Dave Barry

Put Florida primary in prime time -- and text in your vote

BY DAVE BARRY

I got to thinking about the Florida primary election mess the other night when I was watching TV with my wife. Actually, she was reading a book, because she hates the way I watch TV. I follow Standard Guy Remote Control Procedure (SGRCP), which requires you go to the next channel the instant that the current channel commits one of the Deadly Channel Sins, such as showing a commercial, or people redecorating a house, or Howie Mandel.

Anyway, I was whipping through the broadcast spectrum at the rate of about four channels per second, when I came across Lewis Black, who's a very funny man. So I stopped.

Black has a new show called Lewis Black's Root of All Evil, which tackles issues that, quite frankly, need to be tackled. When I tuned in, the issue was: which is more evil, Donald Trump or Viagra? This is not as simple as it sounds. Yes, Donald Trump is a hideously repellent human wearing what appears to be a radioactive hamster on his head. But Viagra is responsible for a TV commercial -- perhaps you have seen it -- in which a multiracial group of regular-Joe pickup-'n'-motorcycle drivin' middle-aged guys sit around a funky cabin playing instruments and joyfully singing, to the tune of Viva, Las Vegas, a song about Viagra called Viva Viagra. Right! That's EXACTLY what regular middle-aged guys do! They get together in cabins to sing about their erectile-dysfunction medication! And then they redecorate the cabin.

My point is that Viagra vs. Trump is a complex issue. The way they handled it on Lewis Black's Root of All Evil was, they had trained professional comedians present the two sides, and then they asked the viewing audience to vote by using the text function of their cellphones. And the winner was . . .

OK, I don't know who the winner was, because a commercial came on, so I had to change the channel. But that is not the point. The point is that my wife (Remember my wife? From the beginning of this column?) put down her book, turned to me, and said, quite seriously: ``How come they can count my vote for Donald Trump vs. Viagra, but they can't count my vote in the Democratic primary?''

Which is an excellent question. The obvious answer, of course, is that Lewis Black's Root of All Evil and the Florida primary are two completely different things. One is mindless comic entertainment and the other is a TV program.

But seriously, could the state of Florida look any more ridiculous? Why does this kind of thing always happen to us? Why can't we be a regular state, such as (to pick a random state) Minnesota? There were no hassles with the Minnesota primary. The Minnesotans simply chose an appropriate primary date, voted and resumed scraping ice off their bodies, confident that their votes would count.

But not Florida! We STILL don't know whether our primary will count, or, if it does count, how much it will count. How did we get into this mess? There is no simple explanation, but to summarize: Everybody involved in planning and executing our primary, in both parties, at the state, local and national levels, turned out to be a moron.

But there is no point in name-calling. The question is, what can we do now? Every day somebody comes up with a new proposed solution. The most recent one is a ''50-50'' plan, in which the Jan. 29 primary results would be used as a basis for seating half of the Florida delegates, with the other half being selected by Minnesota. Or something like that. I can't keep track any more.

I personally think my wife came up with the best solution: Why not hold a texting primary? We already have the technology. At least our children do. We could ask them how to use it.

Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, ``Wait a minute, Dave: Florida voters and technology do NOT mix. Many Florida residents can't operate their turn signals. They would totally screw up a texting primary. Many would injure themselves trying to retrieve their phones from their oatmeal.''

True, but it doesn't matter. We're just seeking closure here, to get Florida out of the national-ridicule spotlight. Whatever happens with the Florida Democratic delegation, neither Obama nor Clinton will have enough delegates to win the nomination. They're locked in a bitter struggle that I predict will continue right through the Democratic convention, and then through the November presidential election. Next January President McCain will be giving his inaugural address, while somewhere else in America, Clinton and Obama will be holding their 1,387th debate, with the hostility level between them having reached the point where the debate consists entirely of spitting.

So I say we hold the nation's first texting primary. We could have a prime-time TV show, ideally hosted by Lewis Black, during which Floridians would text in their votes. It would all be over in half an hour, and Florida's voters could get on with their lives, knowing that they'd been given a second chance to express their opinion on the critical question of who is best qualified to lead this nation in these difficult times.

The answer, for the record, is Lewis Black.

©2008 Dave Barry

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