher office.” Communications director Eden Giagnorio insisted there was “no conspiracy” and that the plan had been known “for months.” He previously conceded that primary contenders are not formally required to do anything to get on the ballot.
At a convention in October, Florida Democrats posted a video of participants chanting “Four More Years,” after they approved Biden’s unchallenged candidacy. The convention incidentally began on the same day that Phillips launched his campaign.
In a poll of voters in the state published by the University of North Florida last month, 46% said they had a “very unfavorable” attitude towards Biden, compared to 41% for Trump, the presumed Republican nominee.
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